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 Downwinders At Risk - Articles: April 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Breathing Easier - Editorial

Posted on Thu, Mar. 27, 2008

Fort Worth Star-Telegram

The Environmental Protection Agency has adopted a tougher national ozone standard that could prove very difficult for smog-plagued North Central Texas to meet.

Some critics say the new standard, which mandates that the ozone concentration not exceed 75 parts per billion, is too severe. Others say the standard should be even more demanding, allowing no more than 60 to 70 ppb of ground-level ozone, the primary ingredient in smog.

It's difficult to say precisely what the magic number should be. Even highly knowledgeable environmental scientists might disagree.
But we say with certainty that we're pleased the standard has been toughened considerably from the prior level of 85 ppb. The new benchmark will compel the Dallas-Fort Worth area to push harder to improve its air quality.

Why it's important

We need to win the ozone battle because high smog concentrations can trigger asthma attacks, worsen bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses and hinder lung development in children. Ozone exposure can contribute to premature death for people with heart and lung disease. Vegetation and trees can even be damaged by repeated exposure to ozone, new scientific evidence shows.

Nine North Central Texas counties -- Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, Collin, Parker, Johnson, Ellis, Kaufman and Rockwall -- previously were designated as a "non-attainment area" failing to meet the prior ozone standard of 85. The EPA has projected that Hood and Hunt counties also will be in non-attainment under the new 75 standard, although no formal designation has been made.

Meeting the new standard will be a real challenge. But we believe it can be achieved with a determined effort by federal, state and local governments, businesses and individuals.

The solutions

The key to meeting the standard is reducing emissions of nitrogen oxide, which contribute to smog formation. Approximately 73 percent of nitrogen oxide emissions in the D-FW area come from mobile sources, including on-road sources such as passenger vehicles and freight trucks and off-road sources such as construction equipment. Industrial sources also add significant emissions.

The region's best hope for attaining the new 75 standard appears to be continued air quality improvements resulting from new federal rules mandating cleaner fuels and engines for such mobile pollution sources as passenger cars, large freight trucks, locomotives, marine vessels and construction equipment such as bulldozers. Programs that provide strong financial incentives for replacement and retrofitting of older, heavier-polluting vehicles and equipment already are in place.

Further emissions reductions can be achieved by continuing to toughen emissions standards for industrial sources, including cement kilns and power plants.

Expanded reliance on mass transit and car pooling can help. In addition, cities must continue encouraging mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly developments that allow people to live, work and enjoy recreational activities in the same area. That reduces urban sprawl and vehicle miles traveled.

Individuals can help greatly by driving more fuel-efficient cars, keeping vehicles well-tuned, combining multiple errands into single trips and opting to live closer to work. Employers can help by subsidizing employee commutes via bus or train.

Further advancements in automotive technology, including the development of affordable plug-in hybrid vehicles and fully electric cars, also could help in coming years to clean our air.

No deadline has yet been set for smog-plagued regions to comply with the new 75 standard. In general, the deadlines are expected to range anywhere from 2013 to 2030, with the most severely polluted areas having longer periods to reach attainment.

Reason for hope

The Metroplex actually has moderately improved its air quality in recent years. But the difficulty of attaining federal ozone standards has been heightened because the standards periodically have been toughened and the number of pollution sources has expanded because of the area's heavy population growth, which has been exceeding 100,000 annually. In just the past 10 years, the number of registered passenger vehicles has grown by more than 500,000, to approximately 3.7 million.

But there is genuine reason for hope, according to the EPA. It projects that, by 2020, the number of counties nationwide that fail to meet the new 75 ozone standard could be winnowed dramatically -- from 345 to 28.

In Texas, Harris County (Houston) would be the only area remaining in violation of the standard by 2020, the EPA forecasts. The D-FW area, now listed in the "moderate" non-attainment category, finally would be in compliance.

Let's all take a deep breath and relish the thought of clean air -- or, at the least, cleaner air. It's achievable if we put our minds to it.


Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov/air

North Central Texas Council of
Governments: www.nctcog.org/trans/air

Letter from Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck


March 18, 2008

Air Quality and Energy Savings: Two Smart Moves for the Environment

Recently the City Council and I reviewed an environmental policy to improve Arlington’s air quality. Cement, used in almost every building project, is a wonderful material, but the making of cement can create air borne pollutants.

Over the past several years I have worked toward cleaning up Arlington’s air and this is another step toward keeping that goal. The resolution that Council passed is called the Green Cement Resolution. It essentially allows the City of Arlington to give a preference when bidding for cement to companies that, regardless of production method, reduce high emission rates of nitrogen oxide.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, cement kilns produce 43 percent of all point-source air pollution in the DFW area. Technology now exists, allowing cement kilns to produce cement through a process that burns half as much fuel and produces half as much carbon dioxide.

Although cement may not be the first thing that comes to mind when talking about global climate change, the Council and I had the facts about the technology which improves the cement industry’s air quality emissions. That was why we voted unanimously in favor of the Green Cement Resolution. And we are not alone. Similar resolutions have been endorsed by other North Texas cities, including Fort Worth and Dallas.

At the same City Council meeting, we celebrated another milestone event. On February 12, the City of Arlington received its first energy savings check from Oncor Electric Delivery for $24,000.

Arlington joined the Oncor CitySmart Initiative in 2007 to help improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs in city-owned buildings.

Through CitySmart, the City is eligible to receive incentive checks for implementing energy efficient appliances and equipment. Incentives are paid by Oncor and equal $150 per peak kilowatt of energy saved. The Public Utility Commission of Texas provides the formula for calculating these energy savings. Part of the recent check was for savings achieved by replacing older florescent lighting with new more energy efficient lights.

Energy efficiency and air quality conserve our natural resources and protect our future. The City Council and I believe these projects in city-owned buildings are a great financial investment and a priceless investment for our community’s good health.

Robert Cluck, MD_Mayor_City of Arlington