Air Activist Blog

11% 4% 30% ???

23 Feb 2013 7:24 PM | Kathy Van Dame (Administrator)
On a FB posting requesting email support for DAQ funding, Christine Smith Grafer asked some good questions.  Thought others might find the exchange informative.  Please let me know if you find errors in my responses.

Christine Smith Grafer 12:12pm Feb 20  
Can I ask a dumb question? I know nothing about how the DAQ works but trying to get a basic understanding, get the big picture. If the DAQ approved the expansion permit for Kennecott, are they saying they agree that their contribution is 4%, or the 30-36% as the technical documents imply? Their infographic on the homepage says all industry contributes 11% so I assume the former. Why are they not agreeing it is 30-36%, is it a function of being underfunded? Will you explain to me in simple language?

Kathy Van Dame 4:52am Feb 21
Not a dumb question at all. I will try for simple language, please bear with me.
1.Inventory is the term used to discuss what goes into the air. These are the emissions that come out stacks, tail pipes, chimneys, &c.
2.Monitors measure what's in our air, a product of emissions, atmospheric chemistry, meteorology.
3. Modeling, is like weather forecasting, it takes lots of information, including inventory data, and forecasts what monitors would say in various scenarios. None of these are simple or exact, but they are getting better. Newer numbers are in general better than old numbers.

The inventory that DAQ released,  is an accurate depiction, I believe, of what is actually going into the air during our current inversions. It counts only those emissions that contribute to our PM2.5 problem. It is a *winter* inversion *day* inventory for all the non-attainment areas. During the winter, the coal fired power plant at KUC, and coal boilers at BYU don't operate. Biogenic VOC's (the pine smell in trees, for instance) which contribute to our summer ozone are absent. During inversions, there isn't wind, and the ground is frozen & potentially snow covered, so dust is reduced/absent. There are also annual inventories, state-wide, county and many special purpose inventories. Because Utah & Cache Co have little industry the 11% figure is a little high for them. Because SL & Davis have more industry, 11% is low.

 I am not qualified to evaluate KUC's assertion that their winter contribution currently is 4%, but it seems generally credible. One thing KUC would rather not discuss is that if they go ahead with the planned expansion and change 3 of 4 coal units to NG, those 3 new units would operate in the winter, and add wintertime industrial emissions. DAQ's permit writing is [rightly or wrongly] independent of the % contribution assessment. In DAQ, permitting is done totally separately from inventory & monitoring. I am dissatisfied also with the way modeling is integrated into the permitting process, but that's many more lines of 'fine print'.

As near as I can understand the 30% claim is based on the coal fired units that are not allowed to operate in the winter. There likely is a kernel of truth in there, but I do not regard it as a contribution to the understanding our winter air quality problem.

No one knows what we will figure out to do the best we can about our winter air quality problem. The painful truth is that our lifestyle & population do not fit in this airshed. Using our inventory, monitoring, & modeling tools takes highly skilled folks, they need paid. DAQ has had a great increase in workload and decrease in staff. For the past 3 years, they've been taking cuts, and doing more with less. A request was made for $48,000 for a financial analyst, which would help provide the data needed to make decisions in our capitalist system. I hope we can convince the Legislature to help DAQ help our air

Christine Smith Grafer 9:10am Feb 21  
Thank you Kathy Van Dame for taking the time spell this out. This helps tremendously, thank you so much. Since the inventory is taken during the day in a winter inversion, would that account for any of the nighttime activity from the refineries (or any other industry polluters)? Do you know why they chose to measure daytime only?

 Kathy Van Dame 12:31pm Feb 21
Sorry for sowing confusion. By 'day' I meant 24 hrs, as opposed to annual, or month &c.

 The refineries are a murky issue. Upsets would not be accounted for in a generic inversion day. But when the model [#3 above] was validated, that is tuned to our airshed, specific inversions in past years were selected. For those specific days, DAQ got as accurate as possible inventory from UDOT on what vehicles were in our on road fleet, sent questionairs to industry about emisisons on those specific days, and many other sources. Then the meteorology & inventory is run thru the model and the model is tweaked until it predicts what the monitors actually measured during this historic inversion. And now the model can be used to predict future monitor values on days with different inventories. What will happen if we have 100 tons less of VOC, or NOx? What about 1000? This is the way strategies are test driven. For the SIP, Utah is required to provide a suite of strategies that predict that our monitors will read the standard by Dec 2019. So far, that problem has not been solved.

 Christine Smith Grafer 2:19pm Feb 21  
Thank you Kathy Van Dame again for explaining this. I wish it wasn't this technical. If only there was a way to explain the issues of the DAQ to the average Joe, via colorful infographic.

Kathy Van Dame  2:38pm Feb 21
Me, too. I wish there were a simple infograph that explained this. You may recall the reaction when DAQ released the simple infographic under the 11% section above. If our problem were simple &/or easy, it would have been solved long ago. This is a community-sized problem and will need all of us to decide what solutions we are willing to live with. It will take careful listening and thinking and speaking, imho. And continued attention beyond the bad air this winter.
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