BREAKING NEWS: Exide Frisco lead smelter exceeds lead emission standards for fourth month in a row / TCEQ rubber stamps attainment plan for Exide lead smelter; Report finds flaws in calculations used and questions raised about legality and appropriateness of how TCEQ has avoided public input, comment and lack of action on Texas Public Information Act request
Below are comments from a letter submitted by James Schnurr – representing James Mallet, who has family in Frisco – during the public comment period of the TCEQ meeting today where the agency approved the plans the agency and Exide crafted to bring the Exide Frisco lead smelter into compliance with federal standards for lead emissions. Here also is a link to a report by Spirit Environmental also submitted today by Schnurr during the public comments.
Below that is a story about the TCEQ meeting by Dallas Morning News reporter Valerie Wigglesworth. While her story made passing reference to Schnurr’s comments and concerns and included links to his letter and report, it did not report on the submitted letter/report’s concern about errors – again – in TCEQ calculations that would not bring the Exide lead smelter into compliance, nor the questions the letter and report raised about the legality and appropriateness of the TCEQ’s refusal to take public comments on its revisions to its initially flawed plans (last August the EPA rejected the TCEQ’s and Exide’s first plan as being “unapprovable” because of errors in calculations/modeling.)
There also are questions about the lack of action by the TCEQ and the Texas Attorney General’s Office on a Texas Public Information Act request for lead emissions and calculations from the Exide Frisco plant that Exide had declared confidential:
“In order for the Commission to make an accurate attainment demonstration, we believe it is essential for Spirit to receive the requested information regarding the lead emissions and Exide’s emission calculation methodologies. As Exide has demonstrated on numerous occasions, Exide tends to:
- underestimate its lead air emissions
- have poor work practices and maintenance regarding fugitive emissions
- overlook lead emission sources
- ignore high lead emission stack testing data and
- provide optimistic stack parameters that result in lower offsite lead concentrations.
(The report submitted by Spirit has support examples of all of the above)
Exide’s Frisco Lead Smelter Exceeds Lead Emission Standards for Fourth Month in a Row
And the story did not mention that in information released to the public yesterday, for the fourth month in a row, the Exide Frisco lead smelter exceeds federal standards for lead emissions. For June, monitoring of the Exide lead smelter showed emissions of .18 micrograms per cubic meter. The monitoring report for May was .20 micrograms per cubic meter, for March .19 and for April, it was .22 micrograms of lead per cubic meter. The maximum legal limit is .15 micrograms per cubic meter. To download a copy of latest TCEQ monitoring of Exide lead smelter, follow this link and scroll down to “Monitoring Data” and click on “Air Monitoring Data from 2002 through July 20, 2012″ link:
Letter/report raise concerns about accuracy of calculations TCEQ and Exide used to create plan to bring Exides Frisco Lead Smelter into compliance with federal standards for fewer lead emissions
“As you will see from the attached report, it is clear that, among other concerns, the calculations concerning the demonstration of attainment of Lead Natioanl Ambient Air Quality Standards (“NAAQS”) which also are essential to the control requirements imposed under the proposed Agreed Order, are erroneous.
Given that the Exide plant could under certain circumstances remain open indefinitely should the Settlement Agreement between the City of Fisco and Exide be terminated, we believe it is essential to ensure that both the revised Collin County Lead SIP and Agreed Order be based on sound emissions analysis. Furthermore, and discussed in more detail below, the almost total avoidance of meaningful public comment in these proceedings further call into question the legality and appropriateness of the proposed approval of the SIP revision and Agreed Order. Finally, the most recent ambient monitoring, publicly released yesterday, continues to show that the emissions from the Exide plant cause exceedances to the lead NAAQS to the detriment of the Frisco community.”
A year ago today, the EPA rejected the plan the TCEQ drafted with Exide as being “unapprovable”, and the TCEQ’s calculations used in that plan were problematic, too. The plan the TCEQ rubber-stamped today also contains errors in calculations, according to a report submitted today during public comments. The report, prepared by Spirit Environmental from Houston, states that the TCEQ used optimistic estimates provided by Exide and not real data to craft the attainment plan. Spirit Environmental is the same firm that conducted the lead deposition modeling that showed more than 150 tons of lead has been deposited on much of Frisco since the Exide lead smelter began operations in the 60s.
In late November, 2011, the TCEQ announced that it would take no public input or allow any public comments about the plans the EPA had ordered it to revise because of errors.
In a letter submitted by consultant and former Dallas city manager Jame Schnurr on behalf of his client James Mallett (who has family in Frisco), concerns were raised about the legality and appropriateness of the TCEQ refusing to take public input and the almost total avoidance of meaningful public comments on the revised plan for Exide.
From Schnurr’s letter:
“Spirit provided comments to the TCEQ by email on June 5, 2012, demonstrating fatal flaws in the May 2012 SIP, which will allow Exide to continue to emit lead emissions that will continue to cause exceedances fo the Lead NAAQS. These comments have been incorporated into the attached report from Spirit. The TCEQ ignored these comments in developing the July 2012 SIP. On July 30, 2012, the TCEQ responded after repeated phone calls and email requests from Spirit, which were unanswered for eight weeks. On August 1, 2012, the TCEQ staff advised Spirit that they would not consider Spirit’s June 5, 2012, comments because the deficiencies raised in the comments were outside the public comment period.
As noted above, the public comments of the June 2011 SIP and the June 2011 Agreed Order closed a year ago on August 8, 2011. However, that has not precluded the TCEQ from considering information outside the comment period in the development of the May 2012 SIP and the July 2012 SIP and associated Agreed Orders. The July 2012 SIP and the July 2012 Agreed Order have been revised to consider additional information form Exide including the April 2012 Permit Alterations and the June 2012 Agreement with the City of Frisco. Spirit’s attached comments re-urge the fundamental technical flaws in the modeling that were pointed out in Spirit’s August 2011 comments. The modeling for the attainment demonstration was flawed in 2011 and remains so. The TCEQ should not arbitrarily ignore these comments to go to the heart of the attainment demonstration and protection of public health while at the same time accepting those from Exide.”
“…The TCEQ Commissioners should note that Spirit was originally told by TCEQ staff in early June 2012 that the Exide Frisco plant had committed to shutting down the plant by Dec. 31, 2012, and thus there was no need to continue to be concerned with the Exide Frisco plant. A review of the July 2012 Agreed Order demonstrates that Exide is not being required byt the TCEQ to shut down by December 31, 2012, but rather has the option to shut down. If Exide does not shut down, it must install controls by January 6, 2014. This date is over one year later than the shutdown date the TCEQ originally told Spirit in June 2012.”
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality unanimously approved a plan this morning for the Exide Technologies battery recycling plant that spells out improvements to reduce its lead emissions in Frisco.
But the plan is just a backstop in case the deal reached in June between the city of Frisco and Exide does not go forward. That deal calls for the city to buy about 180 acres from Exide for $45 million. In return, the plant will cease operations by year’s end. In that case, Exide would void its air quality permits within the time period spelled out in the documents.
James Schnurr, a Dallas attorney representing Jim Mallett of Richardson, was the only person to comment on the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting in Austin. Schnurr said that on the off chance that the plant closure does not go through, the agency needed to make sure its agreed order and state implementation plan are done right.
The documents spell out what changes Exide would need to make to comply with the federal air quality standard for lead, which strengthened tenfold in 2008. An area around Exide’s Frisco plant is one of 21 in the nation that exceeds the air quality standard for lead. Recent air monitoring data from around the plant shows that lead emissions still exceed the federal standard.
Exide officials had planned to spend about $20 million on improvements to bring the plant into compliance. But those changes were halted once the deal with the city was reached. The TCEQ decided to move forward with its plans in case the deal is delayed and the plant remains open. But the state’s plans have problems, Schnurr told commissioners Wednesday.
“The attainment demonstration modeling is flawed,” said Schnurr, who submitted a letter and technical report to commissioners that detailed how the improvements would not be enough to bring the plant into compliance.
A TCEQ staff member responded that the agency believed the plans should go forward.
“This appears to me to be very approvable at this point,” commission chairman Bryan Shaw said. “It’s belt and suspenders to a great extent, and staff has done a great job of looking through the different contingencies and trying to ensure that at the end of the day we end up with policies and orders in place that are absolutely protective.”
The documents were approved without further discussion.