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 Downwinders At Risk - Press Room: Clean Air Fund

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Clean Air Fund

Once on the Outside, Local Clean Air Groups Now Bankroll Government Programs

What: News Conference Announcing New Clean Air Fund for North Texas
When: Tuesday, September 26th at 2 PM
Where: 201 East Shady Grove Road, Grand Prairie
Who: Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher, EPA, Downwinders At Risk, Blue Skies Alliance
Visual: Crushing a clunker car to make sure it never pollutes again

Since it’s founding in the mid-1990’s, DFW-based Downwinders At Risk has battled Fortune 500 companies and government bureaucracies over industrial air pollution from the three cement plants in Midlothian. The group fought permit fights, struggled to gain support through legislation and sought regulatory relief. It did this with a pittance of funding, relying like a neighborhood youth soccer league on garage sales and concession stand work for all of its money.

For their part, industry and government did their best to ignore the vocal group’s demands to clean up the three worst air polluters in North Texas.

But that’s all changing now.

On Tuesday, Downwinders At Risk, along with the group it founded to work on area-wide air pollution problems, Blue Skies Alliance, will be presenting a check for $133,000 to Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher for countywide implementation of a program to get the worst-polluting cars permanently off the road or repaired. A highlight will be seeing one of the offending cars crushed at Granutech Saturn Systems of Grand Prairie, Texas, an local metal recycler.

The check is the very first grant from an unprecedented $2.3 million clean air fund that both groups now control. Named after the founder of Downwinders, the Sue Pope North Texas NOx Reduction Fund is the largest privately held bank for clean air initiatives ever created in the state of Texas. And it came about because of Mrs. Pope’s legal intervention on behalf of the group in one of those hard-fought permit fights way back in 1999.

Holcim Cement of Midlothian settled with the groups when it found it could not deliver on a promise to cut its smog-forming pollution after building a new plant. After almost a year of negotiations, the company pledged over $2 million to fund programs that would reduce the same kind of pollution in DFW. Downwinders went from pauper to prince overnight.

More grants are to follow. All the money must be spent on anti-pollution efforts and none goes to support the group. So even while they play the Donald Trumps of clean air, they still have to keep fundraising to support their own advocacy efforts. These days, those efforts are aimed at the new DFW clean air plan and, you guessed it, trying to get modern pollution controls on the Midlothian cement plants.