D-FW still fails to meet 1997 ozone standards

The Dallas-Fort Worth area must come up with yet another plan to reduce emissions after failing to meet Tuesday's deadline to comply with federal ozone standards.

State and local officials will be required to create a plan to meet the 1997 ozone standards even as a much tougher standard is being drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"Right now, we're working on two tracks," said Chris Klaus, senior program manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments.

The EPA is reclassifying the D-FW nonattainment area from moderate to serious. That will happen officially by Dec. 15, EPA spokesman David Bary said.

Ultimately, if an area does not meet the 2010 standard, it could lose federal highway funding.

Some possibilities for cutting ozone levels include reducing diesel truck and construction equipment emissions, Klaus said. But it is too early to say what recommendations will come out of the revised plan.

The recommendations must be made by fall, ruling out any legislative remedies since state lawmakers won't convene again until January, Klaus said.

The D-FW nonattainment area includes Tarrant, Dallas, Denton, Collin, Parker, Johnson, Ellis, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. The area's eight-hour ozone average for 2007, 2008 and 2009 was 86 parts per billion, placing it outside the 1997 standard of 85 parts per billion.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will have a year to create a new plan once the EPA reclassifies the D-FW area.

"EPA will review the clean air plan for completeness and then make a decision to approve/disapprove," Bary said via e-mail. "The next attainment date for the D-FW nonattainment area will be June 15, 2013."

As a result, the commission has scheduled a stakeholder meeting at 7 p.m. June 24 in the Arlington City Council chambers. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the development of the state implementation plan and "to hear the public's ideas on potential control strategies for the area."

The effort to meet the 1997 rules comes as the EPA has announced its intention to tighten the ozone standard. The EPA is expected to rule by the end of August on the new standard, which will be between 60 parts per billion and 70 parts per billion.

Despite the tougher restrictions, Bary said, the 1997 rules and deadlines will still apply.

'Perfect storm'

In 2009, Tarrant County had an eight-hour average ozone reading of 86 parts per billion at two locations, one in far north Fort Worth near Keller and the other at Eagle Mountain Lake.

It is yet another sign that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality needs to crack down on industrial sources the same way it has car owners, said Jim Schermbeck, head of the environmental group Downwinders at Risk.

The group is urging its supporters to show up at next week's commission meeting because it will be the first time agency officials have come to the Metroplex "to talk about smog in four years," Schermbeck said in an e-mail.

"Tarrant County is on the receiving end of a perfect storm of industrial pollution that sweeps across the state and culminates in high ozone levels in and around Eagle Mountain Lake and Keller," Schermbeck said.

"Coal plant plumes enter the Metroplex, pick up the plumes from the Midlothian cement kilns and now all of that pushes into an area where the most intensive Barnett Shale development is taking place," he said.

"Until this 'storm' of industrial pollution is broken up, I don't think D-FW can meet the 85 standard, much less the tougher standard coming in August," Schermbeck said.

BILL HANNA, 817-390-7698