Texas Clean Air Matters

Austin Launches Texas’ Inaugural PACE Program, Unleashes Private Funding for Water and Energy Efficiency

By: Charlene Heydinger, Executive Director, Keeping PACE in Texas

PACEinaBox-logoToday marked a milestone for Texas’ clean energy economy. Travis County voted to adopt the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, making it the first county in Texas to do so. This means Austin and the surrounding area will soon reap the economic and environmental benefits from giving energy-intensive, thirsty Texas a reprieve with water efficiency and clean energy.

What is PACE?

PACE, enacted during the 2013 Texas Legislature with support from both sides of the aisle, has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of private funding for clean energy projects in the state. Specifically, it is an innovative financing program – completely free of government mandates and public funding – that enables commercial, industrial, multi-family, and agricultural property owners to obtain low-cost, long-term loans for water conservation, energy-efficiency, and renewable energy projects. Participants will then repay these loans for clean energy projects through their property tax bill. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Leave a comment

Tee-Off for Clean Air in Texas

By: Sarah Holland, Director, CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas

Tee-Off with logoOzone season is now upon us, which means citizens and cities need to be aware of daily ozone levels and how they impact daily life. Ozone, also known as smog, is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects, including asthma attacks, decreased lung function and premature death. Children, older Americans, and those with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially at risk. Poor air quality not only affects public health, but is bad for the Texas economy as well. Currently our region is on the cusp of nonattainment, meaning several cities in Texas do not meet federal health-based air quality standards. Designation could mean a requirement for new emission reduction control measures. In addition, a non-attainment designation has several consequences, including diminished attractiveness for talent recruitment, new businesses, and families. Read More »

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In Austin, Clean Energy Innovators Are Helping to Alleviate Energy Poverty

Source: Gridmates

Source: Gridmates

At Environmental Defense Fund, we advocate for policymakers, utilities, and other decision makers to design programs and support policies that enable everyone to benefit from a clean energy future, especially low-income families who are disproportionately affected by pollution from power plants. Recently, in Texas, a new innovation caught our eye that brings this concept to life.

This post is an interview with Gridmates CEO George Koutitas, who is harnessing the Internet, crowdsourcing, and generosity to bring light and warmth into homes that otherwise wouldn’t have power. 

What is energy poverty? In the U.S. and Texas, how many live without electricity or struggle to pay for their electricity bill each month?

In the U.S., approximately 48 million people are at or below the poverty line and may be suffering from energy poverty, meaning they cannot afford to pay for electricity and other utilities. In Texas, more than 4.6 million people are living in energy poverty. These are low-income families and, in some occasions, they owe a $5,000 accumulated debt to utilities. This debt often leads to energy service disconnections, leaving families without heat and power. Thankfully, in 2014, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provided energy assistance to roughly 6.9 million households nationwide, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Read More »

Posted in Smart Grid, Solar| Tagged | Leave a comment

Ozone Season Returns to Houston

This post, written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston executive director, originally appeared on airCurrent News.

Spring is coming to Houston, and with it the start of ozone season. You probably haven’t thought about ozone yet this year, and with all the cold weather we’ve had, you could be forgiven. But Houston’s ozone season officially began on March 1, and it may be time to start thinking about this pernicious air pollutant once again.

First we should remember that 2015’s ozone season begins amid a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the federal ozone pollution standard. Comments on that proposal were due this week. Air Alliance Houston, with help from students at the University of Houston Law Center, submitted comments calling for a standard as low as 60 parts per billion. The best science of the day indicates that such a low standard is needed to protect public health.

Meanwhile our Governor Greg Abbot, along with Governors from ten other states, ignored public health needs and asked the EPA not to update the ozone standard again, ever. Governor Abbot et. al. claim that the new ozone standard will cost billions of dollars and 1.4 million jobs nationwide. This claim ignores a recent EPA study of the results of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, which estimates that benefits from implementing the Act exceed costs by a factor of more than 30 to 1.

So there are some hard questions about what the ozone standard will be in the future. But putting those aside for right now, what do you need to know for 2015’s ozone season? Read More »

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A Roundup of Energy, Water, and Climate Bills in the 84th Texas Legislative Session

Source: flickr/Paul Woolrich

Source: flickr/Paul Woolrich

We’ve almost made it to the midway point of the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature. As many already know, the Texas Legislature only meets from January to May every other year, so a lot has to get done in these few months.

This midway point is critical because it marks the deadline for Representatives and Senators to file bills, and it signals the rush to the finish line. Once we pass this point, the speed picks up substantially, as do the working hours and pressure.

Most bills that are filed will not make it to the Governor’s desk – for any number of reasons. But it is a good time to check in to see which climate, clean energy, and energy-water nexus bills have been filed this Session. Here’s a look at a few that are likely to rise to the top, and ones we hope will cross the finish line by June 1st. Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Energy Efficiency, Energy-Water Nexus, Legislation, Military| Leave a comment

Ozone Season in Texas Here Again

Source: flickr/Durant Weston

Source: flickr/Durant Weston

Spring time is once again punctuated by the start of the ozone season. March 1st began the ozone season for Houston and Dallas, while April 1st marks the season for San Antonio, Austin and Corpus Christi. The dangers of ozone remind us to take precaution during this time of year and call attention to the importance of clean air.

What is the harm?

Ozone is created when a combination of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react to heat and sunlight. And the combination of rising Texas temperatures, sunlight, vehicles, industrial activity, and low winds create the ideal situation for unhealthy concentrations of ground-level ozone.

Ground-level ozone—better known as smog—contributes to a variety of adverse health outcomes, including respiratory issues, increased risk for asthmatic attacks, long term lung damage, cardiovascular effects, and premature mortalities. The most susceptible groups are young children and elderly adults. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final 2014 health assessment, Health Risk and Exposure Assessment for Ozone, confirmed the causal relationship of ozone to harmful respiratory health. Read More »

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