Texas’ cuts to air quality planning risk increasing pollution in Denton

Texas’ cuts to air quality planning risk increasing pollution in Denton

Texas’ cuts to air quality planning risk increasing pollution in Denton
June 27
23:21 2017

About $6 million in funding was cut for air quality planning after Gov. Greg Abbott signed off on Texas’ two-year budget in mid-June. Denton County has an ozone ranking of F from the American Lung Association, and has consistently ranked among the worst in Texas in terms of air pollution.

Air pollution can also have major effects on plant communities, wildlife and water.

Johnathon Shedd, a business senior at UNT, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Denton ranked among the worst in air pollution.

‘There’s so many buses,” Shedd said. “When I’ll go on jogs in the morning, I’ll run past a bus, and as soon as the bus passes me, I’ll get a big whiff of that. It doesn’t just pass quickly, I feel it for a while.”

Emissions from semitrucks could be a major contributing factor to Denton’s poor air quality. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the fourth largest environmental agency in the United States, has put into place measures to curb the damage caused by said emissions.

Vehicle idling restriction policies were drafted in 2004 by the TCEQ, and limit vehicles with a weight of over 14,000 pounds from idling longer than ten minutes in any given spot. These policies are enforceable only by “any local government that has signed a Memorandum Of Agreement (MOA) with the TCEQ,” according to the TCEQ website. Entire counties have signed off in agreement with these policies, including Collin, Dallas, Kaufman and Tarrant County. In Denton County, Little Elm is the only city practicing such policies.

Semitrucks only account for 7 percent of vehicles in the United States, but use 25 percent of all fuel, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit science advocacy group. They also produce 12.5 percent of total emissions in the U.S.

Constant construction in Denton is an added issue, often bringing traffic to a standstill on Interstate 35, as well as University Drive.

North Texas asthma rates are reportedly three times higher than the state’s average and twice as high as the nation’s average.

“Air pollution can be a really big trigger for [children with asthma],” said Joanna Garcia, program coordinator at the Center for Children’s Health, in affiliation with Cook Children’s. “Some are extremely sensitive to air pollution, and it can cause an asthma attack. Everyone reacts differently though.”

Cement plants are also thought to contribute immensely to Denton’s poor air quality. South of Dallas lies an enormous number of cement plants, and winds carry the brunt of the pollution northwest to Denton County. The cement sector is the “third largest industrial source of pollution,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “emitting more than 500,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide.”

Martin Marietta is a prominent cement manufacturer in the DFW area, but representatives said they’re doing their part to curb pollution.

“Our facility is probably the most tightly controlled from an emission standpoint,” said David Perkins, vice president of environmental government and public affairs at Martin Marietta. “When we originally built our facility and expanded it, over 10 percent of our profits actually went into air pollution control technology.”

Some Denton residents found the idea that Denton’s air is among the worst hard to believe.

“I find that highly unlikely,” said Michael Jones, former UNT student and veteran of the Marine Corps. “I work at Peterbilt, and we’re really eco-friendly. But Denton as the state’s worst? I find that hard to believe.”

The fracking industry in Denton is also a likely contributing factor. Denton’s controversial overturn of the fracking ban a few years ago put an end to the sharp decline of the business in Denton County. Fracking and air pollution have a pretty solid correlation, with the process causing high diesel emissions and ozone smog.

Less funding for the next two years for air quality control will likely only worsen Denton’s air, putting a higher burden on our hospitals, ecosystem and children’s health.

“That’s pretty sad,” Madison Russell, jazz voice and fashion merchandising junior, said about Denton’s standing in terms of air quality. “It’s important you should be able to breathe.”

Featured Image: For the last 16 years, Denton has been rated number one for the most air pollution in Texas due to backwinds from North Texas’ cement industry, traffic and construction. Cameron Roe

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Alexander Willis

Alexander Willis

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1 Comment

  1. Randy Lee Loftis
    Randy Lee Loftis June 30, 14:08

    Good story. Timely,too, since ozone is worst in the summer.

    Reply to this comment

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