What was even more disappointing than the press release from the White House last week on the national ambient air quality standard for ozone was the statement issued from TCEQ on the matter. The statement was riddled with false assertions and incorrect information and appeared to be another example of the agency’s politically motivated campaign against the EPA. While others have blogged on the madness of this recent policy decision, I felt compelled to call out our own state environmental agency, the TCEQ, on the egregious manner in which they attempt to trample science. A few of the falsehoods are debunked here:
TCEQ Myth #1
TCEQ claims that there is no compelling scientific reason to revise the ozone standard.
The truth is that independent scientists convened on the Ozone Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) have said for years that the current ozone standard fails to protect human health, and have unanimously recommended that the standard be set within the range of 0.060–0.070 ppm. Letters from CASAC on March 26, 2007, April 7, 2008 and March 30, 2011 unambiguously call for a standard within the range of 0.060–0.070 ppm.
In addition, in a letter to the President, 14 major health groups pleaded for a standard that was protective of human health and cautioned of the harms resulting from the interposing delays in issuance of the ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS).
Even EPA Administrator has stated publicly that the current standard is “scientifically indefensible.”
TCEQ Myth #2
TCEQ claims that current science does not justify further tightening of the ozone standards to protect public health.
Actually, the current science reaffirms older literature that finds that the current ozone standard is inadequate in protecting human health. Papers released since the last ozone review continue to demonstrate health effects at ozone concentrations below the current standard. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology reported a 19 percent increase in ICU admissions on higher ozone days and a 2011 study published in Environmental Research Letters found that emergency hospitalizations for total respiratory disease increased per 10ppb 24-hr ozone exposure among the elderly.
TCEQ Myth #3
TCEQ claims that other EPA rules will lead to Armageddon in the state with rolling blackout and job losses.
TCEQ has shown no proof for their claim of blackouts and job losses. The only 'study' that even attempts to tie the rule with rolling blackouts was a rushed report from ERCOT, which is run by some of the very members of industry that are opposing this rule. At the outset, the study acknowledges both that Texas energy companies have known since 2005 that Texas was highly likely to be required to comply with this "good neighbor" rule. The study provides almost no detail on what might actually happen and instead bases a rolling blackout scenario on a complicated series of 'what if's, that, if they were all to happen in a specific order, may "increase reliability impacts" which may include the aforementioned rolling outages. As such we feel that this study serves as further evidence that, according to the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission "The presence of electric market stakeholders impairs the impartiality of the ERCOT Board."
The science of ozone and the effects on public health are not disputed by credible scientists. Fear-mongering on blackouts should not replace real data. We need the TCEQ to leave the science-free zone and support public health protections – not only is it their mission, but indeed their responsibility.