Downwinders is Regrouping, Renewing, and Regenerating. Almost half our new board is under 30. We have a new scientist. We have a new focus. Now we need you.
Many of you are aware of the time and effort Downwinders at Risk put into the unprecedented UNT Ozone Study which brought DFW elected officials and local atmospheric researchers together for the first time to operate the same computer model for air quality used exclusively by the State and EPA.
The results of that study provided a practical map for compliance with the current federal ozone standard: new controls on coal plants, cement kilns and gas facilities. It was shared by local officials with the EPA in hopes of that agency drafting a new DFW air plan that might finally address these major sources of local air pollution.
Those hopes were dashed by the presidential election last fall.
Because of a perfect storm of regulatory changes and politics, we now believe that the EPA won’t intervene on behalf of DFW air quality for the foreseeable future. It appears DFW will not even have to submit another serious plan to address smog for at least a decade – if then.
Over the last 20 years no other group has leveraged as much change from DFW federal clean air plans as Downwinders at Risk. We won the first comprehensive study of cement plant air pollution control technology by the state. We got new smog-control technology installed on the Midlothian cement plants. We used the “Green Cement” provision of another federal smog plan to stop the burning of hazardous waste in those cement plants and close the oldest, dirtest kilns in North Texas. In the most recent plan, we exposed the large impact of oil and gas pollution on local DFW smog levels.
But while we’ll continue to stay in the EPA’s ozone/smog regulatory loop through legal representation, we don’t see any opportunity to impact public policy using federal clean air plans the way we have in the past.
With this change, we had to rethink how we work toward better regional air quality in North Texas. How do we impact the most lives, in the biggest ways, with the resources we have?
We’ve come up with three strategies, all of them taking advantage of our long history of increasing the ability of local residents and governments to take on dirty air themselves.
OUR NEW PRIORITIES
Build a modern, independent, and citizen-friendly regional air pollution monitoring network for DFW
You can’t fix problems unless you know about them, and this is a way to begin building a regional alternative to state monopoly of air quality expertise and resources.
Identify, reduce, and eliminate health threats posed by widespread Particulate Matter (PM)pollution in DFW
PM is the new smog and local campaigns to reduce it can help a lot of people, especially those predominantly minority neighborhoods who’ve been dumped on the most.
Organize a grassroots campaign to restore local government zoning control of industrial hazards
A state government bought by polluters has gone too far in restricting the liberties of Texans and demolishing democracy at the local level. We’re fighting back.
We co-founded the DFW Air Research Consortium last year with researchers from area universities and local governments with the idea of building a modern and locally-controlled air quality monitoring grid across DFW that can track pollution plumes in real time. This can become a powerful grassroots enforcement and education tool.
Downwinders itself bought two EPA-certified ozone monitors we’ll be using to specifically track smog levels in Wise County, where the State refuses to put a monitor despite evidence that’s where the region’s highest ozone readings are located.
This is more than just increasing the number of monitors – this is an opportunity to change the way people see air pollution affecting their lives. It’s also another opportunity to take what was the exclusive regulatory providence of an apathetic state government and give it to more concerned local governments.
We’re also beginning a new campaign focusing on microscopic pieces of soot known as Particulate Matter, or PM pollution. In recent years, PM pollution has been linked in the scientific literature to a wide variety of non-respiratory and cardiovascular diseases including ADHD, autism, Parkinson’s, dementia, and infertility. Like lead, many researchers believe there is no safe level of exposure to this kind of pollution.
Sources of PM pollution include any internal combustion engine, furnace, boiler and windswept piles of sand, or cement dust. Studies have found a correlation between proximity to a major source of PM pollution and increased risks of illness.
This is why other communities around the country are cracking down on idling trucks and buses and establishing buffer zones between major freeways and residences, parks and schools. We want to reduce the pollution as well as the exposure to it.
Finally, because there’s no hope of addressing air pollution from the oil and gas industry without any change in HB 40, the 2015 state law that took away local control of industrial zoning, we’ve begun a project aimed at building an alliance that challenges state overreach and promotes the restoration of traditional local control. Cities must have the right to protect their residents’ public safety and health. This campaign will challenge the status quo in both Austin and North Texas.
As always, they’ll also be campaigns we could not anticipate but have to wage. One example is the recent proposal by Dow Chemical to bag municipal trash for burning in the nation’s cement kilns. Dow has already targeted the local cement kilns in North Texas for this scheme, but Downwinders is pushing back hard and working with nationwide alliances to halt this project before it gets very far.
NOW WE NEED YOU
This coming THURSDAY is another North Texas Giving Day, a chance for your donations to be magnified by challenge grants and other incentives over the day. Because we’ve added responsibilities and staff, Downwinders at Risk needs this one to be our best, most productive Giving Day yet.
All transactions take place online that day. It’s simple to give and you can link to the Giving Day pay portal through our Downwinders’ website or FaceBook page beginning at 6 am on the 14th, and going all the way to midnight:
DFW has been in continuous violation of the Clean Air Act for 26 years. We’re asking you to take a minute and contribute $26 to clean air work in the place where your lungs do most of their breathing.
We know hurricane season is testing the limits of our charitable giving, but $26 is all we’re asking. At a time when the state and federal government are intent on not protecting our air, Downwinders continues to be stubborn advocates for progress.
We deeply regret not being able to win a clean air plan for DFW in 2017 that might finally leave us in compliance with the Clean Air Act. But our long term goals remain the same. We hope you agree our work is worth your continued support. Thank you for your consideration.