Two months back, the Dallas County Medical Society petitioned the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to crack down on emissions coming from Luminant's three coal-fired power plants in North and Northeast Texas, which are among the nation's dirtiest.
They based their plea on a white paper commissioned from a Rice University environmental engineering professor showing the ozone, sulfur dioxide, mercury and nitrogen oxides the plants belch out contribute to increased rates of asthma, chronic lung disease, heart attacks, and "premature death" in Dallas-Fort Worth.
The TCEQ listened to DCMS' argument on Wednesday and promptly rejected it. Here's The Dallas Morning News' Randy Lee Loftis:
Describing the doctors' request as premature, commissioners said they could address any concerns about pollution in the next scheduled update of the state's Dallas-Fort Worth clean-air plan, due for a commission vote in December 2014.
They also questioned the role of ground-level ozone, or smog, in public health. Chairman Bryan W. Shaw said studies suggest that cutting ozone alone might not prevent asthma attacks.
"I'm convinced that it doesn't make sense to get ahead of the science," Shaw said. He later added, "I don't want there to be this knee-jerk reaction."
Commissioner Toby Baker said asthma has "a wealth of confounding factors." To assume that a correlation between high ozone and asthma hospitalizations means ozone causes asthma is "frankly irresponsible," Baker said.
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Environmentalists lambasted the decision. On its blog, Public Citizen Texas points out that the DCMS research isn't exactly breaking new ground on the harmful effects of smog. The Environmental Protection Agency and national health organizations like the American Lung Association have concluded that the link between ozone and other pollutants and health problems is strong.
Downwinders at Risk offers a still sharper critique, blasting the TCEQ for being in the industry's pocket and noting that Shaw, the commission's chairman, derives his scientific authority from the poultry-science degree he received from Texas A&M.