COOL CRUISERNot very well, if you're allowed to do it in Texas. The prolific Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe has the story of why a fracking well blow-out in the middle of Denton got such a slack response from all those who were supposed to be protecting the public from these kinds of things.

One huge problem with the new Dallas gas ordinance is that it will require a multi-staffed new Office of Gas Inspections available to answer calls 24/7. Time and again, City Hall staff's response to questions about who's going to be responsible for enforcing the regs of the ordinance is simply, "The gas inspector will do that." 

But no one at City Hall has a clue how much that would cost, what it would entail or how soon it would be established if ever. Not a single council person has advocated funding for such an office. So you know, we're all in favor of fracking, but regulating the stuff, not so much.

Moreover, the actual City of Dallas department that would host such a position, the Office of Environmental Quality, has been completely MIA in all the proceedings of the last year – ever since the 2011 Task Force went out of business last February or so. No input has been provided or requested from the OEQ to better understand how this new bureaucracy is supposed to work.

You can't rely on EPA. They have nobody in the field to help. You can't rely on the state – as Peggy's story makes clear. And Dallas can't be bothered to think about these things now while they're still busying themselves trying to make a land swap with Trinity East so it can get the company its permits. Like everything else about drilling in Dallas under Mike Rawlings and the still-hovering Mary Suhm, all other details, problems, policies, etc have to take a back seat to fulfilling the secret deal Trinity East and the City made. Nothing else matters until these permits are in place. Those are the priorities at City Hall today.

I am not a science experimentDr. Michael Pramenko seems like a reasonable guy. He's not a Greenpeace treesitter, or running for elected office, or part of any unruly mob.

In fact, he's so reasonable that he's the former president of the Colorado Medical Society.

And Dr. Pramenko calls the current hydraulic fracturing boom in the state’s oil and gas industry an “experiment in motion. One that could lead to higher rates of cancer and other illnesses over the next 10 to 15 years."

But he's not concerned with the massive acute exposures that can happen during accidents or blow-outs. No, he's concerned with the harm done by the routine, boring everyday kind of low-level chronic exposure that the Texas Tech researchers in the post below are documenting.

“Are there people out there being exposed to low quantities [of carcinogens] that we won’t ever know about? Sure,” he said. “Are there going to be some cancers down the road that come about across the United States? I think that's true.

You'll be relieved to know that state regulators have everything under control. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) spokesman Mark Salley said the department closely monitors the industry to protect public health: “The [CDPHE] has regulations in place, including required permitting, set-back requirements, use of ‘best practice’ methods by industry to minimize the impacts.”

Yes, that should do it.

There are 50,771 active oil and gas wells in Colorado – 20,260 of them in Weld County on the northern Front Range. More than 90 percent of the state’s wells are fracked at least once and often multiple times.

Trying to regulate fracking hazards is like trying to hit a moving target. Every month there's a new study out that shows a new threat or one that has been under-emphasized. Like so many other on-going experiments we're a part of, this one will claim thousands before we understand what was really happening.

Abbott and PerryThere was never really any question, but just in case you were wondering, EPA will indeed be taking over the permitting of power plants in Texas based on new greenhouse gas emission rules.

The U.S. Court of Appeals slapped down Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's recent challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, one trying to keep the EPA from considering such emissions when they permit new facilities or approve large modifications on old ones.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that the petitioners — which included Texas, Wyoming and a handful of industry groups — didn’t have legal standing to bring the case.
Judge Judith Rogers wrote in the majority opinion that the states had failed “to show how they have been injured” by sharing permitting power with the EPA.
Abbott, running for Governor since about 2006 or so, previously described the EPA rules as part of an “unprecedented and overreaching greenhouse gas environmental regulatory scheme” run by the Obama administration.
That this was all for show is a given. If Abbott had won the case, utilities wanting to build new power plants wouldn't have been able to get permission to do so. Like all of his two dozen previous lawsuits against the EPA, this one was more political than procedural.
Eventually, Texas will have to write its own greenhouse gas emission regs to correspond to the EPA. Eventually.

Dangerous mirage 2Gas well, cement plant, lead smelter, plastics plant, refinery, compressor, incinerator. Anyone who's ever lived next door to an industrial polluter knows there's the way the facility appears to be operating on paper and how it's actually operating in the real world.

The way it's operating on paper is completely portable. You can take this version of the facility anywhere.  The numbers and printouts and charts can show up to congressional hearings. They can be included in PowerPoint presentations, along with glossy pics of the place itself. They can be summarized. They have no smell. They have no texture. They don't make a sound.  On paper, expressed in language and figures, the facility may seem to be operating properly under every permitted limit it has to abide by.

On the ground however, it may be a completely different story. It may mean strange petrochemical or plastic smells wafting through your house in the middle of the night. It could mean a series of loud explosions or pops that nobody has ever been able to explain to you. It could mean rashes on your skin, or headaches, or nausea, or asthma attacks. It could mean living in fear of chemical assault. All the time.

This version of operations is not portable. One can write about it or talk about it, but that will not put other people there. And indeed, descriptions of these circumstances can sound so nightmarish that listeners assume you're exaggerating. You're not.  Not even video or film can immerse you in it. No amount of reporting about it can make you feel in it. The map is not the place. The only way to know this side of operations is to live it. Day in, day out.

The difference between what the paper version of polluting says, and what the people living it know, is a front line of social justice in the 21st Century.

It also happens to be a major frontline for science, as demonstrated by a recent landmark study from, of all places, Texas Tech about how the sum of pollution is greater than its sometimes desperate parts  We're late in covering this, but thanks to the Denton Record Chronicle's  for bringing it to our attention back in June. Because this study underscores once again in a big way why our entire system of regulating chemical exposures is so completely contrary to what we know about how those exposures are affecting us.

Tech scientists took two chemicals that are known to cause cancer in large amounts, arsenic and estrogen, and exposed human prostate cells to very low amounts of each. The amounts they exposed the prostate cells to were so low, they fell below the EPA regulatory "safe" level that limits releases of the chemicals from polluters. Individually, the exposures of the cells to arsenic and estrogen were so low as to believed to be harmless. But they weren't. 

Instead, the Tech researcher's peer-reviewed, journal-published study found the combination of the low doses of the two chemicals combined was almost twice as likely to create cancer in the prostate cells as the single chemical exposures individually. That is, the toxic interaction or "cumulative effect" of the two chemicals was more than the sum of their parts. There was a "synergestic" reaction inside the cells that the current regulatory system doesn't recognize as even a possibility. 

The majority of cancers are caused by environmental influences,” Singh said. “Only about 5 to 10 percent of cancers are due to genetic predisposition. Science has looked at these chemicals, such as arsenic, and tested them in a lab to find the amounts that may cause cancer. But that’s just a single chemical in a single test. In the real world, we are getting exposed to many chemicals at once.”
 

Singh became interested in looking at arsenic because water well problems in his native India had recently highlighted mass poisonings from contamination of the chemical.  He wondered how this exposure would interact with other carcinogens within the same population.

He focused on estrogen as the second chemical because of the chemical’s ubiquity. Many plastics, such as food can liners, release  bisphenol A (BPA), and other chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body.

Unlike more potent chemicals that do major damage to the DNA in a cell, such as benzene, arsenic and estrogen aren’t major mutagens Singh said. Instead, their presence tends to stop certain genes from expressing. The process is called DNA hypermethylation.

…the two chemicals stopped the MLH1 gene, which is responsible for sending the signal to start the self-destruct sequence when a cell is damaged. Because the self-destruct couldn’t activate, the cells became cancerous after exposure.

“With the lower dose not killing the cell, it’s causing damages that go under the cell’s radar. We found when you have two compounds together, lower doses could be more serious problem.”

This is what's called a non-linear impact. You can actually get harmed more by long term low-level exposures than by intense bursts of short term exposure – exactly the opposite of the way the system regulates chemical exposures now.

Currently that system assumes it can protect the public health from exposures to over 80,000 chemicals on the marketplace by regulating the average intake of these chemicals one at a time. It says: "we know that lead and benzene are bad for you if you OD on them, but by only exposing you to a little bit every day, we can keep you from getting damaged by its health effects." The dose is the poison. A little bit cant hurt you, but a lot can kill you.

Unfortunately, this view, which is the foundation for all modern regulatory schemes for chemical pollution, is based on a worldview of human physiology that's now dangerously out of date. For the past 50 years at least, study after study has shown that there are a lot of less-than-drop-dead health effects that couldn't be diagnosed without modern technology. The more we learn about how how bodies work the more we learn new ways about how chemicals can really screw them up. The Tech study is just the latest, albeit dramatic example.

Moreover, of those 80,00 chemicals only about 200 can be said to have been studied even remotely "thoroughly" and fewer that that have been examined for their interactions with any of the other 79,999. So the system itself is a big fat theory in progress, with very little real science supporting it. We're all its Guinea Pigs. It's an hypothesis.

But its a hypothesis with billions invested in it. So to prove it wrong is to threaten a lot of people with a lot of money.

Which is why the chemical industrial-government complex is trying very hard to hold back the tide of this kind of science and what it means. Meanwhile the gap between the paper version of how things are operating at a facility and the real world impact of those operations continue to grow. At some point the contradictions will be too much to ignore or withstand. But we're a long way from that point yet. Which is why we need your help to keep fighting on behalf of those folks living the truth on the ground and prevent more victims of this obsolete and harmful regulatory system.

russian pic rewriteAny doubt that Dallas City Hall is more interested in protecting the Trinity East gas leases than Dallas residents as it writes a new gas drilling ordinance was surely removed yesterday when City Attorney Tammy Palomino flatly lied and told City Plan Commission members that they had not decided on a 1500-foot setback, or buffer zone, between homes and other "protected uses," even though they had done precisely that at their June 20th meeting.

Employing the Orwellian language of a Soviet history writer, Palomino simply choose to ignore the results of a decision she didn't like and pretend the vote never happened. She argued that there was "no consensus" on the CPC for a 1500-foot setback – even though that very word was used to describe the results of June 20th meeting by CPC members themselves, as well as the media.

Instead, she handed out an official "summary" of CPC drilling recommendations to-date that not only only didn't include ANY mention of the 1500-foot setback decision, but instead listed a 1000-foot setback limit that had specifically been rejected by the Commission!

That missing footage is critical. 1000-foot setbacks, with a variance (or exception) up to 500-feet, were recommended by the city's gas drilling task force, but we now know those recommendations were tailored to fit the circumstances of the Trinity East lease sites along the Trinity River in northwest Dallas. That is, with a variance that could put wells 500 feet from homes, the Trinity East sites could be approved. With the CPC's 1500 foot-setback, there's only a variance to 1000 feet. That makes it impossible for Trinity East to set up shop where they want. And that's why Palomino deliberately, but unethically, left the 1500 setback out of her "summary."

The problem for Palomino in trying to pull this kind of disappearing act is that there were way too many witnesses to the original vote, including reporters. According to KERA's account  "One of the first changes that grabbed consensus of the Plan Commission was an increase to the buffer zone or setback between gas wells and homes, businesses, schools, and recreational areas.  Plan Commissioners want 1500 feet, not the 1,000 recommended by the task force."  Channel 4 reported the same thing. There's also the fact that the city archives audio tapes of every CPC meeting, and citizens have have begun to videotape the meetings to catch this kind of bullying by staff.

What all of this will show is that on June 20th CPC member Paul Ridley took great pains to clarify that the CPC had indeed reached a consensus that they wanted a 1500 foot setback – considered the most protective setback currently used by any North Texas city. He even asked the question, "Do we have consensus on this?" and heads all nodded and not one verbal objection can be heard – other than from Tammy Palomino – who is stuttering that the city attorneys are going to have to make sure they can do this (no explanation of why Dallas can't). There's no question about what happened.

Which is why even the most cynical observers were shocked at the clumsy effort by Palomino to erase the decision from history by way of her "summary." It's like the City can't pass up an opportunity to create an ethical crisis whenever it deals with the Trinity East leases.

All the video and audio tape is being assembled into a nice neat package for the public and media. The case against Tammy Palomino will be devastating. As a result of her premeditated misrepresentations, Palomino should resign, or at the very least be re-assigned away from work on the new gas ordinance. She's representing Trinity East in these proceedings, not the citizens of Dallas.

Yesterday's episode was but the most extreme example of the kind of bullying and steamrolling that staff is employing against the CPC to end up with an ordinance that is Trinity East-friendly. As they have for the past three years or so, they're contorting the system to make it fit Trinity East's permits.

Besides the setbacks issue, staff really wants the CPC to OK gas drilling in parks, and a majority of CPC members today were willing to say out loud they supported that goal. That's right – after 7 months of crowds filling city hall to protest drilling in parks, Official Dallas is still moving toward approval of that idea. It's based on the idea of "unused" park land – a concept that has never been defined by the city or anyone else.

Trying to further this goal, staff actually came to Thursday's meeting with a US Parks Department definition of "active" and "passive" park land with the idea that Dallas could adopt something similar and allow drilling on the "passive" acreage. According to the list, "passive" park land is defined as land used for hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding, mountain biking, and camping, among others activities. Sounds pretty "active" doesn't it? Despite their propensity to allow park drilling it struck the CPC the same way and they firmly rejected staff's approach. Still, just like the 1500 foot setback issue, staff won't be satisfied until they get Trinity East what it wants.

Which brings us to a hard truth that the media and the public need to absorb. As bad and blatant as it is, Tammy Palomino's unethical behavior is only a symptom of a much larger rotten problem with this entire gas drilling ordinance process that has been present from before the task force was created right up until now.  It's impossible for staff to both be advocates for the Trinity East leases in the writing of a new gas ordinance and give objective counsel to the CPC and Council on how to write the most protective ordinance. They cannot serve two masters.

Palomino and others have been told they need to find a way to make sure Trinity East gets what it wants in this new gas drilling ordinance. That makes city staff just another lobbying arm of Trinity East, not honest brokers trying to produce the best and most protective policy for Dallas residents. Every piece of advice they give is meant to further the leases, not the public good.

Because of this fact, an independent counsel needs to be brought in for the purpose of helping draft this new gas drilling ordinance. Policymakers need to have the best information, the most objective information, if they're going to make good policy. They're not getting it from city staff when it comes to drilling.

It's time to quit pretending this isn't a big problem. When city attorneys start trying to erase public policy decisions because they conflict with a private interest they're serving, the system is no longer working. It's corrupt and must be replaced before that corruption is allowed to spread.

Stay tuned. You're going to be hearing a lot more about this.

 

Scheduling Note: Although the CPC released a schedule for its work on the drilling ordinance only last week, including three public hearings, things may be changing quickly with additional workshop times and different dates and times for hearings. There was a lot of talk about schedule changes on Thursday, but nothing was decided. Right now the first opportunity for you to express outrage at this latest development is a public hearing slated for August 15th, 4 to 6 pm, at City Hall but stay tuned to make sure.  

ZombiescouncilsmThey just won't take a big fat public "No!", or two, or three, for an answer.

We've learned form sources inside City Hall that Trinity East – with a big assist from City of Dallas staff and Mayor Mike Rawlings – is preparing to once again attempt to permit its three proposed drilling and refinery/compressor station sites along the Trinity River.

While the company and city staff keep trying to win support for a weaker new gas drilling ordinance than citizens have repeatedly requested, a deal is being wheeled that would have Trinity East trading its lease on park land for another piece of city-owned property in northeast Dallas. Meanwhile, the City is also working feverishly to firm up support for its official position that it can't possibly turn down Trinity East without losing a lawsuit  – an opinion no one outside of City Hall, save Trinity East,  shares so far.

Yeah, the secret gas deal that the Observer uncovered in February got City Manger Mary Suhm to finally leave the building come December, but she's not going until she gets those Trinity East sites permitted the way she promised behind closed doors.

All of which makes the writing of a brand new Dallas gas drilling ordinance even more important now. And last week the City Plan Commission released its two-month schedule of how that's going to be done (see below), complete with three (daytime) public hearings with an ETA to the City Council by October.

There will be just six more meetings of the Plan Commission to review the almost two-year old Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force recommendations and decide to take them at face value, strengthen them, or weaken them. Scatted among these will be three public hearings – the first one in a little over two weeks on August 15th from 4 to 6 pm. The Commission goal is to get a new drilling ordinance to the City Council by October, when the terms of current members expire.

That's the official agenda. The unofficial one is trying to find ways to weaken the new ordinance enough to allow Trinity East to be able to get their proposed sites permitted. There's already been plenty of evidence at previous meetings indicating how desperate staff is in trying to give their departing boss a going-away gift.

We know most of you can't come to the Plan Commission workshops on Thursday mornings to follow the nitty-gritty of how this plays out. We'll be there reporting that to you, no problem.  But what we can't do is manufacture warm bodies to put in seats for those three public hearings.  Please make it a point to show up at one or more of these – and in particular, the very last one on September 26th as it rolls into the City Council.

Trinity East lobbyist Dallas Cothrum is on record as saying the company's three previously proposed sites on parkland, flood plains and near a new soccer complex that have now been rejected twice by this same CPC were the "best possible" places the company could have chosen for drilling and processing. So now the battle is over the less-than-best possible places. We can't wait to see what part of town the City and Trinity will decide to sacrifice for that designation as part of their possible land-swap deal.

Making sure a new drilling ordinance is the most protective it can possibly be is the only way left to finally drive a stake through the heart of the Trinity East gas permits. You have no idea how much we hate to ring the alarm about these damn permits again, but the stakes are very high and we're on the verge of winning one of the Barnett Shale's biggest citizen victories  – if we can just keep the pedal to the metal. Bring your lead feet to the first hearing on August 15th.


Schedule for the City Plan Commission's Workshops and Public Hearings on the New Gas Drilling Ordinance

(All workshop meetings start at 9 am and take place on the 5th floor at 5ES in City Hall unless otherwise indicated. Specific Room locations for the Public Hearings at City Hall will be announced.  Topic #’s refer to the Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force Recommendations Matrix.)

THURSDAY, JULY 25

9:00 am  – 12 Noon  CPC Workshop
• Topic 4 – Pad Site Operations

THURSDAY, AUGUST 8

9:00 am -12 Noon CPC Workshop
• Topic 9 – Gas Drilling/Well Permit
• Topic 14 – Bonding Requirements
• Topic 15 – Site Monitoring and Review of Permit Application

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15

1:30 pm  – 3:30 pm Workshop
• Topic 13 – Required Plans

THURSDAY, AUGUST 15th PUBLIC HEARING: 4:00 – 6:00 pm 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 22

9:00 am to 12 Noon CPC Workshop
• Topic 1 – Air Quality
• Topic 2 – Water

THURSDAY AUGUST 29

9:00 am – 10:45 am  CPC Workshop
• Topic 3 – Physical Pad Site
• Topic 16 – Emergency Response
• Topic 5 – Abandonment and Restoration

THURSDAY, AUGUST 29th PUBLIC HEARING: 11:00 AM -12:00 NOON 

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12

9:00 – 12 Noon CPC Workshop
• Topic 10 – Seismic Permits
• Topics 6 – Pipelines and Compressors

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26th PUBLIC HEARING 1:30 PM -?    

(Agenda: What to recommend to City Council)                                                                                     

MandelaToday is "Nelson Mandela Day" across the planet in honor of one of the most persistent and righteous liberators in modern history. From our vantage point here in the 21st Century, his legacy is secure, the stuff of legends. He is the Father of the new South Africa, a symbol of freedom worldwide.

But it wasn't always so.

On the eve of Thanksgiving in 1984, a small group of Washington activists walked into the South African Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. They had grown weary of their frustration with the in­trac­table racial injustice in South Africa. They saw a system they did not like. They wanted to do something about it. It was the kind of bubbling disturbance that, if timed right, can launch a movement.

U.S. activists had tried before and failed to bring attention to the situation an ocean away, where 23 million black South Africans were ruled by 4.5 million whites, forced to carry passbooks, and killed, beaten or thrown in jail for bucking apartheid. Mandela, then a leader of the freedom movement, had been in prison for 20 years. He was not a household name in America.

With a little planning and the hope that they could get some attention on a slow news day, Robinson and other Washingtonians — including Mary Frances Berry, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Walter E. Fauntroy — began a protest at the embassy. They told the South African ambassador of their demands: freedom for Mandela and the release of political prisoners.

That first day only a handful were arrested in front of the embassy. Besides raising awareness about Mandela's fate, the protesters were also trying to spotlight the Reagan administration's policy of "constructive engagement" with the all white, pro-apartheid South African government. They succeeded. Their arrests made international news that day and began a movement. Not only did the arrests in front of the South African embassy continue, occurring almost every week for years, but they also spawned a campus-based "divestiture" movement that demanded colleges and universities purge their stock portfolios of all companies still doing business with the all-white South African dictatorship.

With new Congressional allies, the movement passed the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Act, putting the first American sanctions on South Africa into place. One of the most segregated places on the planet had officially lost the support of its largest and most important sponsor. By 1990, over 160 companies had quit doing business in South Africa and over 4000 people had been arrested in front of its Washington embassy. South African leadership was totally isolated and losing economic steam fast. Nelson Mandela was released from prison that same year, going on to become the first democratically-elected president in its history.

“When we remember Mandela’s life, and we remind ourselves of his commitment and his bravery, it is easy to see the path to success,” Robinson said. “What requires great imagination, and great courage, is to see it from the other side.” In the mid-1980s, it seemed systematic, intractable and unyielding.

In a couple of months, the South African embassy in Washington DC will unveil a nine-foot tall bronze statue of Mandela giving the raised fist salute as he emerged from his Robben Island jail cell. It will be placed on the very spot those first protesters stood almost 30 years ago.

The Free South Africa Movement is a template for how small acts of resistance can grow into something powerful and history-changing. It doesn't always happen, but it can. Timing, strategy, and a little bit of luck all have to combine, but it can happen, if like Mandela himself, and then his supporters, you are extremely persistent, and use your head.

You think about these things very strategically. What can move the needle and what will likely not,” said Randall Robinson, the founder of TransAfrica, the oldest African American foreign policy organization in the United States. “You can protest. But if you can make the wind move, you have to put a sail up. To make the wind move where there is no sail is useless.”

Even though it was decades ago now, this lesson still resonates for everyone who's trying to express a visceral outrage over a perceived injustice, whether it's the Trayvon Martin verdict, or the Keystone Pipeline.

Small stuff adds up.

Emergency preparednessThe disaster in West, Texas has, at least for the moment, altered the regulatory radar concerning hazardous materials and emergency planning. Trying to take advantage of that fact is The US Chemical Safety Board, an independent agency that seems to be using the incident to press for long sought safety upgrades in several industries.

The USCSB investigates industrial accidents and issues recommendations to regulators, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA, as well as companies, states and local authorities, but it lacks the authority to force regulators or companies to make changes on its own.

On July 25th the Board is due to hold a meeting where it's threatening to label the Administration's inaction on regs for combustible dust as "unacceptable" and raise the stakes by categorizing the regs as "Most Wanted" – the first time that's ever happened in the 30-something history of he board. That might sound like weak tea to you and I but it's pretty strong language coming from this group.

The safety board “has made a number of recommendations to OSHA over the years on life-threatening issues, and OSHA hasn’t really responded through the regulatory process,” Matt Shudtz, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Progressive Reform, said in an interview.

Four of the seven recommendations on next week’s agenda would apply to combustible dust, which caused three major industrial explosions in 2003, killing 14. OSHA has been considering a rule to regulate these facilities since 2009, and hasn’t yet submitted even its initial proposal to the White House for review.

Ammonium nitrate, which fueled the West explosion, is now regulated by local, state and federal agencies in a “patchwork that has many large holes,” board Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso said at a Senate hearing last month. However, regulating that chemical isn’t on the agenda next week: The investigation into that incident continues, and the board hasn’t made any recommendations to include on a ‘most wanted’ list, according to Hillary Cohen, an spokeswoman for the board.

Grassroots groups should do their own investigations into local emergency planning committees mandated by law and see how well their County is doing. As Channel 8 Bret Shipp found out, Ellis County, home to some of the most toxic industries in North Texas, has fallen down on the job, but it wouldn't surprise us to learn that they're in the majority.

San Antonio SmogAccording to a new study from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Alamo Area Council of Governments, air pollution from the Eagle Ford gas play in South Texas will increase smog levels in San Antonio by 3 to 7 parts ber billion by 2018, the year the nation's metro areas are supposed to be in compliance with a new tougher federal standard.

Because San Antonio's air is already in violation of federal standards, a rise in ozone levels of even 1 ppb matters. San Antonio's ozone average is at 80 ppb and the federal standard is at 75 ppb.

Since it relied on TCEQ engineers and TCEQ computer models, one can safely assume this study is underestimating the problem of this pollution.

On the otheFrom the beginning of the fracking boom, it's been the contention of Rick Perry's TCEQ that gas industry pollution from the Barnett Shale has no significant effect on DFW smog. "All the wells are west of central DFW"  goes the rationale, even as Dallas debates new drilling and refinery permits. A lot of us, including atmospheric scientists who study this sort of thing, beleive differently.

For two years in a row, air quality in DFW has gotten worse, not better, They've been more violations and they've moved further east. While 2013 has the potential to be the best year for smog in DFW this decade, it may have much more to do with the cooler, wetter weather than any large decreases in pollution inventories. However, given the impacts outlined

Severe smog and air pollution in BeijingWe're a bit behind the curve in reporting on this, but scientists at the University of North Carolina just published a study in "Environmetnal Research Letters"  that estimates Particulate Matter and Ozone pollution in the air is responsible for approximately 2.2 million deaths worldwide every year. 

Long-timers already know about how insidious Particulate Matter can be, but this only chronicles the hardcore fatal respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, concluding the tiny particles of soot cause at least 2.1 million deaths every year while ozone pollution shortens another 500,000 lives.

"East Asia," aka China, accounts for fully have of both those figures. India for another third. In North America, the casualties include 43,000 premature deaths from PM pollution and 33,000 from ozone.

Jason West, co-author of the study said: "Outdoor air pollution is an important problem and among the most important environmental risk factors for health."

Although alarming, these numbers are all underestimates of the health impacts of both of these pollutants, since they exclude anything other than fatalities. Besides making it harder to breathe, PM pollution has been linked to brain disorders and immune system disruptions.