After years of scrutiny for alleged contributions to air pollution by the local community, a West Dallas manufacturing plant claims that it has lowered emissions of sulfur dioxide by a striking 60%.
The New Jersey-based roofing shingle manufacturer GAF hired a third party to conduct a test of its emissions of the harmful gas as part of an ongoing permitting saga that began earlier this year.
In July, GAF sought a standard renewal of its Title V permit, which is required under the federal Clean Air Act.
While the permit originates in federal law, it is typically issued by state regulatory agencies such as the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Any facility that is deemed a “major source” of an identified air pollutant must secure a Title V permit to operate, and these permits must be renewed every five years.
Dozens of members of the West Dallas community where the facility is located attended a hearing to challenge the renewal of GAF’s permit.
According to reports, State Rep. Jasmine Crockett assisted the community members in securing the hearing before the regulatory body.
After the hearing, Kathryn Bazan of the Dallas Sierra Club, an environmental group focused on nature outings and conservation policy, said, “What I overwhelmingly heard from the community last night was they want GAF out of the neighborhood.”
Soon after, however, TCEQ approved the renewal and sent it to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final sign-off.
Federal regulators objected to the state agency’s decision, citing GAF’s alleged failure to accurately track its pollutants. As a result of the EPA’s objection, additional emissions oversight and reporting of the GAF facility would be required.
While the EPA gave GAF 90 days to formally respond to its findings, the company pivoted and filed for an operating permit under state law on September 1 with different emissions standards and requirements.
TCEQ approved the revised request from GAF on September 13 without notifying the public, conducting further public hearings, or entertaining further public comment.
With GAF now utilizing a state permit for operation, the EPA and its federal standards no longer apply.
Members of the community were shocked when they learned about this latest turn in their fight with the company.
Janie Cisneros, a representative for Single United/Unidos, a group working to remove the facility from the community altogether, was gobsmacked, telling local media, “Wow. I mean, just… wow. Oh my God. How does this happen?”
In a statement to D Magazine, the company said, “GAF voluntarily applied for and was granted a state air permit from the TCEQ that reduces its sulfur dioxide emission limits by 40 percent. With its amended state permit, GAF no longer requires a federal Title V air permit.”
Now, weeks later, GAF is claiming that an independent review of its emissions by a company called Air Hygiene Inc. has confirmed that its sulfur dioxide levels have been lowered by 60%.
The reduction soundly categorizes the facility as a “minor emissions source” and removes any necessity for seeking and securing a Title V permit for the time being.
In a statement from GAF’s chief operations officer, Randy Bargfrede, the company said, “We’ve heard the community’s concerns about the West Dallas facility, and although we have operated at federally acceptable levels for decades, we remain focused on continuous improvement to further reduce emissions.”
Cisneros, however, wants to see the full report by the third-party company, claiming that sulfur dioxide is just one of many potential pollutants being emitted from the facility.
The permitting saga has played out against the backdrop of GAF’s approval to begin moving the West Dallas plant to a new site in 2027 with the transition complete by 2029, but residents want the facility gone sooner and have submitted a plan to shutter it within two years.
According to reports, the company is proceeding with its own plan for winding down the facility, which currently employs 150 workers in the area.