Texas Clean Air Matters

EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Texas’ Last Stand or Last Hope?

Source: North Texas Renewable Energy Group

Source: North Texas Renewable Energy Group

August has been an eventful month here in Texas. And, no, I’m not referring to news about Governor Rick Perry, rather some of his appointees. The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC), Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Railroad Commissioner (RRC) Barry Smitherman, RRC Chairman Christy Craddick, and State Representative Jason Isaac held a joint session to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The CPP will limit – for the first time ever – carbon emissions for existing power plants. Texas, the number one polluter in the country, needs to cut 195 billion pounds of carbon in the next 18 years, according to a Texas Tribune analysis. However, EPA suggests Texas could easily meet its goal through a combination of actions: making coal plants more efficient, using more natural gas plants, increasing the use of renewable resources, and expanding energy efficiency.

Texas has a choice: either roll up some sleeves and double down on the state’s clean energy leadership, creating jobs and wealth, or continue to play petty politics to buy the fossil fuel industry more time. Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Coal, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Leave a comment

Now is the Time to Protect Our Children from the Dangers of Oil Refineries

By: Guest Blogger Trish O’Day, MSN, RN, Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility

(Source: Earth Justice) A child plays in a park next to the Valero oil refinery in Manchester, Texas.

(Source: EarthJustice) A child plays in a park next to the Valero oil refinery in Manchester, Texas.

Texas children growing up near oil refineries are not breathing easy. Living near a refinery can mean exposure to carcinogens, such as benzene, and heavy metals, such as lead. Sadly, there are five oil refineries located in Houston alone, with an additional three in both Port Arthur and Texas City.

Infants (and those still in the womb), babies, and young children are different; they are not little adults. They breathe faster; they live “close-to-the-ground”, and indulge quite often in “hand to mouth” behavior.

A look at lead exposure and children’s health

Lead toxicity in children has decreased in the US since lead was removed from gasoline and paint, but health experts recognize that even low-dose exposure to lead is harmful and irreversible. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention state: “there is simply no safe level of lead exposure for children.”

Children’s brains develop from the first month of conception continuing up to 7 or 8 years old. This long-term development of a child’s central nervous system and brain is sensitive, at all steps along the way, to contact with toxic substances, such as industrial chemicals or toxic substances, whether the exposure is from breathing, ingestion, or dermal (through the skin, while playing in the dirt). Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Oil| Tagged , | Leave a comment

Studying Solar in Texas: Big Energy Savings Opportunities on Small Campuses

By: Andy Ferris, student of the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business

Andy Ferris and Dr. Jeff Wilson pictured here in Wilson’s home- as part of the Dumpster Project, a sustainable living experiment, Wilson is living in the dumpster for a full year.

Distributed generation solar has been a growing trend around the country. Home owners, large commercial entities and other facilities all have looked to their rooftops to cash in on a previously underutilized asset. My EDF Climate Corps fellowship at Huston Tillotson University focused on evaluating opportunities for solar power on a 23 acre, private, tax-exempt HBCU (Historically Black College or University) campus in Austin, TX. Huston-Tillotson has a target of 50 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2030 and hopes to become one of the most sustainable HBCUs in the country. My analysis calculated that completing the recommended solar installation would increase the portion of their energy from renewable sources to 14 percent; a level high enough to place them first in the country among private HBCUs.

Challenges Facing Small Organizations

With an abundance of sun and a highly competitive solar industry, making solar photovoltaic (PV) installations work in Texas should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, a less-than encouraging regulatory environment can complicate solar installations for commercial scale projects. In Austin, a production based incentive has been rapidly reduced from $0.14/kWh to $0.09/kWh in just the last three months. This trend along with a policy that eliminates net-metering for installations over 20 kW capacity has made it challenging for small organizations looking to add PV panels to their facilities. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Solar, Utilities| Tagged , | Leave a comment

Bridging the Gap and Building Solidarity at Regional Environmental Justice Training

By: Kelsey Monk, program coordinator, and Marcelo Norsworthy, research analyst

Source: Pat Sullivan  — AP Photo

Source: Pat Sullivan — AP Photo

Addressing environmental justice challenges is an ongoing learning process, and, like many environmental and public health concerns, there is no silver bullet. However, there are effective strategies and productive collaborations that can lead to success. As I learned from Vernice Miller-Travis, co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, “passion, matched with data, is a really powerful conversation to be having.” And EDF is definitely into data and powerful conversations, so last week, Marcelo Norsworthy and I participated in a three-day Environmental Justice Training Workshop.

The National Governor’s Association defines environmental justice (EJ) as protecting minority and low-income communities from bearing a disproportionate share of pollution, and this can have implications at the legal, regulatory, and policy levels. The workshop, co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 6 Office, the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Series, and the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, is part of a larger effort by EPA’s Region 6 Office of Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs. The intent is to bring together grassroots organizations and partners, local officials, and government entities to build sustainable relationships and broaden decision-making skills. Essentially, EPA is utilizing a participatory and collaborative process to draft an environmental justice action plan that addresses region-wide priorities, such as air quality, chemical security, and Gulf Coast restoration. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Natural gas| Tagged | Comments closed

EPA’s State-by-State Carbon Limits Indicate Smart Policy, Not Arbitrary Rulemaking

EDF_FB_renewableEnergy_solar (1)In June, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced – for the first time ever – standards to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants, known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Currently power plants emit 40 percent of U.S. carbon emissions, but under the proposed Clean Power Plan, the U.S. power sector will cut carbon pollution by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

Since this announcement, the usual suspects have attacked the CPP, calling its proposed state-by-state reduction standards arbitrary. Their claims couldn’t be further from reality. When EPA asked states for feedback on how to best craft this standard, states asked for two things: individual standards and flexibility. And that’s what they got. Anyone familiar with the proposed standards will know they are based on a consistent and objective methodology that takes into account each state’s unique energy portfolio and emissions, as well as built with maximum flexibility in mind.

At first glance, the climate-change-denying crowd dismissed the standards as arbitrary, because the limits vary from state to state. For example, Washington needs to reduce its emissions rate by 72 percent by 2030, while Kentucky only needs to cut its emissions rate by 18 percent over the same period. Texas lies somewhere in the middle with a 39 percent reduction required. So what gives? Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Natural gas, Renewable Energy| Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Public Calls for Health Protections at Refinery Hearing in Texas, Industry Defends Status Quo

Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, TX  (Source: FuelFix)

Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, TX
(Source: FuelFix)

On Tuesday, I spoke at a well-attended public hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) vital proposal to reduce toxic emissions at oil refineries. At the hearing, I witnessed industry representatives and backers argue that refineries have already done enough to protect local citizens and that the public knows all there is to know about hazardous refinery pollution. Clean air advocates, including labor unions, public officials, residents, and health practitioners, took the stand and called on EPA to improve the status quo.

The status quo, unfortunately, is pollution loopholes for certain refinery processes, outdated pollution control technologies, and an inadequate health impact assessment. This refinery air toxics proposal, currently open for public comment, will help protect public health in some of the nation’s most toxically overburdened communities. That’s why direct federal attention to oil refineries is needed in states with questionable environmental records like Texas and Louisiana. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Oil| Tagged , | Comments closed

Fact Check: Wind’s Integration Costs Are Lower than Those for Other Energy Sources

This content originally appeared on AWEA’s Into the Wind Blog.

By: Michael Goggin

AWEA Into the WindsThe cost of reliably integrating large conventional power plants onto the power system in Texas is more than 17 times larger than the cost of reliably integrating wind energy, based on new AWEA analysis of data from the state’s independent power grid operator.

This analysis rebuts one of the most widely-held misconceptions about how wind energy is reliably integrated onto the power system. While it is true that wind energy’s variability does slightly increase the need for the balancing reserves that grid operators use to keep supply and demand in balance, all forms of energy impose integration costs on the power system. (pages 11-16). Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized| 1 Response, comments now closed

To Unlock Wind, Build Transmission Lines Linking the Plains to the Cities

Guest Author: Robert Fares, Mechanical Engineering Ph.D. student at the University Texas at Austin

This commentary originally appeared on Scientific America's Plugged In blog. 

A vital factor affecting the economics of any energy source is transportation: where is the fuel extracted, where is it used, and how does it get from point A to point B?

An example is the case of Texas versus North Dakota, both of which have experienced a boom in oil and gas production from shale since the introduction of hydraulic fracturing.

Texas, with its long history of oil and gas development, is riddled with underground oil and gas pipelines connecting remote areas of the state with regional trading hubs. Read More »

Posted in Natural gas, Renewable Energy, Wind| Tagged | Comments closed

"Refinery Pollution Affects ME!"

This commentary originally appeared in Air Alliance Houston's newsletter.

Isn't it time you said that to the EPA?

By: Adrian Shelley, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

There are 149 oil refineries in the United States. Of those, 5 are located in Houston, with an additional 3 in both Port Arthur and Texas City. The refining industry is more than 100 years old, and some people might be surprised to learn that there is equipment operating in some of our refineries that is a century old as well. As you can imagine, a lot has changed in that century.

Regulations governing the refining industry have not kept up. You've probably heard by now about the Environmental Protection Agency's new Refinery Air Toxics Rule. You may even have seen announcements lately about a hearing on the rule to be held in Houston on August 5. The hearing is a unique opportunity to influence a landmark rule in the fight against refinery pollution.

Air Alliance Houston has been promoting the hearing since it was announced. Today, I'd like to take a few minutes to explain why YOU should attend the hearing. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Oil| Tagged , , | Comments closed

Enough Drama, Texas has a Roadmap to Cut Pollution and Grow its Economy

Source: Nicholas Henderson Flickr

Paramount Theater in Austin, TX. Source: Nicholas Henderson Flickr

They say everything is bigger in Texas and often that's true, especially when it comes to big hair and the bravado of politicians. This amounts to a lot of drama and theatrics. I mean, as someone who grew up in Dallas, I can tell you that the soap opera by the same name wasn't too far off the mark.

Being a mighty oil and gas (and wind!) state, this drama often translates into fights with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other environmental regulators over pollution reduction. Texas is the number one emitter of carbon emissions and second biggest water-polluter in the nation. Texas doesn't really have solid ground to stand on.

Yet as of 2012, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (current GOP and Koch-brothers backed candidate for Governor) has sued the federal government over environmental regulations sixteen times. And of the 25 total lawsuits pending against the federal government, Texas has only prevailed five times. Exemplified yet again in June when the Supreme Court ruled seven to two that yes, in fact, EPA is allowed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from most large industrial facilities, like power plants and factories, despite Texas’ arguments. Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Comments closed
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