Monthly Archives: January 2011

TCEQ Buckles On Oil & Gas Rules Under Pressure From Industry

After a 10-month process, the TCEQ finally ended the suspense regarding what emissions safeguards the oil and gas industry will have to follow in order to protect the citizens of Texas.  On Wednesday, the TCEQ adopted a much, much weaker rule than the one it proposed in July (see details at the bottom of this post).  The rule was dramatically scaled back to apply only to those living near the Barnett Shale near Dallas-Fort Worth and, miraculously, the process will begin anew to decide what protections will apply elsewhere.

If you are reading this, you are probably wondering what I think about the outcome.   I’ll answer by telling you what I am going to tell my boss, who will surely ask how my efforts – scores of hours attending meetings, writing comments, coordinating and consulting with experts on this topic (as well as having to watch industry unrelentingly bully TCEQ staff) – translated into results.

It is a fair question given that I truly threw myself into this one.  I convinced myself (and my boss) that – this time – it was going to be different.  With all of the attention focused on the emissions from natural gas operations, including reports showing how the emissions from the oil and gas industry were much higher than everyone assumed, I thought this time we actually had a chance to help TCEQ do the right thing.    Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, Environment, GHGs, TCEQ| 4 Responses, comments now closed

On the Record: Our Comments Submitted to TCEQ

By Matthew Tejada, PhD Executive Director Air Alliance Houston and Elena Craft, PhD Health Scientist

It’s time to wait and see.

If the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality earnestly considers comments we co-submitted this month in response to its draft “Protocol for Notification and Work Group Functions for Evaluating Potential and Active Air Pollution Watch List (APWL) Areas,” it will signal a new era in the agency’s commitment to reducing levels of air toxics around the state. We especially welcome the appointment of a dedicated staff position to manage the APWL program. [See Dec. 2 blog post for more background on the APWL and “toxic hotspots.”]

However, we wanted to go on record here expressing our concern that the program’s ultimate effectiveness could be fundamentally undermined if the agency does not adopt the APWL protocol as rule. Clean air advocates have long maintained that a program as critical as this, designed to protect the health of Texans, calls for a rulemaking. We believe that putting the APWL program in rule will provide the best possible “middle ground” for such a program – short of the rigidity of statute, yet firmer than mere agency program or directive. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, TCEQ| Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Mom Conveys Concern About Texas Air Quality

Guest post from DeeDra Parrish, a Fort Worth homeowner, wife and mother of two children.

Last year I wrote to my Congresswoman Sen. Wendy Davis that as a Fort Worth taxpayer, working professional and most of all, mother of two, I had deep concerns about our declining Texas air and water quality. I’m not an environmental activist, but as the mother of a toddler with asthma,* I could not in clear conscience sit quietly any longer, especially after learning about the effects local gas drilling was having on our air quality.

Perhaps many of you have never had to hear the distressing sounds of a baby breathing fast and hard trying to get more oxygen into her lungs, or coughing so much through the night that she must be given nebulizer treatments.  I hope you never do.

But last week, I read that the Environmental Protection Agency downgraded our regional air quality from “moderate” to “serious” and it moved me to write again. When will we begin taking our air quality seriously enough to reverse these negative trends?

I have read many news articles quoting our state leaders’ emphasis on jobs and the economy. And yet, I also read on this blog recently that there are hidden costs of pollution, such as rising asthma and cancer rates. Why aren’t more people touting these facts? Don’t they also negatively affect our economy?

I’m a mom and I want clean air for my kids. Is anyone paying attention to what’s happening here?

*In Texas, asthma is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases, and the continued rise in prevalence rates makes it one of the state's biggest health concerns. According to a 2007 study by the Texas Department of State Health Services, an estimated 2.3 million (12.9%) adult Texans have self-reported lifetime asthma and 1.4 million (8.2%) have current asthma. Both of these estimates are higher than the national averages. Sadly, asthma affects more children than any other chronic disease and is one of the most frequent reasons for hospital admissions among children. — The Burden of Asthma in Texas: A Report From The Texas Asthma Control Program, 2007


Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone| Tagged , , , , , | 7 Responses, comments now closed

New Video Helps Drive Message to Port Truckers

Last May I wrote about efforts to clean up air pollution at our nation’s ports, starting with trucks doing business in and around the Port of Houston. Given that the Houston truck program offers the best incentives of any clean truck program around the country, we wanted to highlight the program and share some of the success stories with the help of a video.

This program, administered by the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), leverages state grant money from the Texas Emission Reduction Program with federal money to offer incentives for truckers to get into newer, cleaner trucks. While the program is targeted to truckers who operate at the port, any driver who operates the majority of time within the Houston area may be eligible. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ| Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Help TCEQ Clean Up Air Pollution Hotspots: Your Comments Needed Before Next Week’s Deadline

In December I commended the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for its proposed guidance on better agency protocols and formal processes to delist polluted areas currently on the Air Pollution Watch List (APWL) in Texas. APWL areas are the hotspot areas of pollution around the state where the concentrations of specific pollutants exceed the state’s own health-based guidelines.  The deadline for the public to comment on the agency proposal is Jan. 24, so I’m encouraging readers again to take that next step in following through on efforts to reduce air toxics in Texas.

Simply follow these steps (also listed on the website):

  • All comments should reference the APWL protocol and be addressed to Ms. Tara Capobianco;
  • Send an email to APWL@tceq.state.tx.us; or
  • Send via mail to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Office of the Chief Engineer, MC-168, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087.
  • [Do you live in an APWL area? Find out if you live in a pollution hotspot by reviewing the most recent table of Air Pollution Watch List areas. More information on air toxics and AMCVs can be found on the TCEQ site.]

As mentioned previously, here are some ideas that you might want to encourage TCEQ to consider:

  • Increase the number of air monitors in hotspot areas. (Monitor coverage in some of these areas can be too sparse, which is a problem in facility-dense areas like the Houston Ship Channel with hundreds of industrial facilities operating in a large area.) Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, TCEQ| Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Texas vs. The EPA: Insanity

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. has denied the State of Texas' third attempt to block the implementation of greenhouse gas pollution control measures for the largest sources of pollution. At stake in the current case is a narrow federal action to ensure the largest sources in Texas can obtain construction permits.

Here was my comment in a press statement:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott have now wasted millions of taxpayer dollars losing multiple frivolous lawsuits that only served to protect major polluters from a law that all other 49 state are following.  As the Legislature convenes this week facing an estimated $27 billion dollar budget shortfall, we can only hope that the Governor and Attorney General will decide to fire Exxon’s Yankee lawyers who he has representing his office and let Texas use that money for state services that help people, not on polluting their air.” 

Jim Marston
Texas Regional Director
National Energy Program Director

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Responses, comments now closed

Texas Could Pay Bills, Save Ills

With Texas now facing a $27 billion budget shortfall and the possibility of new taxes, layoffs and service cuts at the state level, we’re long overdue in implementing the long-term savings that will help improve our quality of life, save jobs and even make Texans healthier. It’s time for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to stop wasting taxpayer money fighting the Environmental Protection Agency and for state legislators to adopt common-sense solutions like those outlined in the “No Regrets” bill, which offers reductions strategies for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at no cost to business and consumers.

Reducing air pollutants that are harmful to human health (e.g., particulate matter, ozone-precursors, and even GHGs) saves money. How? Fewer missed days at work. Decreased number of hospital visits. Lower mortality rates. We’re talking about the hidden costs of air pollution. Don’t just take our word for it. Consider that in Texas:

  • Asthma accounted for more than 25,000 hospitalizations and an estimated $446.8 million in hospital charges in 2007.  An estimated 2.3 million (12.9%) adults had self-reported lifetime asthma, and 1.4 million (8.2%) adults had self-reported current asthma.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death and will become the number one leading cause of death in the next decade. The total estimated direct medical costs due to cancer in 1998 were $4.9 billion, and indirect costs from lost productivity were $9.1 billion – for a total of about $14.0 billion attributable to Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ| Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Hypocrisy In Action

This doesn’t require a lot rhetoric or discussion.  Hypocrisy in action is like a truck driver ballet, it’s painful, but you have to look.

Take a look at this PDF – it’s what Attorney General Abbott filed December 30th, 2010 as part of their latest frivolous lawsuit against the EPA on Green House Gas permitting.   You’ll see the names of some top lawyers from Baker Hostetler.

It seems that Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott, while loathing DC insiders, certainly don’t mind giving them your money.  These guys have experience fighting for pollution, they represent ExxonMobil.

Questions to ask ourselves as the Comptroller prepares a report for the Legislature next week on the State’s budget shortfall:

1)      How much are Exxon’s Yankee Lawyers costing Texas taxpayers?

2)     How much have the Governor and Attorney General spent on these frivolous lawsuits?

3)     When will Governor Perry start spending state resources on the good of the people and not the good of polluters?

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , , , | 7 Responses, comments now closed

Resolutions for Those Who Should Care About Clean Air

Many of us are vowing to lose weight, spend less or quit smoking in 2011. This is a time when we evaluate the previous 12 months of our lives and look for opportunities to become better people. There is no doubt that Texas air quality could be better. With our state ranking at the top of every bad list on air quality, improvement is necessary. As I finished my own resolutions I imagined what some of our federal and state leaders’ could be – in a perfect world:

  • Environmental Protection Agency: In 2011, we resolve to adopt more health-protective standards, especially with regard to ozone. More than half of our country’s population is exposed to this harmful air pollutant, with levels regularly exceeding current federal standards in many large cities. We will no longer delay implementation of a stronger standard. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed the data during Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Texas vs. The EPA: A Paradox

Over the past several weeks, Texas has done everything in its power to block EPA measures intended to ensure protection from greenhouse gas pollution emitted from large sources in Texas.  With the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. expected to make an imminent decision regarding Texas’ latest challenge to EPA’s protective measures, we thought it would be helpful to identify what is at stake:

  • On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court found that greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act.   As of January 2, 2011, the Clean Air Act requires that large emitters of greenhouse gas pollution obtain permits applying the best technology available to control their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • EPA gave all states, including Texas, notice that state permitting programs must address significant emissions of greenhouse gases and Texas alone has chosen not to act. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed
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    Ramon AlvarezRamon Alvarez
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    Vice President, US Climate and Energy Program, Director of the Texas regional office

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