Dead_Parrot_SketchEPA has released the results of the first test of a full-scale Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) unit on a US cement plant and the numbers look good.

As many of you know, SCR is just an industrial-sized version of the catalytic converter in your car. It can capture up to 90% or more of the smog-forming pollution from a cement plant. In use on cement kilns since 2001, there are at least a half a dozen cement plants in Europe that use SCR successfully, but the technology has been slow to arrive in the US because of regulatory laziness and industry resistance.

But after 15 years, that's finally changing.

in 2013, LaFarge Cement entered into a consent decree with the EPA and the US Justice Department as part of a settlement over a string of environmental violations, including excessive smog-forming Nitrogen Oxide (NOX) emissions. As part of that settlement, Lafarge was to retrofit its Joppa, Illinois "dry process" cement kiln with an SCR unit, record its effectiveness during stack testing, and report on the results of those tests by 2015.

This last week, those results were finally made available by EPA and they show SCR was able to reduce NOx by 80%. 

That's approximately twice as effective as SNCR technology, (Selective NON-Catalytic Reduction), the current pollution control device for NOx most often used in U.S. cement plants.

Moreover, according to LaFarge, "the SCR control technology performed well and no operational problem was encountered."

In fact, the control technology worked so well, LaFarge is now getting a permit from the Illinois state environmental agency to operate SCR past the EPA-mandated settlement period.

But while LaFarge is getting its SCR permit, Holcim's Midlothian cement plant has already applied and been granted one by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for construction and operation of its own SCR unit. It should be up and running by this time next year.

So that makes two U.S. cement plants with permits to run full-scale SCR units. One that was forced into the choice by EPA and now wants to keep using it, and another voluntarily adding it.

But according to the TCEQ, even though it gave a permit to Holcim to install SCR, and even though Holcim's SCR unit will be operational in a year, and even though the LaFarge test was a success, and even though SCR has been used for 15 years by European cement companies – SCR is "not economically or technically feasible." That's exactly what the Commission said in response to comments from both citizens and the EPA in its new clean air plan for DFW a couple of months ago.  

That's right. One the one hand the Commission has granted a permit to Holcim to build an SCR unit in its own backyard, and on the other it's still calling the technology infeasible. It's the stuff of Monty Python sketches.

And that's not all. There is no mention of the Holcim Cement SCR permit in the TCEQ's own official arguments against SCR in its DFW clean air plan. Not one. Since Holcim's building of an SCR unit would tend to empirically disprove TCEQ's contention that the technology wasn't practical, the state just pretends it's not happening. As with climate change and smog, any facts that conflict with the pre-determined ideologically-correct premise must be ignored. 

Presumably, Holcim is building the SCR unit because it's made the business judgment that the technology is not only both economically and technologically feasible, but beneficial to the company's bottom line. Presumably LaFarge is pursuing a permit for its SCR unit because it has made the same practical decision. Yet, in a strange role reversal, a Texas state government agency is now telling business it's making the wrong choices. It's overruling the industry's decision to reduce pollution through SCR use by saying "not so fast."

This is how bad its gotten: the Texas approach to clean air is now so backwards that the cement industry is more aggressive about reducing pollution than Austin.

So how many U.S. cement plants have to be operating with SCR before the State of Texas concludes it's a feasible technology? Two? Four? A Dozen?

Fortunately, the TCEQ isn't the last word on this. The Clean Air Act says any and all reasonably available technology must be used on major pollution sources like the Midlothian cement plants when a clean air plan is being drafted. TCEQ hasn't done that. We think they're breaking the law. There are signs that EPA thinks so as well. 

EPA is ultimately in charge of enforcing the Clean Air Act, and if it doesn't do it correctly, then the courts step in.

The best hope for safe and legal air in DFW is for EPA to rigorously enforce the law. The State of Texas will not do so. If you agree then please take a minute to:

1) sign this petition to EPA

2) Send this e-mail to EPA


kids-thank-you-cards copyOur gratitude and sincere thanks to everyone who contributed money to Downwinders during yesterday's Giving Day marathon/assault. We came within $500 of reaching our goal of $7500. That's the closest we've ever come to breaking that ceiling. Stay tuned for more details about our Root and Branch grassroots conference and the debut of our large air quality modeling project at the end of the month

Smogster SpecialSmog got worse this year. The three-year rolling average EPA uses to keep track of dirty air went up twice in two days.

Denton Raises DVIt went up even though the state's second "do-nothing" air plan kicked-in THIS summer. That's right. The first ozone season the state's plan is supposed to make better is one that saw smog levels rise. Who could have predicted?

Downwinders could.

We've been fighting this second "do-nothing" air plan from Austin for over 16 months now. We've been challenging its numbers. We've been questioning its application of the law. And we said there was no way it could work. Earlier this year, the EPA went on record agreeing with many of our arguments. Approval from DC is now at least in doubt.

Downwinders at Risk is the only group that makes it a priority to monitor and participate in the decision-making surrounding DFW air quality. We've used it to modernize the cement industry. We're using it again to modernize the East Texas Coal Plants, oil and gas operations, and yes, the cement plants one more time.  

We're only $600 – $700 away from reaching our Giving Day goal of $7500 by Midnight. Reaching it  means we can fully fund our first-ever grassroots citizens conference. Your contribution of $25 goes further in the next couple of hours than it will after the clock strikes Twelve.

If you've already donated, thanks very much. If you haven't, please consider helping us out. Not because we do good work but because it's in your own self-interest to have us out there fighting for your lungs. Thanks.

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TXI wet kilns disappearHow's this for a track record over the last seven years?

TXI's cement plant no longer has four hazardous waste-burning kilns.
The smokestacks are gone.

Likewise, the smokestacks from Frisco's  outlaw Exide lead smelter are gone as well.

And there are still no drilling rigs in Dallas.

When citizens come together with a plan of action and the resources to follow-though, we make things change for the better. We make the air cleaner. We make people healthier.

Now we need you to step up and help fill our fundraising smokestack with "funds, not fumes"

Half Green Stacks 2Please Reward Effective Local Organizing That Gets Cleaner Air in Your Lungs.

Here's our Mission Statement:

"Downwinders at Risk Education Fund is dedicated to taking effective action on behalf of those being harmed by air pollution.  Our goal is to build a strong grassroots constituency and create new strategies for clean air in North Texas.  We do this by informing, connecting and mobilizing citizens to become active participants in the decision-making that affects the air we breathe.  In doing so, we improve both the quality of our air and the quality of our democracy."

We only have a few hours left to raise the the last $3000 of our $7500 goal.

Thank you for your consideration.

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Half Green Stacks 2

As of right after lunch, we'd reached our goal of hitting $2500. Thanks to everyone who made that possible. But that's only 1/3rd of what we need to raise today to make sure we have enough money to sponsor a first-evergrassroots activists conference.  Help us get that other $5000 by Midnight tonight. Share the link to those who have reason to care about clean air – asthmatic kids, parents with COPD, those with high heart attack or stroke risks. New-or soon-to-be moms and dads. Every little bit helps, but those amounts of $25 or more get larger by way of the Communities Foundation formula. Thanks……

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Looming Cartoon No plumes copyGood Morning. It's North Texas "Giving Day."

From 6 am to 12 Midlnight tonight, online donations of $25 or more to Downwinders at Risk get multiplied or matched by the Communities Foundation of Texas.

This year we're asking your help in supporting our first ever annual grassroots citizen activist conference, the Root and Branch Revue. 

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Not only will this conference offer DFW residents the chance to hang out, talk with, and learn from legendary environmetnal icon Lois Gibbs. You'll also meet and learn from her husband, harvard-trained toxicologist, Dr. Stephen Lester. This is the first time these two have teamed up to come to Texas and do citizen training.

Just as important are the peer-to-peer discussions and brainstorming sponsored by the conference. Not only will we host a two-hour panel discussion on the future of fighting fracking in Texas at our kick-off on Thursday, November 5th, but we'll folow that up with a second two-hour follow-up session on fracking strategy as part of our full day of workshops on Saturday, November 7th. In between, we'll be staging a "Get Tough with Texas" rally at EPA HQ in downtown Dallas that will spotlight why the feds need to crack down on Austin's "nullification" of evironmental laws and policy.

Downwinders fights for your lungs 365 days a year. Today, we need you to fight for us. Thanks very much for your consideration. Donate here.

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Group Announces Texas Grassroots Conference in November; Billed as


“The SXSW for Environmental Activists”

Love Canal’s Own Lois Gibbs Will Be Featured Guest At the First Annual “Root and Branch Revue” 

(Dallas) — Saying their intent is to build a stronger grassroots environmental movement across Texas that can stop the state’s nullification of federal environmental laws and the rollback of rights to oppose large polluters, leaders of the local clean air group Downwinders at Risk announced an ambitious three-day conference in November aimed at honing the skills of Texas' citizen-activists.

Called “The Root and Branch Revue,” the event will feature Love Canal's Lois Gibbs, sometimes referred to as "the Rosa Parks of the Environmental Movement," and kick-off with a panel discussion on “The Future of Fighting Fracking in Texas” that will examine what tools citizens have in a post HB-40 world. Passed by the state legislature this last spring, HB 40 was the controversial bill prohibiting municipalities from using traditional zoning to regulate the location and operation of oil an gas facilities.

Scheduled for Thursday, November 5th through Saturday the 7th, the Revue is actually a rolling collection of events that includes the panel discussion, a lunchtime “Get Tough on Texas” rally at EPA regional headquarters in downtown Dallas, and a full day of workshops that will pass along tips on how to do your own air sampling and monitoring, get better media coverage for your cause, have more effective meetings .

Planners are also talking with the Dallas-based "hyper-local" Bar Politics comedy troupe for a environmentally-themed show as part of the festivities. This is not your typical environmental conference.

"We're billing it as the South by Southwest for activists," said Downwinders' board member and conference coordinator Tamera Bounds. "We want to offer a lot of different experiences – training from experts, brainstorming and socializing with your peers, and a chance to rally at EPA's regional headquarters with everyone else getting the shaft from Austin."

Bounds said Downwinders hopes to make the Revue an annual affair and wanted to kick off the tradition by inviting the original "hysterical housewife" who founded America's anti-toxics movement. “Downwinders and every other group like us can trace our origins back to Lois Gibbs' fight at Love Canal. She’s the mother of us all, and for our first year we wanted to honor that history."

Gibbs’s involvement in environmental causes began in 1978 when she discovered that her 7-year-old son’s elementary school in Niagara Falls, New York was built on a toxic waste dump containing over 20,000 tons of poisons, including Dioxin. Investigation revealed that her entire neighborhood, Love Canal, had been built on top of this dump. With no prior experience in community activism, Gibbs organized her neighbors and led her community in a battle against the local, state, and federal governments. After years of struggle, 833 families were eventually evacuated, and cleanup of Love Canal began. National press coverage made Lois Gibbs a household name and her efforts led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “Superfund,” toxic waste clean-up fund.

In 1980, Gibbs formed the Citizens’ Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, later renamed the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ), where she currently serves as Executive Director. CHEJ is a grassroots environmental crisis center that provides information, resources, technical assistance and training to community groups around the nation.  It will be the first time Gibbs will be coming to train citizens in Texas. She'll be joined by her husband, Harvard-trained toxicologist Stephen Lester, who serves as Science Director for the Center.

All but a few events of the conference will be free. Saturday's day of workshops costs $35 if you register early, $50 if you don't. And that includes lunch.

You can find out more details, and sign-up for the day of workshops at the conference website:

Lois Gibbs in color 2As many of you already know, Next Thursday, September 17th is North Texas  "GIVING DAY."
This annual event for local charities has become an important source of funding for us. For one day, your contribution of $25 can be matched and multiplied. It goes further.
This year, we have a special reason to ask for your support.
We're bringing Lois Gibbs from Love Canal fame to town in November for a three day grassroots conference aimed at  the region's citizen/activists – like you.

They'll be an All-Star panel on the future of fighting fracking in Texas after HB40.

They'll be a rally at EPA headquarters to demand the Agency enforce evnironmental laws.

They'll be an entire day of workshops on how to be a better activists. Want to know how to do your own air or water sampling? Get better media coverage? What industrial poisons affect you in DFW? You can learn from the experts.

It looks like they'll even be a comedy troupe review taking aim at DFW's air pollution.

But we need your help to pull this first-ever conference off and do it right. Our goal is to raise $7500 next Wednesday to help cover the expenses of our speakers, book our venues, and provide food and materials.

We're STILL the only group solely focused on DFW air quality.

We're STILL the only group with a full time staffer devoted to your lungs.

And we're STILL completely dependent on local contributions from our supporters to stay in business

We RnorthtexasgivingdayEALLY need you to take the time next Thursday to give generously to an effort that affects the very air you breathe.  And keep on the lookout in your mailbox for news about our first-ever grassroots conference for people just like you.