Author Archives: Elena Craft, PhD

Part III: Flawed Logic at Texas Environmental Agency Results in Costly Lawsuits and Poor Public Health Policy

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rkimpeljr/209687857/in/photolist-jwGTT-sPNXn-b6WTeX-6Rcx6B-32dh5E-328Zf6-9LgCmw-b8zLCz-dCVDGi-aApWyE

There is robust agreement on the dangers of ozone pollution in the medical health community.

Part I of our series on ozone described how 2015 was a bad year for Houston ozone. Part II reviewed recent research from leading Houston scientists that explains why more ozone pollution is harmful to our health. Part III explains how faulty logic and erroneous assumptions had led to costly lawsuits and poor public health policy across the state. Part IV will identify some solutions to Houston’s ozone problem and suggest measures to protect the health of Houston area residents.

There has been quite a bit of activity related to the proposed U.S. ozone regulations in the past year. As part of a four part series on ozone in 2015, we’d like to take the time to rebuke some of the scientifically-flawed testimony provided by state environmental officials, including Dr. Michael Honeycutt, toxicologist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state environmental agency. We feel that the agency has presented health information in a way that is misleading and contradicts the robust opinion of the medical health community on the issue.

First, a little context is important. We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have participated in the public process involving the ozone standard and provided testimony to Congress on the health effects of ozone exposure. TCEQ has challenged the health-based standards in an aggressive way, and their efforts have been fodder for expensive and frivolous lawsuits filed by the state. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone, TCEQ, Uncategorized| Tagged , , | Read 2 Responses

Here’s An Excellent Tool in the Clean Air Toolbox – Is Your Port Using It?

Maryland Ports Authority was awarded almost $900,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency to replace 25 drayage trucks at the Port of Baltimore.

Funding to incentivize the replacement of older equipment and vehicles is one of the best tools that we have in the clean air toolbox for reducing dangerous diesel emissions from heavy-duty trucks and equipment. Whether through national programs like the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) or Texas’ own Texas Emission Reduction Plan, there are funding sources available to help ports and other goods movement facilities replace older, high-polluting engines with newer, cleaner ones.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been a strong advocate of these programs, and a committed partner to ports to assist in the development of clean air projects. For example, earlier this year EDF helped two projects at the Port of Houston secure nearly two million dollars of DERA funds to replace 39 trucks diesel trucks operating at the port. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Drayage, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston| Tagged , | Read 1 Response

EPA SmartWay Partners Receive National Recognition for Environmental Accomplishments

Image Source: Flickr/TruckPR

This year, 11 companies out of 3,220 partners received the 2015 SmartWay Excellence Award in the shipping and logistics categories.

In recognition of their accomplishments, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced recipients for the 2015 SmartWay Excellence Award, which “honors top shipping, logistics, and carrier company partners for superior environmental performance.” The accolades were well deserved, and the latest example of EPA’s commitment to recognizing companies that achieve win-wins, demonstrating that environmental stewardship and economic success go hand in hand.

EPA’s SmartWay program is a public-private partnership with a primary focus on encouraging more sustainable freight transport. With more than 3,220 SmartWay members nationwide, the program emphasizes measuring environmental performance criteria, such as fuel efficiency and use of cleaner technologies. Membership is voluntary, so businesses choose to make energy-efficient transportation decisions and are then eligible to receive national recognition for achieving high environmental performance. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, SmartWay| Read 1 Response

Air Toxics Lessons for Texas from a Friendly Rival

California has had success dealing with air toxics challenges similar to those facing Texas.

California has had success addressing air toxics challenges similar to those in Texas.

For all their differences, Texas and California have a few big environmental challenges in common: large populations that drive significant miles on roadways, major industry that drives economic sustainability, and the resulting air pollution. Specifically, high levels of air toxics are linked to ozone pollution, and thus associated with higher risks of cancer and respiratory problems.

Fortunately, California has a new study detailing successes the state has had in addressing these issues – and it contains valuable lessons for Texas. The “Ambient and Emission Trends of Toxic Air Contaminants in California” study, authored by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and published last month in Environmental Science and Technology, demonstrates how emissions and health risk have decreased due to landmark clean air standards on air toxics. Between 1990 and 2012, CARB monitored the seven most significant air toxics that are responsible for cancer risk in California and found that the state’s efforts resulted in a staggering 76 percent decline in the risk of cancer from exposure to air toxics. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Study Shows How Power Plant Rules Can Save Lives, Improve Public Health in Texas

A recent study suggests that a carbon emissions reduction policy for power plants could prevent thousands of premature deaths

A carbon emissions reduction policy for power plants could prevent thousands of premature deaths

When it comes to reducing carbon pollution from power plants, details in policy choices matter, especially for the state of Texas.

The final proposal of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which would put the first ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants in the U.S., is expected later this summer. It comes on the heels of the publication of an important study in Nature Climate Change, which examined three different power plant carbon policy options and then investigated how each would affect clean air and public health.

The study is titled Health Co-benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants, and was conducted by scientists Dr. Buonocore and Dr. Charles Driscoll as well as their colleagues from Harvard, Syracuse, and Boston Universities. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

TCEQ-Sponsored Workshop Undermines Public Health Benefits of Ozone Standard

ozone workshop smokestack 6.1.15Several weeks ago, I attended an ozone workshop sponsored by the toxicology division at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and facilitated by Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA). Ozone, a component of smog, is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects including asthma attacks, decreased lung function, and premature death.

EPA has proposed new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) within the range of 65-70 parts per billion (ppb), and, according to TCEQ, this workshop was "designed to provide an independent evaluation and synthesis of key considerations for approaching the difficult ozone NAAQS decision."

Given the importance of this pollutant to public health, it is unfortunate a state environmental agency – that has plenty of other higher priority issues – chose to spend taxpayer money on a workshop designed to mislead the public and present a one-sided perspective on the issue.

What were the problems with TCEQ’s workshop? Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, TCEQ, Uncategorized| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed
  • About the author

    Health scientist
    Dr. Craft’s expertise is on air toxics issues, focusing specifically on reducing criteria and greenhouse gas emissions from the energy and transportation sectors. She has worked to reduce emissions and toxics and has been an integral strategist in designing and initiating comprehensive clean air measures, as well as in developing standards to measure environmental performance.

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    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

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