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Clean Air Calendar

Five Public Hearings on DFW's New Clean Air Plan

Come and voice your opposition to inferior pollution controls and a plan that doesn't even meet Clean Air Act standards.

Wed, January 31st at 7:00 pm
Corner of Young and Ervay, Dallas Public Library (1515 Young Street, Dallas, TX)

Thurs, Feb. 1, 2007 at 2:00 pm
Public hearings on the new DFW Air Plan at Arlington City Hall 101 W. Abram St, Arlington, TX

Thurs, Feb. 1, 2007 at 6:00 pm
Midlothian Civic Center, 1 Community Circle, Midlothian, TX

Tues, Feb. 6, 2007 at 2:00 pm
Longview Public Library, 222 W. Cotton Street, Longview, TX

Thurs, Feb. 8, 2007 at 2:00 pm
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
12100 Park 35 Circle
Building E, Room 201S
Austin, TX 78753

Air Sponge

About Downwinders

Downwinders at Risk is an organization dedicated to the continued education and advocacy concerning cement plant pollution. Downwinders at Risk acts as an information clearinghouse for groups who are concerned with the burning of hazardous and other wastes by the cement kiln industry within and outside the state of Texas. Over the past twelve years, Downwinders at Risk has acted as a resource for citizens’ groups nationally and internationally, including Puerto Rico, Great Britain, Mexico, Montana, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, New York and Michigan.

Since 1993, Downwinders at Risk has worked as a grassroots organization and holds both a 501(c)(3) and a 501(c)(4) designation. Since its inception, Downwinders at Risk has worked to educate the public about cement kiln issues. The group has participated in numerous joint projects, workshops and education seminars with the Sierra Club, American Lung Association, League of Women Voters, Clean Water Action, Public Citizen, chambers of commerce and other environmental, public health and civic organizations. Downwinders has actively sought to encourage public participation and advocacy on issues related to waste burning cement kilns including how they should be regulated by both state and federal agencies and legislative bodies.

Downwinders worked with the American Lung Association of Texas to produce a 15 minute video primer on kiln incineration that has been distributed to every member of Congress, the Texas Legislature and citizen activists throughout the country. It remains the only professionally produced documentary on the subject.

Downwinders has also been instrumental in the passage of PTA resolutions from 11 different schools in three separate communities opposing kiln incineration, and resolutions opposing the practice from the Dallas NAACP, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and Dallas chapter of the League of Women Voters. In November of 1996, over 1600 delegates to the Texas state PTA passed a resolution and legislative positions urging tighter restrictions for kiln incineration despite heavy lobbying by the cement industry. Many local physicians have also become supporters, including many which have authored or co-signed letters to the state or federal government seeking tighter emissions controls on cement plants.

Downwinders at Risk is an aggressive lobbying force. In its 501(c)(4) capacity, Downwinders at Risk initiated several bills in the Texas legislature. These bills had overwhelming community support as well as the support of both the Texas PTA and the NAACP, but never made it to the House and Senate floor due to opposition by committee members sympathetic to the industry. The group continues to have good working relationships with many local, state and national elected officials.

Downwinders has successfully persuaded the local city and county governments in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area to quit sending household hazardous wastes they collect to under-regulated cement kilns.

Downwinders At Risk raised money to commission a report from Dr. Marvin Legator of the University of Texas on the Effects Screening Level system used by Texas and most other states in assessing risk from air pollution. This landmark report, published in October 1996, is the first to examine the link between the discredited federal standards and the states’ adaptation of them to regulate toxic emissions. Dr. Legator also conducted the first health symptom survey of citizens living downwind of a hazardous waste burning cement plant. The survey showed a 35% increase of respiratory problems in the downwind population. The Legator health study is the only journal-published, peer-reviewed health study ever done in Midlothian.

In May of 1996, Downwinders at Risk assisted the American Lung Association in its commission and release of a report by Dr. Stuart Batterman of the University of Michigan entitled "Evaluation of The Screening Risk Analysis for the TXI Facility in Midlothian, Texas". The report is the only complete review of the government's "risk assessments" of the TXI cement plant.

In less than 24 months, Downwinders at Risk raised over $25,000 (in addition to its regular operational expenses) to cover the costs of a contested case hearing opposing the largest permit to burn hazardous waste in the state of Texas at the TXI cement plant in Midlothian, Texas. In addition, Downwinders at Risk successfully enlisted the donations of $50,000 from the cities of Duncanville and DeSoto to participate in the contested case hearing. The hearing was the longest and most expensive in Texas history. Although, the permit was awarded, opponents were able to show that TXI is and probably will continue to be a public nuisance because of its plumes, property line violations of sulfur dioxide pollution, noncompliance with particulate matter pollution standards, and lack of "best available control technology".

Furthermore, the organization is supported by an active volunteer group who donates hours of labor towards ** fundraising, writing grant proposals and press releases, attending, planning and participating in local civic and political activities, media events and fundraising events, writing letters, maintaining a mailing list and e-mail network and serving as the voice for clean air in North Texas.

Downwinders and other local clean air groups participated in the writing and publicizing of a "Citizens' Implementation Plan" for cleaning up smog in DFW. This 15 page document was the official response by DFW's environmental and public health communities to the state's own anti-smog plan. Throughout a series of local public hearings, hundreds of citizens testified in support of this tougher citizens clean air strategy.

We initiated a letter, co-signed by 14 other environmental and public health groups, to the local Clean Air Steering Committee of the North Central Texas Council of Governments requesting public interest representation on the Committee as well as sponsored a news conference releasing the letter. The committee is responsible for writing a State Implementation Plan to bring the area into compliance with the Clean Air Act. As a result, five environmental and public health organizations now sit at the table with representatives from county and city governments and Chambers of Commerce.

In 1999, Downwinders joined with Public Citizen Texas and the SEED (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development) Coalition to form the Blue Skies Alliance. Once sustainable funding was established, Blue Skies hired an Executive Director to work solely on clean air issues in North Texas.

Downwinders lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to have Ellis County included in the non-attainment area for ozone pollution. In 2004, Ellis County was officially designated non-attainment for the new 8-hour ozone standard. It was our research on plumes, and inventories that led in a major way to nonattainment status for Ellis County.

Downwinders joined with Blue Skies Alliance, Sierra Club, and Public Citizen to file a lawsuit again the EPA for failing to meet clean air deadlines as required by the federal Clean Air Act. Filing suit in October 2004 under the title of "Blue Skies v. EPA," the groups cited the widely acknowledged eight-year failure of the DFW region to submit an EPA-approved clean-up plan for its dirty air, which is annually ranked among the nation's worst. Although technically aimed at EPA, the court case was intended to bring all levels of government to the negotiating table to reach consensus on an accelerated clean air plan that would actually work. After months of negotiations, environmental and public health groups reached an historic accord with local, state and federal government to end the first lawsuit ever filed over dirty air in Dallas Ft. Worth.

Downwinders at Risk spent two years in negotiations with Holcim Cement and the EPA over a permit application that would increase production and emissions at their Midlothian plant. An agreement was reached in 2005. Holcim agreed to install and test new pollution control technology, provide $2.25 million dollars for other projects aimed at reducing ozone forming emissions in the DFW area, provide monitoring for particulate matter for three years, provide up to $120,000 over five years for an independent scientist to review compliance and operations at Holcim, and to reduce the limits of ozone-forming emissions previously requested by Holcim.

WANT TO HELP?

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