So, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved the Dallas/Fort Worth region's plan to reduce air pollution from ozone, making us the first in the nation to win the EPA's nod for a "state implementation plan." That's nice an all, but don't jump up and shout, "Woo-hoo, We're No. 1!" just yet.
Oh, sure, "the clean air plan...will improve air quality by more than 55 percent over 1999 levels, which, in combination with previous plans, will result in a total of 409 tons per day of ozone pollution reduction," says the EPA, and that's a good thing, isn't it? It'll mean fewer hot summer days when noxious ozone from cars, factories and cement kilns choke Granny and make little asthmatic Johnny wheeze like a busted accordion, right? We put that question to environmentalist Jim Schermbeck of Downwinders at Risk. His answer, in effect, was, Meh.
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"The plan as submitted falls short of what a lot of people wanted to see...[but] this is probably as good as we could get, given who we have as governor," said Schermbeck, who we reached while he was out shopping at Toys "R" Us.
Governor Rick Perry -- who isn't anyone's idea of a tree-hugger, unless you replace the "h" in that phrase with an "m" -- and his cronies at the state level would likely have walked away from negotiations with the EPA and sought an extension for creating a clean air plan if the feds had pressed for stricter rules, Schermbeck says, and better this plan than simply more delay. Still, he points out, much of the ozone reduction the plan predicts -- about 360 tons daily -- comes from cement kilns switching to greener, cleaner production methods, in part in response to local municipalities and agencies that have changed their own rules to require government construction projects to use "green cement."
Read this story to learn about how locals are pushing for cleaner cement kilns, and check out this one to learn how one cement maker, Ash Grove Texas LP has sued to halt the effort.
Ash Grove. Someone was asleep at the irony switch when that named that company.
And if that isn't enough light holiday reading for you, then take a gander at this story detailing the smoky history of how the state mucked up locals' efforts to come up with a better SIP. But don't let any of it get you down. Just remember, we're the first in the nation with a plan! Think I'll go have a cigarette to celebrate cleaner air. --Patrick Williams