Only 48 hours after the single worst day for DFW smog since 2013, coal plant operator Luminant reportedly began a lobbying campaign to scuttle Sandy Greyson's Dallas city council clean air resolution requesting a better anti-smog plan.
As a result, Item #12 “A resolution authorizing the City of Dallas to communicate its positions and requests regarding the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ's) proposed State Implementation Plan for the Dallas-Fort Worth Region ozone pollution to the State of Texas, the TCEQ, and other agencies” is expected to be pulled from Wednesday’s unanimous voice-vote “consent agenda” and placed in line with other items generating discussion and dissent. It may be a long day – and that's exactly what the resolution opponents want in order to wear us down.
Luminant was said to be contacting city council members over the weekend, reportedly with the assistance of representatives of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. In the past the company has stated it objects to the costs of installing the kind of modern anti-smog controls, referenced by the city’s resolution, at its three aging East Texas coal plants, despite their large smog-causing emissions. We don't know how successful the company's lobbying has been, or how much trouble the resolution is in.
If you're mad about this news, good. Here's what we need you to do:
1. If you haven't already, please follow this link and send a "click and send" ready-to-go email to all 15 Dallas city council members urging them to vote for the clean air resolution. You can add your own language at the bottom if you want.
2. Please sign up to speak in favor of clean air and the resolution on Wednesday
You must call the City Secretary''s office at 214-670-3738 to reserve a 3 minute speaking slot. Make sure you sign up for Item #12 on the consent agenda. If you don't sign-up in advance, you won't get to speak up on Wednesday!
We need to be there beginning at 9am, but we don't know how soon the resolution will come up in the agenda now. We know this makes it inconvenient. Again – not by accident. We've outlasted them before. We need to do it again.
3. Emphasize these Talking Points in your emails and speaking on Wednesday
All the air pollution control measures referenced in the city's clean air resolution are currently available, off-the-shelf technology, already in use in the world, US, and even Texas. Nothing exotic. Nothing experimental. There are coal plants and cement kilns with catalytic converters. There are already electric compressors. The resolution says only that the state should consider applying these technologies uniformly – to ALL major industrial sources affecting DFW air quality.
All the air pollution measures referenced in the city's clean air resolution are among the most cost-effective that can be taken, costing a small fraction of other measures already adopted. Putting controls on the coal plans and kilns costs $2-3,000 per ton of smog-forming pollution removed vs state programs spending $10-13,000 per ton. It's cheaper to prevent pollution at a dozen or so smokestacks than millions of tailipipes.
Most smaller Dallas businesses are already heavily-regulated for emissions because they're located within the DFW "non-attainment area," for smog, while the East Texas coal plants creating a huge chunk of that smog continue to be exempt from the same kind of regulations because they're located 90-100 miles outside the non-attainment area. They have more impact, but less regulation. That's not fair to Dallas-based businesses, or DFW''s seven million residents. We need small business owners to say the Chamber and Luminant doesn't speak for all of the Dallas business community.
The costs of installing new controls are small compared to the economic and public health costs of not installing them. Dr. Robert Haley's recent study for the Dallas County Medical Society concluded a drop of just 5 ppb in North Texas smog levels could save $650,000,000 in lost economic growth, and prevent hundreds of ER admissions, and 100 premature deaths – EVERY YEAR.
Luminant is taking the position that their three old coal plants are more important than the health of 1.2 million Dallas residents, and the other 5.5 million DFW citizens who breathe dirty air. The company is asking the Dallas City Council to place its interests above everyone else's.
DFW has been in continual violation of the Clean Air Act for smog since 1991. Our childhood asthma rates are higher than the state OR national average. EPA has already said the current plan doesn't do enough to lower smog levels to meet the federal standard. But opponents of the resolution have no alternative. They want the City of Dallas to sit on its hands and do nothing about 25 years of chronic smog – no matter how many people are affected by bad air. Does the City of Dallas really want to send the message that it doesn't care about clean air only a week before it hosts its own "Clean AIr Action Day" event at City Hall Plaza next Friday?
Some critics of these resolutions have argued they're only symbolic requests for cleaner air, and don't mean that much, or carry that much weight. If Luminant's reported response is any indication, it thinks this resolution is a threat to plans to sell-off those aging coal plants as part of its parent company's bankruptcy. We must be doing something right to engender this kind of alleged opposition from North Texas' King of Coal.
DON'T LET BIG COAL WIN THIS FIGHT
SPEAK UP IN SUPPORT OF CLEAN AIR – Call the City Secretary and Register to speak on Wednesday
THIS WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15th
9 AM DALLAS CITY HALL 1500 MARILLA
By a vote of 5 to 1 the City of Dallas moved closer to joining Dallas County in repudiating the State's do-nothing DFW clean air plan and demanding something better.
It was the second vote in less than a month to condemn an anti-smog strategy the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality claims gets DFW "close enough" to the current federal standard, but is criticized by clean air advocates as inadequate to end the region's chronic bad air problem.
In April U.S. Congressional Representatives Eddie Bernice Johnson and Marc Veasey asked the EPA to reject the State plan and write its own.
Council members Mark Clayton, Philip Kingston, Tiffini Young, and Rickey Callahan backed a wide-ranging air quality resolution sponsored by Quality of Life Committee Chair Sandy Greyson. Casting the lone no vote was Adam McGough.
Greyson's resolution cites the EPA's conclusion "that the latest air quality State Implementation Plan (SIP) proposed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is not adequate to address the (the region's) ozone concentrations"
One reason given for the inadequacy is the plan doesn't touch major sources of air pollution affecting DFW including the East Texas coal plants, the Midlothian cement kilns and oil and gas facilities. The resolution specifically requests the state to follow the prescription laid out by UNT's landmark 2015 DFW ozone study, itself based on the State's own computer air model by adding off-the shelf control technology to those industrial sources.
Besides rejecting the state's plan, the resolution also takes issue with the State's assertion that lowering smog levels won't improve public health by specifically adding a provision stating "…studies have shown a direct correlation between health issues, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and higher levels of ozone…"
It also calls for more renewable energy, net metering and an endorsement of the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan – a 2016 Dallas Omnibus Air Quality resolution.
Nobody had anything nice to say about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Councilman Philip Kingston was particularly pointed in his criticisms. During a discussion about Dallas taking on some of TCEQ's enforcement duties, Kingston explained why the City preferred to to it themselves, rather than leave it up to the State: "Because they do the same thing with that responsibility as they do with all their responsibilities – they ignore them." Amen.
The resolution now goes to the full Dallas City Council for a final vote at one of two meetings before the summer break – either June 15th or June 22nd. Stay tuned for details.
Meanwhile, RIGHT NOW – you can send a quick e-mail toall 15 Dallas City Council members asking them to vote for the Greyson air quality resolution when it shows up on their doorstep. You can add a message of your own if you want.
(Dallas)—-A local clean air group released a short film of an official Dallas City Plan Commission tour of controversial gas drilling and production sites that it says rebuts the claims made by City Council members during last Wednesday's City Manager’s briefing on parkland drilling that the land is "desolate" and a "wasteland.”
Downwinders at Risk posted "Dallas Fracking Mystery Tour” early Tuesday morning for public viewing on its own website. It's a fast-paced four minute journal of a January 31st City Plan Dallas City Plan Commission bus tour of all three proposed Trinity East gas permit sites in Dallas: The Gun Club and the LB Houston/Luna Vista Golf Course drilling sites, both on city parkland, as well as the Luna Vista Processing Plant site, aka, "The Rawlings Refinery and Compressor Station," located only a short distance away from the City of Dallas' new Elm Fork Athletic Complex.
The group hired a local professional filmmaker to accompany the 15 Plan Commissioners, various city staff and members of the public on the half-day outing from the time they boarded two buses at City Hall to the last site visit, including question and answer sessions between Commissioners and David Cossum, the City of Dallas Assistant Director of Sustainable Development and Construction. The result is a quick take on each of the sites through the eyes of the tour participants.
“Contrary to claims by Council members who’ve never visited the sites they want to condemn, the Trinity River bottoms are not “wasteland,” said Jim Schermbeck, Director of Downwinders. “Even a quick look like this tour offered shows its never going to be mistaken for a Midland-Odessa oil patch.”
During last Wednesday’s briefing, Council member Sheffie Kadane compared the park land sites at the Gun Club and the Golf Course to West Texas oilfields, Council member Jerry Allen called them a “wasteland,” and Council member Dwaine Caraway said they didn’t represent “quality park land.” But looking at it the sites from the perspective of the Plan Commission tour, one sees expanses of hardwood forests, sculpted fairways, and a peacefully flowing Trinity River close-by.
Besides offering a striking visual counterpoint, the tour’s on-site Q&As between Plan Commission and City staff reveal other mistakes in drilling proponents’ claims about the sites. For example, Kadane has insisted there would never be drilling equipment in the actual flood plain, but as Cossum explains to an inquiring Commissioner, there will be.
Another Q&A at the refinery and compressor station site reveals City staff’s contradictory stances on sources of pollution surrounding the Elm Fork Athletic Complex – a new recreation facility expected to attract hundreds or thousands of children and their families on weekends.
The city is opposing a new permit from a near-by rock crushing facility permit because of concerns about its 17 tons of annual air pollution so close to the Complex, but supporting the construction of a gas refinery and compressor station that will admittedly release at least 75 tons a year of air pollution only 50 feet further away.
Using the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” as a recurring soundtrack, the short film uses no voice over narration, relying only on the comments of tour participants and text. It repeatedly asks why the city would contradict its own current policy, answering that “It was a Mystery” at the time of the tour.
However in a postscript, it adds the February 7th Dallas Observer publication of the 2008 “secret agreement” between Dallas City Manager and Trinity East to exchange funds for leases on city land for city staff help in approving drilling and production permits. “Suddenly, it wasn’t a mystery anymore.”
Schermbeck says his group hopes the film will put “a face on the sites” they haven’t had before, and offer a short, entertaining way to get educated about the controversy. “There’s been a lot of misinformation about these sites perpetrated by people who’ve never visited them. People can now see them the way the Plan Commission did and decide for themselves.“