West Dallas residents worried talks stalled since 2029 asphalt plant exit announced

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West Dallas neighborhood groups who oppose a nearly 80-year-old asphalt shingle factory in the area say they’ve been at an impasse with the company since they rejected its bid to close by 2029 in favor of an early exit.

Representatives for West Dallas 1 and Singleton United/Unidos say they are meeting on Wednesday to discuss next steps, but say they have not heard from roofing maker GAF since July, when the company announced its plans to leave its Dallas factory amid backlash from the community. to air pollution and noise issues.

Raul Reyes, president of West Dallas 1, said the lack of progress has frustrated some residents around the Singleton Road site who believe the company hasn’t given enough reasons why it will take seven years to wind down operations. The predominantly Hispanic community has been coordinating efforts to get the plant out of the area for two years.

“On the one hand, we thought it would take a lot longer to get to this point,” Reyes said. “But now that we are here and there is an interest on both sides for them to leave, we would like them to leave as soon as possible.”

In August, the United States Environmental Protection Agency opposed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s proposed renewal of GAF’s Title V operating license, saying it did not meet federal requirements of the Clean Air Act. The objection refers the permit to the state regulator for revisions and more explanation of how the existing permit will comply with the Clean Air Act and other environmental rules.

The EPA review came after community groups formally opposed GAF’s license renewal last year.

“Essentially, it was validation of everything the community raised when they initially opposed the Title V permit,” said Kathryn Bazan, chair of the city’s environmental commission and former TCEQ staffer. who has worked with West Dallas groups to address environmental concerns in the neighborhood. . “It’s also validation for members of the community who probably thought the TCEQ wasn’t hearing them.”

A GAF spokesperson said the EPA’s objections do not mean the company is not complying with federal regulations and that GAF is properly following air quality rules. The draft permit reviewed by the EPA does not include GAF’s existing monitoring and reporting practices, the spokesperson said.

“EPA objections are an integral part of the Title V air permit renewal process,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We do not expect the EPA’s objections to affect the final approval of our air permit.”

The company has given no public indication that it plans to change the schedule to leave its West Dallas plant by 2029. GAF said in July that it was proposing “a legally binding closure of operations in West Dallas in over the next seven years,” and planned to continue working with the city, residents and its 150 factory workers on plans moving forward.

Janie Cisernos, leader of Singleton United/Unidos, said the community relies on its representative on the city council, Omar Narvaez, to facilitate communications between all parties involved.

At a press conference in July, Narvaez announced GAF’s intentions to leave, but said there was no set timetable for the plant’s closure and it was too early to discuss. the future of the site once the operator has left.

Singleton United have lobbied for the town to embark on a legal process called amortization to force GAF off the site on the grounds that it no longer conforms to the town’s current zoning.

Reyes said he was fine with the GAF plant going away, but feared the legal route could extend the plant’s exit to more than seven years. The community could potentially lose things they could negotiate as part of an agreement with GAF, such as the company paying for any site remediation if environmental hazards are discovered.

“A win for us is not just that they leave and no longer pollute the air, but that we can use the land for the community,” Reyes said.

Among the reasons listed in an August letter by the EPA for the objections was that the permit showed the plant’s last test sampling of equipment that emits airborne contaminants was listed in 2008. The permit also doesn’t explicitly say how exactly the plant’s emissions are calculated. and the federal agency was also concerned that other monitoring, record keeping and reporting requirements were not clearly listed enough to ensure that GAF was in compliance with air standards.

The EPA has also raised eyebrows at complaints from residents over the decades about smoke, tar, burning rubber and other odors coming from the plant, which have been backed up by city and state investigations. the state. In 2001, state environmental inspectors wrote about how their visit to the plant left two of them with “mild nasal irritation” from the wind blowing tar smells from the site, says the letter from the EPA.

The agency noted that neither TCEQ nor Dallas investigators over the past 20 years have found violations related to how the GAF plant discharges airborne contaminants after investigating neighborhood complaints.

“Despite this reality, the EPA remains concerned about the plant’s apparent track record for allowing potentially objectionable odors to migrate across the property line,” the federal letter of objection states.

“Based on the consistent frequency and nature of odor complaints, nuisance events consistently appear to negatively and disparately impact the quality of life of West Dallas residents and interfere with the normal use and enjoyment of the property.”

The TCEQ has 90 days – until Nov. 3 – to respond to the EPA’s objection, said Joe Robledo, an EPA spokesman. Once the TCEQ responds, the public then has 60 days to comment.

Roofing manufacturer and TCEQ officials are discussing how to handle objections to the permit, said Gary Rasp, a TCEQ spokesman. He said the state agency plans to revise the company’s permits to alleviate any federal concerns, then issue a formal response to the EPA.

“The permit can be issued once TCEQ resolves the objections,” Rasp said. The TCEQ may request an extension if it takes more than 90 days to respond to questions from the EPA regarding the proposed license renewal.

A report by Paul Quinn College researchers analyzing 2020 TCEQ data determined that the West Dallas GAF site is among the top polluters in Dallas County.

According to the EPA, the substances emitted included sulfur dioxide, a gas that can make it difficult to breathe and impact children with asthma.

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