Air Pollution Abatement- Questions To Be Answered Austin How serious is Texas’ effort in the field of air pollution control? Does industry have too big a hand in the operation of the Texas Air Control Board? Do some of the board’s members have conflicts of interest that could impede their serving the public? Will the board be effective in the air pollution fight or will it serve primarily to stall off federal regulation? These questions and others surrounded the public hearing held in Austin earlier this month to consider the first state air pollution abatement rules proposed by the Air Control Board, which was created in 1965. The regulations are expected to be approved shortly. . Industry spokesmen were not altogether happy with the board’s proposals; claims were entered that compliance would be difficult, perhaps unreasonable to expect, and in some cases impossible. Generally, however, there seemed to be tacit ac knowledgment by those who testified that some sort of state regulation is inevitable, even necessary, if the federal government’s pollution fighters are to be headed off. Several of those who testified asked for delays in making the rules effective, perhaps giving industry a year to prepare for compliance. Many speakers were critical of the standards proposed, saying the limitations would be unrealistically severe. PROBABLY THE MOST remarkable, if not the most significant, testimony was offered by a representative of four West Texas carbon black plants. Because the plants operate on the “channel” process \(as opposed to the “furnace” son, Jr., told the board ‘ members, the producers could not avoid violating the rules. Fifty percent of the carbon black which the plants produce escapes into the atmosphere, Sampson said. He suggested that the plants \(located at Borger, Semifrom regulation. This notion elicited a hearty, obviously sympathetic burst of laughter from the some 200 spectators, most of whom were industry representatives. One of them was heard to say, “Wish I’d had the guts to say that.” Sampson went on, in all seriousness, to quote a medical report that carbon black is not adverse to health; in fact, he said, individuals who work in those plants enjoy better health than the average person in this country. This was greeted by another bit of laughter. Another fact to consider, Sampson, still earnest, went on: not all of the pollution from these four plants falls in Texas, but is carried by winds to points beyond, mitigating the problem for the state. After still more laughter, board member Henry J. LeBlanc said to Sampson, “You do admit your industry is contaminating the air in violation of this regulation, but you don’t know what to do about it?” “Yes, sir,” Sampson replied, “but we do know what to do about it we want to be exempted from this regulation.” The first two industries to be represented in testimony at the hearings were the oil refinery and chemical interests both Black-faced Herefords “Borger, in the Texas Panhandle, is the smoke and soot capital of the prairie states. The carbon black plants burn abundant natural gas and belch out tons of carbon daily into the skies. For miles downwind the whole countryside is black from the fallout. Even the white-faced Herefords grazing thereabouts are blackfaced. “There are similar plants near Monahans and Fulton Beach and other points around the state. Surely better washing, filtration, and extractive procedures can be devised, so that this carbon going up as smoke can be recovered, say 50% to .90% of it, and the air would be kept cleaner, too” Robert N. Jones of Dallas in a letter to The Observer. n of which will be affected to a great extent by the new rules. The petroleum industry has been actively studying air pollution control problems for more than 40 years, H. H. Meredith, Jr., told the board members. Meredith, speaking for the Texas Midcontinent Oil and Gas Assn., the voice of the major oil compariies in Texas, urged that the board recognize that it would be far less expensive for pollution control devices to be installed when plants are being built or when units are closed down for periodic maintenance. He said that more restrictive limits could be met by the refiners as technological advances are made. He urged that the board be cautious in upgrading its limits so that antipollution equipment that is in use will not become outdated too soon. Four types of zones are established by the rules, each zone specifies certain maximum limits of air pollution, according to the use of land within the zone and in adjoining zones. The most stringent standards are provided to protect residential and recreational zones; the standards are progressively less stringent in governing zones that are business or commercial, industrial, and “open space” in character, as determined by the board. Meredith said that an unforeseen change in a zone’s designation could place an undue burden on an industry. He cited as an example a plant that is ‘built in an “open space” zone, an area of most relaxed standards. Frequently the presence of such a plant generates further development of an area, development, at times, of other than industrial character, such as a housing project. Thus in such a case a new zone of highest regulation would exist next to the industrial site. Meredith suggested that plant owners in open space areas be issued temporary, renewable variance permits which, the permit holder would understand, would be effective only as long as there was no nearby, adjoining zone of other than open space type..Meredith did not say so, but he seemed to mean by all this that an industry’s operators should be given ample time to upgrade their air pollution control in cases where adjacent real estate developments suddenly require such an adjustment. ‘THE BOARD’S proposed rules will be based on the measurements of particles in the air and on the density of smoke. The rules provide that the maximum limits must not be exceeded at any time. Meredith suggested that regulation be based on 24-hour-average samples instead. He also questioned the board’s proposed mathematical formula for interpreting air samples. As did several other witnesses, Meredith said that insufficient time had been allowed for industry people to study the proposed rules. He suggested that promulgation of the formula in question be delayed so that his association could present for the board’s consideration equations and methods of interpretation “more widely used in industry.” Harry Whitworth spoke for the Texas Chemical Council, for which he is the lobbyist. The council’s policy, he said, is that harmful discharges should be held to the “lowest practical level.” As has the oil industry, the chemical industry has long been concerned about the problems of pollution, Whitworth said, “Nevertheless, more can be done.” He reported that many of his council’s 54 member companies had expressed confusion about the proposed rules, and some officials had said that they believed the rules would be unduly restrictive. Particularly in question, Whitworth said, were the proposed maximum limits of particles in the air. He concluded by saying that the Chemical Council assured its cooperation. January 20, 1967 5
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