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.)
- Include advanced monitoring techniques as part of the remediation process. (Some areas have already been removed from the APWL as a result of TCEQ redoubling efforts to require increased monitoring at facilities.)
- Work more effectively with city and county officials to help identify problems. (Although facilities are required to report emission events to their local authorities, this doesn’t always happen so local officials often remain unaware of emission events.)
- Incorporate emission reduction requirements more effectively into the air permitting process, especially between permit reviews. (Since permit renewals are reviewed only every 10 years, and because of the limited authority TCEQ believes it has in requiring reductions during the permit review process, the opportunity for TCEQ to require additional control measures is infrequent and insufficient to solve pollution problems in these hotspot areas.)
- Increase enforcement actions on facilities located in hotspots with emission events, especially when there are state standards for specific pollutants. (Only about half of the emission events that occur across the state are actually enforced by TCEQ.)
The draft report, Protocol for Notification and Work Group Functions for Evaluating Potential and Active Air Pollutant Watch List (APWL) Areas, outlines the framework that TCEQ plans to follow.