About Air and Water

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Opinion - Al Armendariz: We can't wish our smog away - Clean-air plan won't keep N. Texas from violating ozone standard. We deserve better.

Al Armendariz- Dallas Morning News - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Dallas-Fort Worth's ozone smog is going to disappear. No more yellow, orange or red alert days. No more concern about children playing soccer at the park during summer and fall afternoons. No more guilt about not carpooling or not riding DART. In 2 ½ years, the lung-damaging, asthma-inducing ozone smog will be as much a part of Dallas' past as the Wright amendment and Cowboys games at the Cotton Bowl.

Why is the ozone problem going away? The state of Texas said so.

On June 15, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality submitted the latest in a long line of Dallas-Fort Worth clean-air plans to the Environmental Protection Agency. The plan was required by the federal Clean Air Act because North Texas does not meet the ozone air-quality standard.

The plan contains emission reductions that are supposed to ensure that our air quality will meet the ozone standard by the end of 2009. For this to happen, our ozone levels have to drop from the current level of 96 parts per billion to 84 ppb. A drop of 12 ppb is substantial – levels of ozone have never dropped this far in a short period of time in any metropolitan area in the history of the Clean Air Act.

The state's latest clean-air plan for the region targets emissions of nitrogen oxides, one of the two air pollutants that transform into ozone with the help of abundant summer sunlight. Over the next 2 ½ years, the plan will lower emissions from cars, trucks, factories and utilities in North Texas by approximately 5 percent.

The EPA is now evaluating the plan and will approve or reject it, based on whether it believes that the state has demonstrated conclusively that D-FW air will meet the ozone standard.

In contrast to the state's conclusions, I think the evidence is clear that the plan will not succeed and that our area will continue to violate the ozone standard well into the future. There are a number of reasons the plan will fail, including:

•EPA analyses indicate that emissions reductions of approximately 20 percent are required to lower ozone concentrations by 3 ppb. Remember, we need a 12 ppb drop to meet the standard.

•Ozone levels in North Texas would have to begin dropping immediately more than 10 times as fast as the state's own long-term data show is actually occurring to reach the standard by the end of 2009.

•The state's short-term data show that ozone levels are actually increasing in Tarrant, Denton and Parker counties.

•The state has submitted numerous failed ozone plans for our area, including in 1976, 1979, 1984, 1987, 1994, 1996, 1999, 2001 and 2003. Each has not only been a state failure but also a failure by the federal government, since the EPA approved each plan.

It is time for the failure to stop. We pay high taxes and deserve better service from our government administrators and scientists. The EPA should not approve the plan submitted by the state and instead require a new one with emission reductions that ensure that our area will meet the ozone standard.

Everyone who breathes should contact Steve Page, EPA director of the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, at page.steve@epa.gov, and Richard Greene, EPA regional administrator, at greene.richard1@epa.gov, and tell them that it is time for the state to submit a real clean-air plan for our area.


Al Armendariz is an assistant professor in Southern Methodist University's School of Engineering. His e-mail address is aja@engr.smu.edu.
Read more in the Dallas Morning News

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