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A group of students at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law wants to help clear the air. As a project this year, the school’s Environmental Law Society raised about $600 to purchase pollution credits that will retire several tons of sulphur dioxide (SO2) from the nation’s skies, says Craig Pritzlaff, president of the organization. Bidder records posted on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Web site show that a number of universities and law schools across the nation have bought such credits to retire SO2 since the EPA began its Acid Rain Program in the mid-90s. But SMU appears to be the first Texas school to do it. “We’re just looking for something that makes a difference and raises awareness,” says Pritzlaff, a second-year law student from Plano. Preventing a certain amount of pollution from being released into the air seemed like a good idea given the significance of air pollution in the Dallas area, he says. The EPA has designated parts of North Texas as a non-attainment area for ozone released in the air by motor vehicles. SO2, which is produced primarily by electric utility plants, is one of the primary causes of acid rain, the EPA reports on its Web site. Under Title IV of the Clean Air Act, the EPA created a market system for pollution that enables plants to buy and sell their credits for SO2, Pritzlaff says. Michael Boydston, an attorney in the EPA’s Region 6 office in Dallas, says the market-based system is designed to reduce air pollution but allows sources of the pollution some flexibility. “A facility that increases its efficiency can benefit by selling extra allowances,” Boydston says. According to the EPA’s Web site, affected utility units are allocated allowances based on their historic fuel consumption and specific emissions rate. If a utility installs pollution control equipment, Pritzlaff says, it may not need to emit as much SO2 as it’s allowed. The utility can sell the extra credits to another utility unit within its system, a unit in a separate system or to a group such as the Environmental Law Society that wants to retire the pollution, the EPA indicates on its Web site. Under the program, an organization or individual can spend about $130 to buy an allowance that otherwise would allow a power plant or factory to emit one ton of SO2 in the air. “We just decided it would be a great project,” says Pritzlaff, who has an environmental background. He interned at the EPA last summer and previously worked at the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission and was a stormwater inspector and spill response investigator for Austin. Boydston says that retiring allowances for SO2 isn’t the only way that emissions are reduced through the program. Reductions also are achieved because of the overall cap on emission allowances, he says. Pritzlaff says the Environmental Law Society has enough money to buy credits for four to five tons of SO2. He says the organization plans to purchase the credits through the nonprofit group, Clean Air Conservancy. Jackie Nameth, outreach coordinator for the CAC, says her organization purchases credits when the EPA holds its annual auction in March. “We get the most pollution we can for the best price,” Nameth says. “Those pollution credits will be retired for eternity.” Pritzlaff says the 25 to 40 students who participate in the Environmental Law Society raised some of the money that will be used to purchase the pollution credits by sponsoring a coffee house at the law school. He says the students staffed the coffee house, which sold coffee, juice and baked goods made by the students. The Environmental Law Section of the Dallas Bar Association contributed $260 of the funds that have been earmarked for the pollution credit purchases, says John Dugdale, an environmental partner in the Dallas office of Andrews & Kurth. The DBA group decided to participate in the project after Pritzlaff made a presentation at the November section meeting, Dugdale says. Dugdale says the section donated the money in recognition of the service provided over the past year by retiring Environmental Law Section chairwoman Cindy Bishop, an associate with Gardere Wynne Sewell in Dallas.

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