Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013 Texas Air Quality: Year In Review

Elena CraftAs we come to the end of another year, we look back on the progress that has been made to improve Texas’ air quality. Our work is especially important in Texas. Ozone pollution in the state’s largest cities routinely spikes above healthy levels, and Texas leads the nation in annual carbon emissions.

Throughout 2013, my fellow bloggers and I tracked the critical progress made towards cleaner air in Texas. Texas experienced a handful of victories and a handful of losses. To summarize the year, I’ll discuss a few of the areas where we made progress, and a few of the areas where there is still more work to do.

Progress Toward Smart Power and Clean Air

Over the past year, Texas wind power continued its promising positive trend, thanks in part to the state’s forward-looking decision to build new high-capacity electricity transmission lines linking the windy plains of West Texas with the state’s cities. The Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project was approved by the state in 2008, and the new power lines are set to come online in a few weeks. The new power lines can carry 18,500 megawatts of electricity—enough to power millions of homes. The CREZ lines will help ensure Texas wind energy continues to expand, offsetting electricity produced from fossil-fuel power plants and reducing pollution. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Climate Change, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone, Renewable Energy, Wind | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Texas is a Leader in Clean Energy Jobs. Let’s Keep It that Way.

Source: UCSUSA

Source: UCSUSA

Over the past several years, a combination of market forces and targeted policies has brought about enormous growth in clean energy technologies around the United States. A clean energy economy has developed around these new technologies, creating tens of thousands of homegrown jobs each year. Despite the industry’s initial surge, recent economic uncertainty has led to a plateau in clean energy job growth in most, but not all, regions in the U.S.

According to a report released by Environmental Entrepreneurs, the U.S. created 10,800 clean jobs in the third quarter of 2013, down from 37,000 in the previous quarter.

Notably, Texas doesn’t follow the national trend. Texas clean energy companies created over 660 jobs in the fall quarter of 2013 alone, up from less than 500 jobs in the previous quarter, cementing Texas in the list of top 10 states for clean energy jobs. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Green Jobs, Renewable Energy, Texas Energy Crunch | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Texas Southern University Looks at Resiliency and Sustainability during Climate Justice Roundtable

Source OnEarth MagazineThe Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University is hosting a Climate Justice Roundtable this Friday December 13, 2013. The event is a follow-up to the Invisible Houston Revisited Policy Summit hosted by TSU last month, where I was lucky enough to attend and present. It also marks the kick off for the Houston Environmental Justice Climate Action Network (HEJCAN), a multi-ethnic network- the staff from the Mickey Leland Center for Environment Justice and Sustainability is helping organize.

The theme of the roundtable focuses on the efforts Houston is making to become a more resilient, sustainable and environmentally just city in the face of extreme weather and other climate change impacts.  The roundtable will also highlight the climate gap, inequity, social vulnerability, and environmental challenges that burden low-income and people of color communities and place them at special risk.  The event is free and open to the public.

If you are in Houston or the surrounding area, you should not miss this opportunity. The prestigious group of panelists will focus on identifying climate change and environmental justice challenges in the city, policies needed to eliminate the climate gap and vulnerable communities and the state of environmental justice programs in Houston. Read More »

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

Google, Microsoft and BBVA Compass Commit to Texas Wind Because It Makes Good Business Sense

Source: Earth Techling

Source: Earth Techling

As we highlighted a few weeks back, Texas is on a new path to accelerating its clean, renewable energy economy.  The opening of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) now enables more West and Panhandle wind turbines to fuel the state’s major metropolises, and the completion of the project couldn’t come soon enough.

A number of companies are looking to grow and invest in Texas, thanks to its plentiful, clean wind power.  Google, Microsoft and BBVA Compass are leading the charge and signing long-term agreements to purchase Texas wind energy.  These contracts lock in considerable revenue for the state and guarantee Texas’ ranking as the number one wind-producing state in the nation.  In fact, West Texas wind has outpaced the growth of coal, natural gas and all other fuel sources that supply the grid, according to a recent report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In September, Google added to its growing stock of renewable energy by purchasing the entire output of a 240-megawatt wind farm (enough energy to power 84,000 homes) outside Amarillo to power its Oklahoma data center.  Late in November, Microsoft signed a 20-year contract to purchase all of the energy from a 110-megawatt wind farm outside Fort Worth to power its San Antonio data center.  And BBVA Compass recently signed a 10-year agreement with Choice! Energy Services, a Houston-based retail energy broker, to power its Texas branches exclusively with wind and solar energy. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, San Antonio, Wind | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Why Doesn’t Texas Want Clean Air?

Source: EPA

Source: EPA

Para un breve resumen de la crítica de Texas contra CSAPR en español, haga clic aquí.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments over two critically important clean air protections – the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Standards for Mercury and Air Toxics. Texas has fought tooth and nail against both of these major pollution protections – protections that together have been estimated to prevent up to 45,000 deaths, 19,700 heart attacks and 530,000 asthma attacks.

Why are These Rules Important to Texas?

Air pollution from Texas' coal plants is, like many things in Texas, giant sized. Texas power plants collectively are the nation’s largest emitter of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and the second largest emitter of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Both pollutants are components of smog and are harmful to human health.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR), which applies to the eastern U.S, is of particular interest to Texas, not only because it helps control emissions within the state, but also because it helps protect the state from air pollution blowing in from neighboring states. CSAPR provides for upwind states to be good neighbors and protect downwind communities from harmful particulate matter and smog-forming pollution discharged from power plant smokestacks. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, En Español, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, MATS, Ozone, TCEQ | Tagged , , | Comments closed

The Irony of Texas Taking Over GHG Permitting Authority

This blog post was co-written by Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.

Source: National Geographic

Source: National Geographic

Last week, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) held its only public hearing regarding the agency’s proposed plan to take over greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting authority from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Neither the TCEQ commissioners nor the executive director attended the hearing.

TCEQ’s move to issue GHG permits is quite a departure from the extensive actions the Texas government has taken NOT to regulate greenhouse gases in the state. In fact, in a letter dated August 2, 2010 to then EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw used aggressive and robust language, declaring that:

“On behalf of the State of Texas, we write to inform you that Texas has neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring, or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions.” Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting | Tagged , | Comments closed

“Think Local, Act Global” is a Win-Win for Texas

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí

Source: AmCham Colombia

Source: AmCham Colombia

Texas is a big player in international trade and leads the country in exports, sending over $260 billion worth of goods to overseas markets in 2012. While robust trade can bring many positives, it can also present challenges for local air pollution. As we have highlighted before, poor air quality is a growing concern as scientists learn more about the connection between air pollution and diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis and cancer.

What does that mean for a state trying to reduce the impact of freight transportation on urban air quality? As international trade growth continues to strengthen the Texas economy, EDF recognizes that diverse partnerships are pivotal to reducing air pollution here at home.

This week, we are pleased to share the latest of our outreach efforts targeting international freight shippers: our article was published in the AmCham-Colombia Spanish-language magazine Business Mail, in a special issue dedicated to corporate social responsibility. This trade publication reaches hundreds of leading companies engaged in international trade and will enable us to introduce EDF’s principles of green freight transportation to a new audience.

The Business Mail article considers the journey of Colombian coffee as it travels from the highlands of Colombia to stores in North America, transferring to various modes of transportation along the way. For each step of the journey, we highlight an approach that can improve efficiency and sustainability such as sharing container space or choosing fuel-efficient cargo ships. The bottom line of the story is that decisions about trucks, ships and trains made globally can directly impact the quality of air that we breathe in Texas.  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, En Español, Ports, Transportation | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Debate Over a Changing Texas Energy Market Heats Up at Senate Natural Resources Committee Hearing

Marita Mirzatuny

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Over the past two years, Texas’s changing energy landscape has been a focus of EDF’s work.  In our Texas’ Energy Crunch report from March 2013, we highlighted that Texas has a peak capacity constraint – meaning that the power grid becomes strained when, for example, everyone is using their air conditioning units on hot summer afternoons.  This challenge, coupled with increased climate change and drought, signal the need to prepare by adopting a smarter grid and cleaner resources.

The Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) have been engaged in this conversation and various proposals have been laid on the table to determine what Texas’ energy future will look like.  EDF maintains the position that, whatever reforms are made, customer-facing, demand-side resources – defined here as demand response (DR), renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy storage – must play a key role to ensuring reliability, affordability, customer choice and environmental improvements.

Energy-Only Status Quo or Capacity Market or…?

Texas’ current energy-only market structure pays power plants only for the energy they produce.  This is beneficial in that generators are not overcompensated, but the downside is that energy companies aren’t incentivized to build in Texas and energy management providers (DR companies) are not viewed as equal players.  Energy prices are low due to an upsurge in cheap, abundant natural gas and wind – and without a guarantee for a high return on investment, companies will not take the risk of constructing costly new power plants. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, ERCOT, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Texas Energy Crunch | Tagged , , | Comments closed
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