Monthly Archives: May 2010

EPA vs. TCEQ: Marston Weighs In

Get ready for a sound bite war ignited by EPA taking over from TCEQ the issuance of a permit for a Corpus Christi refinery – with the possibility to do the same at 39 other facilities across the state.

As our toxicologist Elena Craft alluded to earlier today, there’s one way that 49 other states abide by the Clean Air Act – and then there’s the Texas way (which is too often a way of NOT abiding by federal law).

For too long, Gov. Perry and TCEQ have treated the EPA and the federal health-based Clean Air Act as a nuisance they can’t be bothered with. Well, they’re bothered now, and squealing like a stuck pig.

Here’s what everyone should know when we hear the pitiful whining from these defenders of the status quo:

  • EPA’s action didn’t come out of the blue. For years they’ve been telling TCEQ to fix their air permitting program.  In response, TCEQ has thumbed its nose at EPA at the expense of the health of millions of Texans.  And now, finally, EPA is stepping up – rightfully – to enforce the law. Read More »
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Thanks EPA, We Needed That

We all know that Texas is a special place and that things operate differently here than in any other place in the country. One thing that isn’t different, however, is the way toxic pollutants impact our health. Texans aren’t any more immune to the health impacts of air pollutants than other Americans, no matter how big and bad we think we are.

So we’d like to give a big shout out to EPA for forcing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), our state environmental agency, to make sure that every Texan receives the same protections from toxic air pollution as every other American.

Here are some facts about emissions of air toxics across the state

  • Facilities in Texas released almost 90 million pounds of hazardous air pollutants in 2008, according to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.
  • Facilities in Texas released almost 30 million pounds of toxics considered to be cancer-causing by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2008.
  • Approximately 80 percent of all benzene and 1,3-butadiene emissions in the country in 2008 were in the state of Texas. Read More »
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Solving Truck Pollution at Ports

Many of us may think about air pollution coming from industries and freeways, but our nation’s sea ports are also a significant source of pollution, mostly from diesel trucks and ships entering and leaving. We’ve been a partner in cleaning up truck emissions at the Port of Houston and just last week announced a Clean Trucks Initiative in Florida to help clean up southeastern port pollution.

Given some of the momentum building around trucks at ports, I thought I’d offer some basic points on why we should care and how we can improve the situation here in Texas. [Note: If you’re a trucker, there’s especially good news here for you.]

Why should we care about port pollution?

Many ports are very close to neighborhoods and these local communities experience increased health risks from the pollution generated. Additionally, ports are gateways to population-dense cities like Houston, which are constantly seeking ways to reduce harmful air emissions.

What are the sources of pollution at a port?

Typically, the main sources of emissions at a port include:

  • Cargo Handling Equipment
  • Heavy Duty Diesel Trucks
  • Ocean Going Vessels (OGVs)
  • Rail
  • Harbor Craft

Read More »

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State Claims Air Quality Victory – No Matter How Short-lived!

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a press release this week announcing that Houston is in attainment for fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, extremely small pollution particles that easily enter the lungs. While the release gave a “good news” story about Houston area industries working together to solve the related environmental and public health issues, it didn’t mention that in April, EPA released its first draft policy assessment on PM2.5 recommending consideration of even stronger standards. These stronger standards will most certainly put Houston out of attainment once again.

Why is EPA considering changes to the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5?

Mounting scientific evidence warns of the health threats derived from both long- and short-term exposures to these fine particles floating in the air.

PM2.5 exposure is known to result in a variety of very serious health problems, including:

  • Pre-mature mortality
  • Increased risk of hospital and emergency room visits for those with heart or lung diseases
  • Development of lung diseases like chronic bronchitis
  • Aggravation of lung diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis
  • Aggravation of heart diseases, such as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease
  • Respiratory symptoms including coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath
  • Increased susceptibility to respiratory infections Read More »
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