Happy DFW Non-Attainment Day!

by jim on September 3, 2013

Merry Ozone SeasonIt came a little later than usual this year, but the final dog days of August finally churned out the inevitable DFW Non-Attainment Day on Saturday. And nature was just cheeky enough to wait until right before the state's open house on yet another clean air plan for the area.

Non-Attainment Day is the (so far) annual day when one lucky regional air monitor registers its fourth "exceedence" of the old 85 parts per billion smog standard left over from the 1990's, signaling an official violation of the federal Clean Air Act and meaning that DFW is still mired in high levels of ozone. 

On Saturday it was the Denton Airport monitor that saw an 8-hour average of 85 ppb, one that matched Friday's result as well. Together, the two readings combined with another 85 ppb from August 20th and a 90 ppb level from early July to produce four readings of 85 ppb or more by the end of the month. That makes it official. It's the 17th year in a row that DFW hasn't met the old smog standard.

Although it's bad news that we're once again in violation of an obsolete smog standard, this summer's cooler weather and rain has kept smog down to levels not seen since 2007. If Denton is the only monitor to record an official violation of the 85 standard, that will be the fewest number doing so since 2007 as well, when there were two. Last year there were five and the year before that, six.

But as of 2015, the region will need to get ozone levels down to no more than the new EPA-approved level of 75 ppb if it wants safe and legal air. A plan to help the region do that is supposed to be drafted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, although no one knows exactly when that process will start.

As it happens however, the TCE is hosting a "public information meeting" on such a new air plan at the public-friendly hour of 10 am this coming Thursday at the North Texas Council of Governments headquarters in Arlington at 616 Six Flags Road. Don't expect any explanations for what that is, because there aren't any. However, it is most assuredly not a meeting of the local North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee, the advisory group charged with assisting the TCEQ in putting together a clean air plan. That would require more concern for clean air than the state can muster right now, with a deadline still a whole 16 months away.

With the summer trending well up to now, we suspect the TCEQ crew thought they could come up to DFW from Austin without having to use the dreadful N-word to describe DFW's condition. Now, not so much. It's an embarrassment too. If the region can't reach attainment when the weather is on your side, what's it going to be like when real a Texas Summer returns? 2013 was absolutely the best shot we had at finally seeing the numbers drop significantly. And now that's been blown. 

Of course, if the last state clean air plan had worked the way Austin told us it would, we wouldn't even be writing this blog post because DFW would have reached attainment status last year. But the plan didn't exactly work the way Austin said it would. in fact, it made air quality measurably worse.

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