Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Polluter Puppet Show In Houston

The Texas EPA Task Force will be visiting Houston tomorrow to examine the environmental protections being employed and to “[talk] to industry representatives about the affect of over bearing EPA regulations on jobs in the Houston area.”

While Rep. Barton and his colleagues might be quick to apologize for what they feel is government overreach, EPA regulations haven’t stopped ExxonMobil ($10.6 billion) or Shell ($6.29 billion) from making enormous profits in the first quarter of this year.

We have a few suggested stops and notable facts for the “Task Force” to consider while touring the Houston-area:

And when they’re done touring the ship channel, they should visit Texas City, where when the power goes out, the residents stay inside to avoid the tons of pollution flared from the local refineries and chemical plants.

In an instance this week, during a power outage, Valero alone pumped a reported 43,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide into Texas City air.  The outages were caused by soot buildup due to a lack of rainfall.  The emissions were so high in Texas City, residents were told to take “shelter in place,” meaning stay where they were.  The emissions from the plants exceeded the air monitors ability to measure their levels.

If this “Task Force’s” only answer to extreme weather, deplorable air quality and health conditions for Texans and a total absence of meaningful state regulation is to attack the Clean Air Act and pray for rain, then Texas is in trouble.

When our citizens must take shelter from literal pollution attacks, our farmers struggle to find water to irrigate their crops and our children struggle to breath, we must help ourselves.  Now is not the time to play the role of puppet to polluters.  We need real leadership, we need real solutions.

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, Particulate Matter, Ports, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Comments closed

While Texas Fares Better in Air Report, More Work Still Ahead

State of the Air ReportTexas air quality improved slightly last year, but more than half of the nation still suffers pollution levels that are often dangerous to breathe, according to the Annual State of the Air Report released today from the American Lung Association. The report reviewed levels of ozone and particle pollution found in monitoring sites across the United States in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

Key National Findings:

  • More than 154 million people (over half the nation) suffer from pollution levels that exceed health-based federal standards.
  • Each of the 25 cities with the most ozone pollution improved their air quality over the past year’s report, however people living there still breathe air that reaches dangerous levels.
  • Particle pollution declined due to coal-fired power plant emission reductions and a transition to cleaner diesel fuels and engines.

Texas Findings:

  • Houston moved down from 7th to 8th place among the most ozone-polluted cities in the country, while Dallas-Fort Worth moved up from 13th to 12th place. (Note: There appears to be a correlation between rising ozone levels in DFW and increased levels of natural gas drilling. A Fort Worth report looking at gas drilling environmental impacts is due for release in June.)
  • 14 of the 38 Texas counties studied in the report received an F for having too many high ozone days (compared to 21 Texas counties receiving an F last year).
  • Harris County, with more than four million people, topped the Texas county list with 66 orange ozone days (unhealthy for sensitive populations), and 10 red ozone days (unhealthy for the general population). Tarrant County, with 1.7 million people, came in second with 59 orange ozone days, 4 red ozone days and one purple ozone day (very unhealthy for the general population). Read More »

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

EDF Battens Down Hatches

Texas Tribune Photo Illustration By: Todd Wiseman / Bob Daemmrich / Vince Petaccio

In Response To Governor Perry’s Proclamation, EDF Texas Office Closes Early To Allow Staff To Go Buy Umbrellas

West Texas wildfires have been raging for weeks, a result of a dangerous combination of the worst drought since 1917 and higher than normal temperatures that has devastated homes, communities and is even now threatening the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex.  This tragic environmental disaster is exactly the kind of circumstances leading scientists have predicted as a result of climate change.  Instead of preparing for, or even better, trying to prevent these kinds of events, Rick Perry has been busy trying to score political points by filing frivolous lawsuits – insisting that the EPA leave Texas alone to take care of its own environmental issues, be it climate change, air quality or safe drinking water. 

Lawsuits don't stop climate change though, and they certainly aren't stopping these wildfires.  So Rick Perry has been forced to ask the same Obama Administration (the one that he's suing several times over to let us deal with our own problems) for help in dealing with this disaster.  We obviously support his appeal for help from the Federal Government in dealing with environmental issues; Texans are losing their homes, livelihoods and – in some cases – their lives.  We only hope that this change of heart also means that Governor Perry will stop wasting his time in the courtroom and start taking real action to help keep environmental disasters from getting worse in Texas. 

The first such action from his office is telling: Today Governor Perry issued the following proclamation: "Gov. Rick Perry has proclaimed the three-day period from Friday, April 22, to Sunday, April 24, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas, following extreme drought conditions that have sparked dangerous wildfires across the state, which have taken lives, engulfed more than 1.8 million acres and destroyed nearly 400 homes.

It is comforting to know that Governor Perry has a plan in place, though, and we hope this will help Texas deal with a multitude of serious issues.  He might want to think of hiring Bill Starbuck from "The Rainmaker" too.  Whatever the research may show on any number of issues, whether it's using questionable methods to prevent teenage pregnancy rates far above the national average or praying for rain to save us from the effects of global warming, it's clear that Governor Perry has a plan.  For my part, I'll be closing our Texas offices early today so that we can all go out and buy umbrellas.

Posted in Environment| 1 Response, comments now closed

Houston Truck Fair Highlights Win for Truckers, Clean Air

This guest post was written by EDF Houston Clean Air Associate Alesha Herrera.

At last Saturday’s Port of Houston Drayage Truck Fair, drivers learned about new vehicle funding opportunities while I learned that they really do appreciate the win-win aspects of getting newer trucks making them more marketable to employers, while also helping the environment.

Representatives from the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the Port of Houston offered information and answered questions about regional and statewide Clean Truck Programs aimed at giving Port of Houston truck drivers grants and low-interest loans to help in the purchase of newer, cleaner vehicles. These programs are among many efforts by EDF, HGAC and the Port Authority to tackle one of the largest sources of air pollution in the port area: short-haul trucks.

The Drayage Truck Fair featured new trucks on display, truck dealers offering special discounts, meet-and-greets with program representatives, and family fun with background music from a local radio station and food being cooked up around the field. Thanks to media and blog interest from The Journal of Commerce, The Baytown Sun, Overdrive.online, and RoadProServices.com, more than 150 truckers and their families attended the event. Read More »

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

Texas House Votes To Suffocate You and Your Family

I heard someone recommend selling the Texas Legislature as a way to fill the budget gap, but it is clear after yesterday that most of our Legislators are already owned by big polluters (decorum requires that I leave it at “owned”).

Although the process was already stacked in favor of polluters, the Texas House voted to strip away the last remaining fig leaf of protection for Texans fighting to keep their air and water clean.  Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) authored an amendment to the TCEQ sunset bill (HB 2694) that would shift the burden of proof to the individual challenging the issuance of a permit for polluting facilities like coal-fired power plants. 

This means that should a company want to build a coal or chemical plant near your home and you and your neighbors become concerned about a plant pumping harmful, cancer-causing chemicals into the air, you will be required to prove the extent of the problem rather than the permit applicant being required to prove the permit meets state and federal health and safety law as is required for every other permit.    Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Natural Gas: Finding Solutions

While the natural gas industry engages in a rocky public perception war, EDF continues to invite industry collaboration on development of more transparent, environmentally responsible drilling methods necessary to rebuild public trust.

In that regard, I appeared on MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show this month to help emphasize the message that environmentalists and industry are not opposing forces on shale gas development.

My main points included:

  • From our perspective, there are risks associated with any natural energy resource. However, at Environmental Defense Fund we are realists and we realize that natural gas is part of a diverse energy portfolio. What we are concerned about is that regulations are not in place to effectively protect the public.
  • There are certain criteria that need to be addressed, namely: well construction and design, air emissions associated with oil and gas drilling, and what to do with the produced water once it is extracted.
  • We (EDF) have been working on those issues. The problem is that we need more industry support. We need industry to recognize that the public has legitimate, valid concerns and that if we work together, we can help solve some of these problems. For instance, air emissions can be reduced by capturing vapors from the storage tanks that have been a problem in the Barnett Shale area.

More evidence of our position and collaborative nature can be found in a recent National Geographic article, which highlights a joint industry-environmentalist model approach toward solving issues associated with shale gas drilling. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, GHGs, Natural gas| Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments closed
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