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TCEQ opposes new EPA proposed ozone standards

AUSTIN - From TCEQ

The TCEQ is opposed to the EPA’s proposal to lower the primary National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ozone. The primary standard is proposed to be lowered from the current 75 ppb to a range of 65-70 ppb.

"As a scientist, I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the EPA has proposed these new, shortsighted regulations," said TCEQ Chairman Bryan W. Shaw, Ph.D., P.E. "There is powerful data that casts doubt on whether lowering ozone levels beyond the current standard of 75 ppb will have any significant health benefit. Environmental regulations should be based on good science, common sense and the certainty that they will achieve the stated health benefits. The EPA proposals fail miserably at meeting any of those metrics."

"First, I find it offensive for EPA to make this announcement the day before Thanksgiving without giving the TCEQ, one of the largest environmental regulatory agencies in the world, a courtesy call to alert us it was coming," said TCEQ Commissioner Toby Baker. "Second, if the EPA is proposing new standards based on the best available science, as Administrator McCarthy claims, wouldn't they propose a single new standard based on that science that is most protective of public health? Instead the EPA has proposed an arbitrary range of new standards. If the EPA believes one of their proposed standards is more protective of public health, I would prefer that they set politics aside, make their case and propose it, instead of asking the public to comment on a nebulous range of meaningless new standards."

"Unfortunately this appears to be a unilateral lowering of standards for the sake of lowering standards," said TCEQ Commissioner Zak Covar. "The science is clear that increases in asthma incidences are inverse to actual ozone concentrations. We are missing an opportunity to work with the EPA to research and actually determine the real causes of asthma."

The TCEQ’s opposition to these new standards is largely based on the fact that current scientific data does not provide certainty that lowering the ozone standard will provide health benefits. The TCEQ also has serious issues with the potential cost to implement and achieve a more stringent ozone standard. The TCEQ recognizes and supports the requirement of setting the ozone NAAQS at a level adequate to protect human health and welfare, based on the best available scientific information. However, the agency, as well as several state environmental agencies and other experts, have expressed concerns regarding EPA’s interpretations and applications of the scientific materials used to conclude that a more stringent ozone NAAQS is needed.

The EPA’s own modeling has even shown an increase in mortality caused by lowering the primary ozone design values in the greater Houston area.

Other concerns include the lack of consideration of personal exposure to ozone in the epidemiology studies that are used as the basis for the proposed standard, as well as the critical fact that clinical ozone exposure studies do not show a clinically-adverse effect (by the EPA’s definition) at levels below the current standard of 75 ppb.

For more information on TCEQ’s study of the proposed ozone NAAQS, see newsletter article (http://go.usa./HQkJ) Will EPA’s Proposed New Ozone Standards Provide Measurable Health Benefits?

A study by NERA Economic Consulting recently estimated a more stringent primary ozone standard at the 60 ppb level could reduce national gross domestic product by up to $270 billion per year and have a total compliance cost of over $2 trillion. Many areas of the country are likely to be above the lower end of the standard and are unlikely to have a means to meet the standard in the short term, given background levels of ozone entering a state or even the U.S. (from natural and man-made sources).

Areas determined not to be attaining a more stringent primary ozone standard will be those most impacted. All areas in Texas with a regulatory ozone monitor, or part of a metropolitan area with a regulatory monitor, currently measure ozone over 65 ppb with the exception of Laredo, the Lower Rio Grande Valley area, and Victoria. Based on current data, the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin-Round Rock, Waco, Killeen-Temple, Beaumont-Port Arthur, El Paso, Corpus Christi, Tyler-Longview, and even Brewster County (Big Bend National Park) all have ozone measurements over 65 ppb. The Laredo and Victoria areas currently have ozone design values between 60 and 65 ppb. The impact on these areas could be significant and not only ultimately require more industrial emission controls and expansion of the automobile emissions testing to these areas, but also could impact future economic growth within these areas and beyond. A final ozone NAAQS of 70 ppb would potentially impact not only the current ozone non-attainment areas of Houston-Galveston-Brazoria and Dallas-Fort Worth, but also Beaumont-Port Arthur, Tyler-Longview, Killeen-Temple, El Paso, and San Antonio, based on current data. A final decision on the ozone NAAQS concentration, and the monitored ground ozone levels between 2013 and 2016, will ultimately determine the exact areas impacted by a revised standard.

Woman on Jasper County's top ten wanted list captured in Waco area

JASPER COUNTY - A woman who was on Jasper County's top ten wanted list is behind bars.

Officers caught Christina Anne Burnette, 28, in the Waco area Tuesday.

She was wanted in Jasper County for Unauthorized Use of a Motor Vehicle.

The Jasper County Sheriff's Office tells KFDM News it expects Burnette to be transferred back to Jasper County in the near future.

Protests continue in Ferguson

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Protesters returned to the riot-scarred streets of Ferguson on Tuesday, a day after crowds looted businesses and set fire to buildings in a night of rage against a grand jury's decision not to indict the white police officer who killed Michael Brown.

But with hundreds of additional National Guard troops assisting police, the latest demonstrations had far less of the chaos and destruction that erupted after Monday's announcement. However, officers still used some tear gas and pepper spray, and protesters set a squad car on fire and broke windows at City Hall.

Meanwhile, officer Darren Wilson broke his long public silence, insisting on national television that he could not have done anything differently in the confrontation with Brown.

In the aftermath of Monday's violence, Missouri governor Jay Nixon sent a large contingent of extra National Guard troops, ordering the initial force of 700 to be increased to 2,200 in hopes that their presence would help local law enforcement keep order in the St. Louis suburb.

"Lives and property must be protected," Nixon said. "This community deserves to have peace."

Guard units protected the Ferguson Police Department and left crowd control, arrests and use of tear gas to local officers.

Outside police headquarters, one woman was taken into custody after protesters hurled what appeared to be smoke bombs, flares and frozen water bottles at a line of officers. Several other protesters were arrested after defying police instructions to get out of the street or out of the way of police vehicles.

As a crowd of protesters dispersed early Wednesday, some threw rocks through the windows of a muffler shop and a used-car dealership, near a painted mural that read "Peace for Ferguson."

Some streets that had been overrun the previous night were deserted, except for the occasional police cruiser or National Guard vehicle. Guard crews stood watch in empty parking lots.

Other large demonstrations were held across the country for a second day. Hundreds of Seattle high school students walked out of classes, and several hundred people marched down a Cleveland freeway ramp to block rush-hour traffic.

During an interview with ABC News, Wilson said he has a clean conscience because "I know I did my job right."

Wilson, 28, had been with the Ferguson police force for less than three years before the Aug. 9 shooting. He told ABC that Brown's shooting was the first time he fired his gun on the job.

Asked whether the encounter would have unfolded the same way if Brown had been white, Wilson said yes.

Attorneys for the Brown family vowed to push for federal charges against Wilson and said the grand jury process was rigged from the start to clear Wilson.

"We said from the very beginning that the decision of this grand jury was going to be the direct reflection of the presentation of the evidence by the prosecutor's office," attorney Anthony Gray said. He suggested the office of the county's top prosecutor, Bob McCulloch, presented some testimony to discredit the process, including from witnesses who did not see the shooting.

During Monday's protests, 12 commercial buildings in Ferguson burned down, and firefighters responded to blazes at eight others, fire officials said. Other businesses were looted, and 12 vehicles were torched.

Natalie DuBose, owner of Natalie's Cakes and More, planned to spend Tuesday night at her business after a window was busted out on Monday.

"This is my livelihood," she said. "This is the only source of income I have to raise my children."

Brown's parents made public calls for peace in the run-up to Monday's announcement, and on Tuesday, their representatives again stressed that the people setting fires were not on Michael Brown's side.

Videos that were widely circulated on Tuesday showed Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, standing atop a car and breaking down as the announcement of the grand jury decision blares over the stereo.

Her husband, Brown's stepfather, comforts her, then begins angrily yelling "Burn the bitch down!" to a crowd gathered around him. Asked about the comment at a news conference, family attorney Benjamin Crump said the reaction was, "raw emotion. Not appropriate at all. Completely inappropriate."

The Brown family attorneys said they hope an ongoing federal civil rights investigation leads to charges. But federal investigations of police misconduct face a steep legal standard, requiring proof that an officer willfully violated a victim's civil rights.

Testimony from Wilson that he felt threatened, and physical evidence almost certainly complicates any efforts to seek federal charges.

Under federal law, "you have to prove as a prosecutor that the officer knew at the moment that he pulled the trigger that he was using too much force, that he was violating the Constitution," said Seth Rosenthal, a former Justice Department civil rights prosecutor.

The Justice Department has also launched a broad probe into the Ferguson Police Department, looking for patterns of discrimination.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the department aims to complete those investigations as quickly as possible "to restore trust, to rebuild understanding and to foster cooperation between law enforcement and community members."

Regardless of the outcome of the federal investigations, Brown's family also could file a wrongful-death lawsuit against Wilson.

Speaking in Chicago, President Barack Obama said "the frustrations that we've seen are not just about a particular incident. They have deep roots in many communities of color who have a sense that our laws are not always being enforced uniformly or fairly."

Wilson's lawyers issued a statement praising the decision and saying the officer is grateful to his supporters.

"Law enforcement personnel must frequently make split-second and difficult decisions," the lawyers wrote. Wilson "followed his training and followed the law."

Scott Holtgrieve, a St. Louis County man who attended an August fundraiser on Wilson's behalf, always viewed with skepticism witness accounts that Wilson shot Brown while Brown held his hands up in a form of surrender and was on his knees.

"What they were saying just didn't seem rational — that an officer would shoot someone in cold blood that way at point-blank range, especially in that neighborhood where you know a lot of people are watching," Holtgrieve said.

___

Link to grand jury documents: http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_documents/ferguson-shooting/ .

___

Salter reported from St. Louis. Associated Press writers Andale Gross, Jim Suhr, Alan Zagier and Phillip Lucas also contributed to this report.

Shooting of FBI agents unrelated to Ferguson unrest

ST. LOUIS (AP) - An FBI spokeswoman says two special agents have been shot in St. Louis County and that the incident isn’t directly related to the Ferguson protests.

Rebecca Wu, a spokeswoman with the FBI St. Louis Division, says the agents were assisting the University City Police Department execute an arrest warrant at 2:53 a.m. Wednesday.

One agent was shot in the shoulder and the other agent was shot in the leg. Wu says neither injury is life-threatening.

Shortly after the shooting, which took place about 5 miles south of Ferguson, authorities from several agencies lined the scene. Police cars, fire trucks and ambulances filled the street with activity and flashing lights, but little information has been released.

Pair sought by Jasper PD for passing fake $100 bills

Fake bills

The Jasper Police Department is requesting your help in finding man and woman pair suspected of passing counterfeit $100 bills.


They are believed to be traveling in a 

white Doge Challenger with black hood stripes and black rectangular design on the sides.


Chief Robert MacDonald says the pair passed about seven to nine of the $100 bills as they passed through Jasper.


The fake bills showed up on a bank deposit Nov. 18.


The pair is also being sought in Montgomery County for passing the fake bills.


Pair being sought


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