Monthly Archives: July 2011

Cleaning Texas’ Air Does Not Mean Catastrophe

Governor Perry, TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw and others were quick to assert that EPA’s new Cross-State Air Pollution rule would result in a catastrophe for Texas.  They talked about power outages and lost jobs.  They overlooked the saved lives and billions of dollars in health savings that the rule would bring not only for Texas but the rest of the nation. 

A new report from Bernstein Research shows that Governor Perry and Chairman Shaw are acting less like a public officials and more like Chicken Little.  The report shows that coal operations could continue in Texas if plants would run the scrubbers they have already installed. 

Yes, despite what you have heard, massive investments in new technology are not required.  Coal-fired power plants in Texas could simply use the technology they already have.

According to the report, companies like NRG Energy and American Electric Power (AEP) could even stand to make money in Texas, selling off SO2 allowances. 

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule will save lives and billions of dollars.  Utilities have had plenty of time to prepare for this. It’s time to stop playing political games with people’s health and safety and move forward.

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ| Comments closed

EPA Administrator makes first visit Texas

Yesterday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson visited the lone star state for the first time as EPA administrator. The purpose of her visit was to highlight an electronics recycling stewardship program, a strategy promoting  “the responsible electronic design, purchasing, management and recycling that will promote the burgeoning electronics recycling market and jobs of the future here at home. The announcement today includes the first voluntary commitments made by Dell, Sprint and Sony to EPA’s industry partnership aimed at promoting environmentally sound management of used electronics.”

While in town, the Administrator and White House Council of Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley met with some local Texas environmental groups on current EPA activities. While the Administrator said that recent rhetoric inside the beltway in DC has been toxic, she is inspired by the millions of Americans who support EPA’s efforts in securing cleaner air and cleaner water for the nation.  The Administrator continues to do her job to bring better public health protections to millions of Americans in spite of the dogged attempts by others to delay and deny clean air and water protections.

We look forward to the day when Texas officials stop throwing money away on lawsuits attempting to stymie public health protections and concentrate on moving Texas forward.  We hope Administrator Jackson and the EPA continue these important clean air standards that will save lives and money for Texas and the nation. In the mean time, thank you Administrator Jackson for your continued perseverance in protecting us from harmful health effects of environmental pollutants!

Side Note: Administrator Jackson was recently named one of Time Magazine’s 2011 “Most Influential People in the World” for the second year in a ro

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency| Comments closed

Houston Chronicle to Rick Perry: "Stop Blowing Smoke"

This post was written by Colin Meehan, Clean Energy Analyst for EDF's Energy Program

Houston (and the Rest of Texas) Benefit From the EPA's Efforts

In an editorial today, the Houston Chronicle lauded the EPA for developing sensible rules that protect human health while keeping impacts to industry as minimal as possible. Specifically the Chronicle pointed out that EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) will save lives and improve Texans' health with benefits that far outweigh the impacts to industry in the state.  Pushing back against Governor Perry and TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw's unfounded claims of massive job losses, the Chronicle's editorial board had this to say about Perry's political posturing:

"We're well aware that Perry is contemplating a presidential run, and that "federal overreach" plays well to some Texas voters, but clean air doesn't stop or start at the state line. Texas emissions pollute the air of other states, including Louisiana, Illinois and Michigan, but our Texas air is in turn polluted by emissions from at least 12 other states."

TCEQ: Fighting the EPA While the EPA Works with Texas Businesses

These issues were raised at a conference earlier this week, where I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with Chairman Shaw as well as former TCEQ Chair and current Texas Public Policy Foundation Fellow (a conservative Texas think tank funded in part by fossil fuel interests) Kathleen Hartnett White.   Both Shaw and White have long been critics of what they see as 'federal government overreach,' although noticeably neither were vocal on this issue when in 2007 the Bush administration declared TCEQ's flexible permitting program was "in violation of the Clean Air Act."  (See Appendix 5-6 of the link). Still, Shaw continued to use the EPA's actions on flexible permitting as an example of federal overreach that in his opinion threatens jobs more than it helps the environment.  Read More »

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

State Campaign Drives Home the Point: Do Your Part

We Texans love our cars. Statewide, we drive more than 644,882,192 highway miles every day. That love affair comes at a price though in the form of poorer air quality.

To help clean up our air by inspiring changes in driving behavior, Texas Department of Transportation recently kicked off its annual “Drive Clean” campaign and plans to give away a 2012 Ford Fusion Hybrid, donated by the Dallas Cowboys Football Club.

While industry contributes significantly to our state’s air problems, personal vehicles are also a major source of pollutant emissions. These rising emissions can cause us to lose billions of dollars in federal funds and more importantly, add to the rising costs of treating lung disease, one of the fastest-growing causes of death in the United States.

All of us share some accountability for worsening air pollution. Currently, nine Texas areas do not meet clean air quality standards: Austin, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, Dallas-Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, North East Texas, San Antonio, and Victoria.

However, there are ways we can all chip in and do our part. Straight from the campaign website, here are five easy tips that collectively, can really make a difference in our Texas air quality:

1. Keep your vehicle in top shape. Proper and timely maintenance of your car or truck will conserve fuel and reduce emissions. Read More »

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

Goodbye Flexible Permits! We won’t miss you.

Today, the EPA announced that all 136 of the industrial facilities across the state that had flexible permits committed to bring them into compliance with federal law. While it seems only logical that air permits issued to facilities comply with the Clean Air Act, this has not been the case in Texas.  Since 1994, when the first flexible permit was issued, many facilities in Texas have been operating under permits that make it nearly impossible to track facility compliance.

 What was wrong with flexible permits?

As we’ve said many, many, many times before, here is a summary of a few of the problems with flexible permits:

 1.      Flexible permits eliminate pollution limits designed to protect public health.   Flexible permits eliminate federal, unit-specific, pollution limits that are intended to assure that public health is protected from industrial pollution.

 2.      The flexible permit pollution trading system is unenforceable and fails to protect public health. Flexible permits allow sources to lump hundreds of pieces of polluting equipment under a single pollution limit, or cap. Because most of the equipment is not monitored, it is almost impossible to determine whether or not companies are complying with their pollution caps.

 3.      Flexible permits prevent the public from their right to know.  The federal Clean Air Act protects neighbors’ right to know about, and voice their concerns with, pollution increases that may affect the safety of the air they breathe.  The flexible permit program allows industry to move emissions around, and increase pollution from some units, without notifying neighbors, or even state and federal regulators.

 4.      Flexible permit emission caps allow so much pollution that they aren’t limiting industry emissions.  The pollution caps in flexible permits are so high that they don’t serve as a real limit on pollution, and certainly don’t reflect the best that industry can do.   The same companies that operate in Texas operate in other states under permits that meet federal requirements and include significantly lower emission limits. 

  Read More »

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

New Funds Bring New Hope for Cleaner Houston Air

Photo by Dan Kamminga. Some tugboats slated to receive new engines are more than 30 years old.

We are pleased to hear the news about possible new funds coming to Houston to help improve air quality.

Under the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency recently recommended two Houston-based grant proposals for full funding:

  1. With a grant proposal titled “Clean Vessels for Texas Waters Part 1: Mostly Main Engines,” the Houston-Galveston Area Council asked for replacement of six main engines and one generator engine for local tug/tow boats.
  2. The Port of Houston proposal requested funds for fuel switching, which involves oceangoing vessels switching to cleaner, low sulfur fuels.

While the proposals have yet to be finalized, the EPA recommendations for full funding represent an important step toward an actual offer.

How Reducing Diesel Engine Emissions Helps
Public health is the number one reason we continually seek ways to reduce diesel engine emissions. According to the EPA, air pollution is linked to a number of health problems including: Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ports| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Despite Industry Protest Recent Court Ruling Will Bring Cleaner Air To Houston

Today, the DC Circuit Court rejected an industry argument to abolish clean air fees.

EDF played an integral role in this case as a declarant, helping to demonstrate that the misdirected guidance issued by EPA had resulted in a threat to public health.

Here’s a summary from the recent ruling:

 “TATEL, Circuit Judge: Yet again we face a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of ozone under the Clean Air Act. At issue this time is an EPA “guidance document” addressing obligations of regions still in nonattainment of a now-revoked ozone air quality standard. Petitioner argues that the Guidance amounts to a legislative rule issued in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice and comment requirement and that its substantive content is contrary to law. Firing nearly all the arrows in its jurisdictional quiver, EPA argues that petitioner lacks standing, that the Guidance does not qualify as final agency action, and that petitioner’s claims are unripe for judicial review. As we explain in this opinion, all three arrows miss their target. On the merits, we conclude that the Guidance qualifies as a legislative rule that EPA was required to issue through notice and comment rulemaking and that one of its features—the so-called attainment alternative—violates the Clean Air Act’s plain language. We therefore grant the petition for review and vacate the Guidance.” 

 Check out this post from Adrian Martinez of NRDC for more information.

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