For several years, many within the scientific community have discussed a streamlined approach to regulating the multitude of air pollutants poisoning our air. In 2004, the National Research Council suggested that we “Strive to take an integrated multipollutant approach to address the most significant exposures and risks” and “foster control strategies that accomplish comprehensive reductions in the most cost-effective manner for all priority pollutants.”
As a result of these recommendations, as well as the growing interest from regulators and the regulated community to manage air pollutants more effectively, the Environmental Protection Agency and Health Effects Institute co-hosted a three-day panel discussion this week in Chapel Hill, NC titled: EPA’s Multipollutant Science and Risk Analysis: Addressing Multiple Pollutants in the NAAQS Review Process.
Why was this meeting important?
This workshop marked the first official forum convened to address the scientific challenges associated with developing a multipollutant strategy to reduce criteria air pollutants. Read More
Last week, the Fort Worth City Council received an interim report on its Natural Gas Air Quality Study initiated last August. Unfortunately, this interim report was short on details about the most unique aspect of the project – the direct measurement of emissions at the point of release.
The interim report only presented high-level summaries of results of sampling at 66 sites out of 170 sites where emissions were detected in Phase I (no emissions were detected at another 31 sites). Stated differently, the interim report provided no information about nearly two-thirds of the sites with detectable emissions. Read More
Results of a bipartisan poll released just this week showed strong public support for clean air, with 69 percent of voters in support of updating Clean Air Act standards with stricter limits on air pollution. These results are significant given that during a public teleconference tomorrow, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to get an earful from industry, which has rounded up a powerful posse to dissuade the agency from establishing stronger, health-based standards on ozone.
All of the usual suspects are scheduled for comment: American Petroleum Institute, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, BP America Production Company, ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences, Inc., National Association of Manufacturers, and even our own state environmental agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Reading through the comments already submitted, it is clear that these groups are NOT supportive of more health-protective standards. Yet, a timely poll shows majority voter support for strong standards. Not only that, the science supports stronger standards as well. Then there are the legal mandates protecting human health, Read More
Much has been written about the hazards of mercury, but with the release of a new report from Environment America, the Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming proposed air toxics standards on mercury, and all of the recent talk about Texas power plants, we felt that the issue warranted more attention.
How Are We Exposed to Mercury?
Nearly all exposure comes from eating fish or shellfish. These days, most of us know that we should limit the consumption of certain species of fish – especially pregnant women and nursing mothers. But how does the mercury get there in the first place?
After being released into the atmosphere, mostly by coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources, mercury eventually falls back to the earth depositing into soil or bodies of water. There it’s converted to methylmercury, which is even more toxic. Read More
Last week we lamented about the TCEQ’s capitulation to industry pressure on proposed rules dealing with emissions from oil and gas facilities.
State Representative Lon Burnam provided us with a sampling of documents showing the influence exerted by industry during the tail end of the process. These are just a smattering of the roughly five reams of paper his office received in response to a public information request.
In hopes that it might serve as a resource to others, we are also posting several other documents pertaining to the rulemaking:
This week Texas experienced rolling blackouts after extremely frigid temperatures blanketed the state, catching power generators off guard. While the details of the blackouts have not been disclosed fully, and there is discussion that some companies may have profited greatly from the event, at the very least, the outages angered some and created a hardship for others. There’s also another negative impact to consider: higher emissions from industrial facilities.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a statement reminding citizens that power generating facilities have “authorized maximum emission limits” during these high demand periods. The agency states that it will “exercise enforcement discretion for exceedances of these limits.”
Enforcement discretion can be loosely interpreted to mean that power generating facilities get a “free pass” during these times. It also means facilities that go down during these blackouts are not likely to be held accountable for any emissions that occur as a result of the outages.
This post is in no way intended to minimize the need for increased power during below-freezing weather, and is not meant to suggest that facilities should be held liable for emission events that they can’t control, but it is one more reason for all of us to be conscious of our energy consumption, and one more thing to be aware of as we continue our efforts to improve air quality in Texas.
In Abbott’s recent letter to President Obama, Harry Reid, and John Boehner, he calls on Obama “to end job-killing regulations and rescind the EPA rules that Texas has challenged.” He opens with a history of the GHG issue that starts in December of 2009, and goes on to talk about the “flawed regulations issued by EPA based on its misguided claim of authority,” neglecting to mention a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 and more work done by the EPA during previous administrations.
Notwithstanding Abbott’s lack of historical context on GHG regulation, let’s review the arguments that Texas has stated for challenging these regulations, as well as why those arguments fail to make sense:
Argument: The Clean Air Act, passed by and amended by two Republican presidents to protect the health and safety of Americans, should not be used to address emissions that cause global warming.
Why the argument fails: The Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court decision (that is almost four years old, and authored by conservative jurist Anthony Kennedy,) requires the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, unless the federal agency determines that global warming poses no threat to the public welfare. Read More
It just seems anti-Texan. You wouldn’t expect a state that prides itself on individual rights and fiscal responsibility to collect taxes from citizens for air quality programs that it doesn’t fully fund. But that’s exactly what has been happening year after year in Texas, while some areas of the state suffer from worsening air quality (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency just downgraded Dallas and Fort Worth air quality from moderate to serious).
In a recent post, “Budget Reductions Could Stymie Efforts for Cleaner Air,” former TCEQ Commissioner Larry Soward writes about the possibility of funds being dramatically cut from the state’s diesel emission reduction program, known as TERP (Texas Emissions Reduction Plan). He worries that the Texas legislature will use clean air funding to cover losses from other programs.
Given that Texas continues to have significant air quality challenges across the state, and that TERP was created as part of a legal, binding agreement with the EPA, it is hard to understand why the state would take actions that increase our legal liability, threaten human health, and send us backward in our efforts toward improving air quality.