Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Gas-drilling opponents hope new study showing an increase in smog levels ... - Dallas Morning News (blog)

Last month it became clear that the Dallas City Council, after months’ worth of back-and-forthing over gas drilling in the city limits, is nowhere near an ordinance. But sooner or later it’ll have to come up with something, lest the city be forced to return the $33.4 million it pocketed in lease payments from two natural gas drilling companies back in ’07.

To the many arguments against drilling, add another, according to Downwinders at Risk director Jim Schermbeck, who this morning dispatched to local media a new study by Houston Advanced Research Center director of air quality research Eduardo P. Olaguer. Says the doc, available only in abstract and preview form, when you increase gas drilling in urban areas, you decrease the air quality. How so?

Well, writes Olaguer, gas-drilling operations create smog, simple as that: “Flares and compressor engines used in natural gas operations, for example, are large sources not only of NOx but also of formaldehyde, a hazardous air pollutant and powerful ozone precursor.” And that’s particularly bad news for Dallas-Fort Worth, says Olaguer, since the areas’s ozone levels are already in nonattainment with National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Olaguer writes that his findings, publisher earlier this summer in the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, pose “a severe challenge to oil and gas producers in the DFW area, as urban drilling and the associated growth in industry emissions may be sufficient to keep the area in nonattainment.”

Says Schermbeck in his note this morning, “This study is proof we need a regional strategy of self-defense to reduce air pollution from the gas industry. TCEQ and EPA are not doing enough. Despite their official plans, our air is not getting cleaner because gas pollution is still under-regulated. It’s time for us to do more at the local level.” Including at Dallas City Hall, which, he insists, “has a chance to react positively to this new evidence by adopting the nation’s first policy aimed at mitigating the tons of new pollution caused by gas mining. That would be a very large step forward in advancing regional clean air goals.”

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