Monthly Archives: November 2011

EPA Awards 1.8 Million To Help Clean Up Pollution In Houston

I am pleased to announce that the Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) and the Port of Houston Authority were selected to receive grants for $991,041 and $943,413, respectively, from the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) to aid in diesel emissions reductions. HGAC and the Port of Houston are two of the four organizations in EPA region 6 to receive grants; together, these organizations will receive $3.1 million to reduce emissions and clean up our air. The other awardees in region 6 are the Railroad Research Foundation and the Leonardo Academy.

Credit- Port of Houston Authority

HGAC will use the grant to repower three marine vessels operating in the Houston-Galveston and Corpus Christi areas. Additionally, seven engines on tug boats and harbor crafts will be repowered with new, cleaner engine technology. The Port of Houston Authority has partnered with CMA CGM to use the funds to offset the costs of burning cleaner fuel when the ships are close to shore.

EDF is proud to have played an important role in helping the Houston region obtain this funding, and we applaud the efforts of our regional partners in making the effort to improve our economy, our health, and our environment.  Each year, diesel engines emit 7.3 million tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 333,000 tons of soot. This pollution is linked to thousands of premature deaths, hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks and millions of lost work days. Efforts such as these help Houston be a better place to live.

You can see a full list of awardees here.

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ports | 2 Responses, comments now closed

TCEQ Continues Effort To Improve Air Quality At Lynchburg Ferry

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently proposed a change to the Lynchburg Ferry Air Pollutant Watch List (APWL) boundary for styrene. Styrene concentrations in this area have exceeded the TCEQ’s odor-based Air Monitoring Comparison Value of 25 parts per billion by volume every year since 2003. The concentrations of styrene observed at Lynchburg Ferry in Harris County have the potential to cause many negative odor-related health effects, including nausea and headaches, as well as contributes to the region’s reputation of having stinky air.

(Credit: www.ens-newswire.com)

To address this issue, the TCEQ has proposed a boundary reevaluation of the Lynchburg Ferry APWL area. The proposed change would reduce the size of the APWL area to help TCEQ better focus its resources on the sources and facilities emitting styrene that are contributing to the elevated levels observed at the Lynchburg Ferry monitor.

Elevated concentrations of styrene have not been the only pollution concern in the Lynchburg Ferry region. For close to a decade, the area had been on the watch list for elevated concentrations of benzene (the area was removed from the watch list in 2010).

We applaud TCEQ’s choice to zero in on the specific sources of emissions that are contributing to the problems in the Lynchburg Ferry area. The table below lists the facilities of interest to the TCEQ and which will be the focus of specific styrene reduction efforts. The tier I facility will be encouraged to reduce styrene emissions while Tier II facilities have been identified as actual or potential styrene emitters and may be encouraged to reduce emissions.

EDF encourages immediate action from these sources to reduce emissions in the Lynchburg Ferry area.  The area has been on the APWL since 2003, and the number of exceedances rose to 27 in 2010, up from 20 in 2009. We believe that focusing on a few specific facilities within a more well-defined area is a good step forward for the agency and will result in lowered styrene emissions and reduced impacts on the health for citizens who live in the Lynchburg community.

The TCEQ will accept comments on the Lynchburg Ferry APWL boundary through December 23, 2011. You can email comments to APWL@tceq.texas.gov or call (512) 239-1117 for any questions. You can also attend a TCEQ public meeting regarding this proposal on December 14, 2011, at 6:00 p.m. at the North Channel Branch Library, located at 15741 Wallisville Road, Houston, Texas 77049.

Facilities Emitting Styrene in the Lynchburg Ferry APWL Area

Classification

Regulated Entity

Tons of Styrene Emitted in 2009

Tier I Channel Shipyard 3.7935
Tier II Southwest Shipyard 0.0004
Tier II Vopak Terminal Deer Park 28.0687
Tier II Vopak Logistics Services USA Deer Park 0.4761
Tier II Kirby Inland Marine, LP 0.0842
Tier II K-SOLV No EI
Tier II Stolt Tank Cleaning Facility and Depot 0.1424
Tier II Stolt Barge Services No EI
Tier II Intercontinental Terminals Deer Park Terminal Styrene not reported
Tier II Slay Transportation No information available
Tier II Johann Haltermann No information available

No EI- means the source did not submit an emissions inventory

Posted in Air Pollution, TCEQ | Tagged | Comments closed

Once Again, Texas Cries Wolf Over the Issuing of Permits

Just last year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Bryan Shaw accused EPA's finding on the illegality of Texas’ flexible permitting process as an example of federal overreach that would kill jobs more than it helps the environment. However, in July 2011, the EPA reported that all ‘flexible permit’ companies in Texas agreed to apply for approved air permits and not one job was lost.  Now, we hear another similar tale. When the EPA attempted to enforce the Clean Air Act and regulate Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, Texas filed several lawsuits against the EPA and Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter where he called on Obama “to end job-killing regulations and rescind the EPA rules that Texas has challenged.”

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first Texas GHG permit for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant in Llano County, Texas. LCRA is modernizing and expanding its plant by replacing its 37 year old unit with a new more efficient and reliable natural gas powered unit.

Credit- www.horseshoe-bay-tx.gov

LCRA is the first company in Texas to complete the GHG permit process and obtained a final permit in about 8 months. Without the EPA stepping in, this process wouldn’t have happened and the facility wouldn’t be able to operate, given that Texas flat out refused to issue GHG permits. Therefore, by stepping in on permits related only to greenhouse gas emissions, EPA provided authority for certain large Texas emitters of greenhouse gases to obtain permits that are legally required by the Clean Air Act.  EPA had offered to allow Texas to administer the program, but Texas refused.   For a state that barks loudly about state’s rights, it is shocking that Texas is unwilling to issue these permits.

What was TCEQ’s response to the LCRA permit? Andy Saenz, a spokesman for TCEQ said, "we see no need for — or any environmental benefit from — EPA's greenhouse gas permit.” Not one word about job killing or it being impossible to get greenhouse gas permits.

It’s important to note that Texas, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and industrial pollution in the nation, is the only state that refused to work with EPA to ensure that large greenhouse gas emitters could get the permits the law requires.  

“We appreciated EPA’s work on our project,” said LCRA General Manager Becky Motal. “We believe that replacing our aging Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant with this new combined-cycle natural gas plant benefits everyone. The region will benefit from the latest environmental controls and our customers will benefit from our ability to better manage costs with a plant that will use about 35 to 40 percent less fuel than traditional gas-fired plants.”

The EPA is currently reviewing ten additional GHG permit applications for Texas companies.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Environmental Costs Of Our Inaction Have Arrived. Is This Really What We Want?

1.2 million acres have burned, tens of thousands were left homeless, hundreds dead due to freak tornadoes and the Southwest is running out of water while the Mississippi breaches its banks. What is to blame?

Why are weather forecasts (that were once at least somewhat accurate) now hopeless?  These questions may not have easy answers, but the issues surrounding them deserve our nation’s full attention.  One explanation is that climate change is affecting extreme weather events.

(Credit- www.publicradio.org)

Climate Communication, a non-profit science and outreach project made up of scientists across the globe, says:

All weather events are now influenced by climate change because all weather now develops in a different environment than before. While natural variability continues to play a key role in extreme weather, climate change has shifted the odds and changed the natural limits, making certain types of extreme weather more frequent and more intense. The kinds of extreme weather events that would be expected to occur more often in a warming world are indeed increasing.

 “Extreme events are a manifestation of climate change,” according to Thomas Karl, Director of the U.S. Climatic Data Center and lead author of a 2008 report by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, which showed that extreme weather events linked to climate change are happening right now in the United States. 

Karl added this in a March 2010 broadcast for EarthSky, “We may be fine for many years, and all of a sudden, one particular season, one particular year, the extremes are far worse than we’ve ever seen before.”

Over the last 50 years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reports that the number of natural disasters in the U.S. has more than QUADRUPLED. And, according to the insurance giant MunichRe, since 1980, the total economic losses attributed to natural disasters has more than TRIPLED.

(Credit- Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Here in the Lone Star state, researchers from Texas A&M University said, “The months-long Texas drought is sapping the record books bone dry and is racking up dire statistics that have never been reached since reliable record-keeping was started 116 years ago.” This is exactly the kind of abrupt change Karl predicted.

Joplin, Tuscaloosa, the Wallow Fire, the flooding Mississippi, droughts and wildfires across Texas: these events have caused us all pause in the past year.

Earlier this year, we asked our supporters to share stories of the extreme weather they have experienced in 2011; more than 2,200 individuals sent in stories that include a variety of extremes – from heat, to blizzards, to floods, to drought. These stories inspired our 2011 Extreme Weather Video and our Postcards from the Edge. We also created the “Yes, I’m Worried” petition to share with our leaders in Washington who are unwilling or unable to take the climate crisis seriously.

We saw what happened with DDT.  Many ignored the concerns for years, said there must be other explanations.  As they did, people got sick, bird populations dwindled and the problem grew larger.  Debate is good, questions are good, but actively ignoring sound science and the inescapable power of nature is irresponsible.

 We need your help.  Please sign up here to join the movement to support bold action to stop run-away global warming.

Posted in Climate Change, Drought, Extreme Weather | Comments closed
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