About Air and Water

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Local Leaders Criticize State Clean-Air Effort

By Scott Streater, Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Thursday, 7 June 2007
Local leaders are becoming frustrated with the ongoing efforts to devise a plan to clean up ozone in Dallas-Fort Worth.

The state approved a clean-air plan last month, but federal regulators say it is flawed and may not do enough to cut pollution and bring the region into compliance with ground-level ozone standards by a 2010 deadline.

Failure to meet that deadline would subject the nine-county region to severe federal sanctions that limit economic development.

The state's plan has been roundly criticized by local leaders for not doing enough to crack down on the cement kilns in Ellis County or on the tons of pollution emitted from the millions of cars and trucks that pass through the Metroplex each day.

Local leaders want to be involved in deciding what revisions are made to the plan.

"Right now we're outside the loop," Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck said. "In serious public health issues like air quality we should all be rowing in the same direction, but somebody dropped an oar."

The issue

Richard Greene, the Environmental Protection Agency's regional administrator in Dallas, has warned that the State Implementation Plan -- which outlines exact steps the region will take to meet federal ozone standards -- is flawed and may not be approved by the EPA.

Among the problems: The state appears to have seriously underestimated the amount of pollution emitted by small compressor engines that power natural gas rigs and transmission pipelines in the region.
State regulators say the plan is fine, but they have indicated that they will make revisions to the plan where needed.

Why it's important

Ozone is a health concern. Ozone concentrations above federal health-based standards can trigger asthma attacks and worsen the conditions of those suffering from emphysema, bronchitis and other respiratory ailments.

The nine-county region -- Tarrant, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker and Rockwall counties -- faces severe federal sanctions if it fails to complete a federally approved clean-air plan, including the possible loss of tens of millions of dollars in highway funding.

What's next

The EPA will meet again with state environmental regulators, perhaps as early as this month, to try and resolve concerns that the clean-air plan won't work.
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