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The TCEQ’s New Effort in Transparency


Last month the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) announced the launch of their new interactive map that displays air monitoring data in and around the Barnett Shale.  The interactive map can be found here and spots areas with recent air quality monitoring results and toxicological analysis where the TCEQ has collected or is actively collecting air samples.  The map is continually updated to provide the public with air quality statuses in their respective areas of interest.

The following is a map of the air quality as of 9/1/2010 at 8:30am CT in the Barnett Shale area.  We can see that there are a few Canister Samples and one Real Time Gas Chromatograph Sample that is over either long term or short term Air Monitoring Comparison Values (AMCV).  Those results appear to be cause for concern but take note that the canister samples’ results are at the time the sample was taken and the issue may have already been rectified.

The map, for the most part, is very easy to use and provides results for a variety of different types of samples as we can see in the image above.  I think this is a great step in the TCEQ’s effort to become more transparent especially after their issue earlier this year with what the media deemed as “hiding data” which actually turned out to be a lack of understanding, on the media’s part, of long-term vs. short-term air quality standards.   For example, to go off on a quick tangent, one of the TCEQ samples resulted in a 3.2 parts per billion by volume (ppbv) of benzene for a short-term sample which was treated by the TCEQ as not an immediate threat.  The media “uncovered” this information and incorrectly compared it to the long-term AMCV of 1.4 ppbv when it should be compared to short-term AMCV of 180 ppbv, which is the correct limit as it relates to health concerns, and 3.2 ppbv is well below 180 ppbv.  From this bloggers point of view it seems as though the media acted irresponsibly when they didn’t do the proper research before attacking the TCEQ, but I digress.  The interactive map will be good for the public but also the TCEQ because it creates accountability and drive from the agency to quickly rectify the red and blue spots with regulation enforcement and more sampling.

To learn more visit the Barnett Shale Regulatory, Environmental Info folder in the Unconventional Updates in DI’s DNA.

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