Refineries cast a long shadow along the Texas Gulf Coast: its emissions of cancer-causing compounds leave overburdened communities facing serious health concerns, even as the industry resists implementing commonsense, protective policies. The shadow, however, need not be so dark for much longer. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to strengthen long-overdue emissions standards for petroleum refineries, which is a critical step toward securing healthier air quality for millions of Americans.
Refineries are a major source of extremely harmful air pollutants including neurotoxins, hazardous metals, and cancer-causing pollutants. Exposure to these compounds can cause lung disease, skin disorders, headaches, and immune system ailment, as well as increase the risk of cancer. Refineries nationwide reported about 22,000 tons of hazardous air pollution in 2010, and many of the largest polluters are right here in Texas. These numbers come to life when you walk the streets of communities like Galena Park or Port Arthur and meet the families who live and work in the shadow of refineries every day. Read More
By: Christina Wolfe, EDF's Ports & Transportation Analyst
Calling all heavy-duty truck owners who work at the Port of Houston! Cold, hard cash is available for the purchase of new trucks that are more fuel-efficient and cleaner-burning, providing up to 80 percent of the cost of a new truck.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) will be hosting a Drayage Truck Event at the Port of Houston on Saturday, November 1, from 10:00am to 1:30pm, to share information about available grants and loans in order to help owners replace older, dirtier vehicles with new, cleaner ones (see how others have taken advantage of these opportunities in the past).
Why is funding like this available to help someone pay for a new truck? By replacing an older truck with a new one, we all benefit from improved air quality. These benefits include:
- better health, since cleaner air reduces the onset of asthma and cancer and helps avoid the loss of work and schooldays, and
- economic advancement, as these programs help the state and city progress towards meeting critical air quality standards. Read More
By: Corina Solis, graduate of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
The Alamo Colleges began participating in local utility company, CPS Energy’s Demand Response Program in the summer of 2013. This Demand Response Program is one of CPS Energy’s strategies to achieve its 2020 goal of saving 771 megawatts of energy. The Alamo Colleges participated in the program in order to take advantage of a significant rebate opportunity, which was a maximum of $120,600 in 2013 and is $130,650 in 2014. Rebates are based on the level of participation, and in 2013, the Alamo Colleges earned rebates totaling $103,000. Through a self-funding strategy, all of this money went back to the Alamo Colleges to pay for faculty and staff salaries.
As an extra benefit, while saving all of this money, the Alamo Colleges trim their carbon footprint each time they participate in demand response. Last year, the Alamo Colleges prevented 2,250 lbs. of CO2 from going into the atmosphere from its demand response participation. This year, the Alamo Colleges are contracted to prevent up to five and a half tons of CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere, which would otherwise take 140 tree seedlings ten years to naturally take out of the atmosphere. Read More
Flaring in Eagle Ford Shale
The Texas Tribune recently published a piece debunking some of the science behind the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) position on the national health standard for ozone – one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet. As outlined in the agency’s latest newsletter, TCEQ’s Director of Toxicology, Mike Honeycutt, questions the benefits of a stronger standard, even though public health experts across the country have been calling for a more protective standard for years. What’s more disappointing than the agency’s apparent anti-health position, however, is the lack of attention to other legitimate air pollution issues in Texas.
It would seem that the agency must have a surplus of staff, as well as unlimited resources to establish such an aggressive position on a standard that hasn’t been proposed yet. The reality is that there are so many more important things that the agency could and should be doing to serve and protect Texas citizens from real air pollution threats, including: Read More
On the heels of a recent Forbes blog post where I call out Texas' Comptroller for playing favorites in her biased scrutiny of Texas' wind industry, comes another Forbes piece by James Taylor from the Heartland Institute. Confusing correlation with causation, Taylor claims wind energy causes higher energy prices. However, an increase in electricity prices cannot automatically be accounted for by pointing the finger at wind energy. That’s simply playing fast and loose with the facts.
This is the same tired slant we have heard from Heartland Institute time and time again. Not surprising – when pundits want to cherry pick data to make their argument strong, it doesn’t always work.
First there are many, many factors that determine energy rates, not just one type of resource. In an analysis of utility rates, economists Ernst Berndt, Roy Epstein, and Michael Doane identified 13 reasons why an electric utility’s rates may be higher or lower than the average. They include things like the average use per customer, age of the electricity distribution system, generation resource mix, local taxes, and rate of increases prior to any implemented renewable portfolio standard (RPS). So faulting renewables for high energy prices is a bogus claim. Furthermore, there is no data showing a nationwide pattern of renewable energy standards leading to rate increases for consumers. The report states: “American consumers in the top wind energy-producing states have seen their electricity prices actually decrease by 0.37 percent over the last 5 years, while all other states have seen their electricity prices increase by 7.79 percent over that time period." Further, 15 studies from various grid operators, state governments, and academic experts have examined the impact of wind energy on wholesale electricity prices and confirmed that wind energy reduces electricity prices. Read More
Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watch – Harris County Courthouse Annex 19 – Gulfton, Houston.
Earlier this year, close to 20 Texas counties received a grade of "F" from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution (up from 15 counties in 2013). Ozone is one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet and has been linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and other severe respiratory illnesses, as well as increased emergency room and hospital admissions. And it poses an especially serious risk to children, seniors and those with lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis.
If realized, a stronger public health standard for ozone would prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, avoid up to 21,000 hospitalizations and provide $100 billion in associated economic benefits.
Why then are Texas officials fighting tooth and nail against it?
U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, joined by fellow Texas Republican Reps. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, Pete Sessions of Dallas, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Kevin Brady of the Houston area, John Carter of Round Rock and Sam Johnson of Richardson, introduced a bill that would serve to obstruct health protections promised in the Clean Air Act. This bill would deny Texas cities, the state and the country from their right to strong public health protections. Read More
Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone Tagged Blake Farenthold, John Carter, Kevin Brady, Lamar Smith, Pete Olson, Pete Sessions, Randy Weber, Sam Johnson