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 Downwinders At Risk - Press Room: Not-So-Clean-Air Plan: EPA should demand revision from TCEQ

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not-So-Clean-Air Plan: EPA should demand revision from TCEQ

Wednesday, July 25, 2007, Dallas Morning News Editorial

From the get-go, the state's clean-air plan for North Texas should have been a no-go.

When regulators first unveiled a draft of their proposal to reduce ozone, it was evident that state officials were settling for just squeaking by instead of aggressively reducing pollution. Their plan let power plants, cement kilns and cars off easy. Worse, the proposed restrictions fell short of federal air quality standards.

But the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality wasn't done.

Before approving the final version, regulators quietly removed the few teeth included in the original plan. The new-and-inferior proposal was so weak that Richard Greene, the regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, warned the TCEQ that the plan could be rejected.

Still, state officials insisted that, despite evidence to the contrary, Dallas-Fort Worth would somehow comply with ozone standards.

But an in-depth analysis by a Southern Methodist University professor leaves little doubt that North Texas' anti-pollution plan is inadequate. Al Armendariz, an assistant engineering professor, dissected the state's air models and analyzed pollution trend data.

His examination revealed that ozone levels must plummet at an unprecedented pace for Dallas-Fort Worth to come close to meeting federal standards. The state's own models project that four local monitors will exceed ozone limits – two of them by a wide margin.

That alone should disqualify the proposal.

His analysis underscores that for too long, the state has made only half-hearted attempts to reduce pollution, continuing a cycle of delays and failure.

Dr. Armendariz's report is not just an esoteric exercise in trend lines and number crunching. If, as the report predicts, North Texas fails to attain clean-air goals, residents will continue to breathe lung-scarring ozone.
But we could do better.

The EPA should reject the state's plan and require additional pollution cuts. The Armendariz report outlines a game plan for reducing ozone levels that includes expanding emissions restrictions on local power plants to include central and East Texas. Further limiting pollution from nearby cement kilns and regulating natural gas compressor engines also would reduce ozone. And reducing speed limits on North Texas highways would improve our air as well.
The state took the easy way out with its do-little plan. The EPA should demand that North Texas do more.