Monthly Archives: August 2011

Texas State Environmental Agency Expands Air Toxic Hotspot Area

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently issued a public comment period and public meeting regarding the Galena Park Air Pollutant Watch List (APWL) area for benzene. The purpose of the APWL is to reduce air toxic emissions in areas of Texas where ambient air monitoring indicates a potential health concern.

Galena Park is listed on the APWL due to elevated annual average concentrations of benzene.  Benzene is a known human carcinogen – both the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have found sufficient evidence that high benzene exposure causes acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Why the change?

Between 1998 and 2007, annual average benzene concentrations in Galena Park exceeded the long-term, health-based Air Monitoring Comparison Values (AMCV) of 1.4 parts per billion by volume (ppbv). In 2009, annual average benzene concentration at the Pasadena North monitoring site equaled the long-term AMCV of 1.4 ppbv.

TCEQ recently conducted a reevaluation of Galena Park and identified significant man-made benzene sources located outside of the current APWL boundary that are likely contributing to annual average benzene concentrations at the Galena Park and Pasadena North monitoring sites. As such, TCEQ is proposing to expand the Galena Park APWL boundary to include these sources of benzene. Read More »

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Environmental Groups Re-assert Legal Efforts to Protect Clean Air

Following a series of delays in release of the ozone standard, several environmental groups have filed a motion with the DC Circuit Court to compel action from EPA. On August 8, 2011 the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation, and Appalachian Mountain Club filed the motion, requesting that the court establish a deadline for EPA to complete its reconsideration of the 2008 ozone standards. The motion claims that EPA’s national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone do not comply with the Clean Air Act’s mandate that standards be strong enough to protect public health. Furthermore, the motion asserts that the Agency’s excessive and inexcusable delay in reconsidering such standards frustrates the Court’s prior orders.

Why did the groups take this action?

EPA’s national ambient air quality standards for ozone do not comply with the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act mandates that NAAQS standards be strong enough to protect public health with a substantial margin of safety to protect against adverse affects on public welfare.  The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the organization charged by the Act with advising EPA in setting NAAQS, has repeatedly stated that the ozone standard must be stronger than the .075 parts per million level adopted in 2008. The CASAC unanimously recommended that the standard be strengthened within the range of 0.06 to 0.07 ppm. EPA received this recommendation multiple times but has not moved to enact it.  By disregarding CASAC’s council, EPA fails to ensure that NAAQS standards are protective enough to safeguard public health, thus, not complying with the Clean Air Act. Read More »

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Flipping The Switch: Becoming Environmentally Conscious

This post was written by Kaethe Selkirk.   Kaethe recently graduated from the University of Redlands in Southern California and has been interning with EDF's Climate and Air program over the summer.  She currently lives in Austin, Texas.

It started with the bathroom light. I would leave it on in the morning and my college roommate, Katie Decker, would flip it off on her way to class. Shortly after I would receive a text message, “You left the bathroom light on again. Stop wasting electricity.”

This continued for several weeks. One afternoon I came home and a message was printed in bright green block letters on the bathroom mirror: “Hit the switch or I’ll punch your lights”. A light bulb with a half dome smile and cartoon like eyes was pictured next to it.

When Katie returned that evening we opened a bottle of red wine. After sharing the bottle between all four roommates we congregated in the bathroom to evaluate the apartment’s newest artwork.  In addition to the absolutely genius word play, we were impressed with light bulb’s life-like features. As the critique ended I reached for the light switch. Katie smiled and turned towards me, “Good work Kaethe. Now, where do empty wine bottles go?”

Something clicked. After this experience I began to understand that my actions had a direct impact on the environment. Like a rock-paper-scissors game, once favored choices needed to change. Biking beats driving, paper over plastic, dish rag trumps paper towel.

I clipped a newspaper article out of my university’s publication in November of my senior year. It was written by a boy named Sam. We shared a government class but rarely spoke. Sam’s article discussed his personal evolution at the University of Redlands.  How his passion for drama transformed into a love for foreign affairs. He spoke about his frustrations and pleasures, his past and future.  I kept this article because I identified with his story and wanted to remember the choices that I saw him make. I would often see Sam pulling plastic bottles and aluminum cans out of the garbage and moving them to the recycling bins. He never drew attention to himself, acted in search of glory, or compromised his values. I still admire Sam very much for this. And when I don’t feel like sorting my recycling in downtown Austin, I think of him.

I don’t believe that being environmentally conscious is hardwired into our society. It’s a learned skill that is best taught by those around you. Both Katie and Sam have demonstrated the value of environmental consciousness to me. Now it’s my turn to teach. Working at EDF is one small step toward that goal.

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Responding To Texas’ Environmental Reality

Source: Texas Tribune

This weekend Governor Perry lead a rally in Houston, Texas called “The Response.”  As he spoke in Houston about praying for guidance, and for our nation and its leaders, I thought about what I hope for Texas and for Governor Perry.

  •  I hope that after he leaves Houston he helps to enact policies that help it rise from its rating as one of the nation’s most toxic cities.  

Most of all, I pray that Governor Perry will realize that regulating air pollution isn’t about “States’ Rights,” it’s about preventing terrifying trips to the emergency room with a child who is having an asthma attack, wondering whether you will get there fast enough to save them. Our health, our children’s health and the health of our planet are under constant attack.  As we look for guidance from above, maybe we should be more vigilant in protecting what we have been given.

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Mistrust Of White Stallion Continues

This week, the Lower Colorado River Authority refused to discuss a water contract for White Stallion, a coal-fired power plant being proposed in Matagorda County, Texas. If you’ve been following our updates on White Stallion, it may come as no surprise that those behind the plans for the coal plant continue down a path of mistrust.

On Wednesday, August 3, 2011, LCRA issued a statement that a board meeting to discuss the White Stallion proposed water contract had been postponed indefinitely. The postponement comes after White Stallion requested changes to the original proposed contract; some changes were unprecedented for an LCRA water contract.

Among the changes to the original contract was a reduction in the amount of water reservation fees White Stallion would initially pay. These fees would fund future LCRA water supply projects which would offset the impact of the White Stallion water contract. In the midst of a record Texas drought – proposing to pay less to fund water supply projects, while imposing pollution, seems like an unfair deal for the LCRA and State of Texas.

The proposed water contract changes are the latest in a string of broken promises, providing more evidence that White Stallion continues to be deceitful about their intentions.

In June, I wrote about our court win against White Stallion, regarding two conflicting site plans for air permit applications with US Army Corps of Engineers and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

We’ll update you as more information surfaces.

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Follow the Science: It Will Lead You to a More Protective Ozone Standard

Yesterday, 14 major health groups issued a letter to the President regarding the interposing delays in issuance of the ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS). For over a year, the administration has held up announcement of the standard, even though EPA Administrator has stated that the previous standard was “scientifically indefensible.”

The letter from the health groups highlights the implications that the continued delay has on public health:

“This marks the fourth delay of this lifesaving health standard. This work was originally

scheduled for completion nearly one year ago in August 2010. Each day of delay postpones the

start of the implementation of these standards and the lifesaving pollution cleanup. We urge you

to finalize the most protective standard, and do so immediately.

The ozone health standard must protect those who are most vulnerable from the dangerous health impacts of ozone, including infants, children, older adults, and those with chronic diseases. To safeguard the health of the American people, help to save lives, and reduce health care spending, we support the most protective standard under consideration: 60 parts per billion (ppb) averaged over eight hours.” Read More »

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