This coming Wednesday will be the 45th annual Earth Day, and its growth over the years has been nothing short of remarkable. It started as a 20 million person demonstration across America in 1970. And it is now the largest civic event in the world, with more than one billion participants in 192 countries.
In Texas, there will be a multitude of Earth Day events celebrating our green planet. Since Earth Day lands on a Wednesday, some events will happen before Earth Day and others will occur the following weekend. Here are a few events happening in central Texas:
Austin: The Capital of Texas is once again putting on its annual Austin Earth Day Festival, Saturday, April 18th from noon to 6pm at the Historic Browning Hanger. This event is free to the public and complete with drumming activities, an opportunity to hear major environmental figures speak, a Kid Zone, a chance to recycle your E-waste, and so much more. Austin Earth Day Festival is also a committed zero waste event.
There is another family friendly, Earth Day Fair in Austin at the Wildflower Church on Sunday afternoon, April 19. There will be tables by organizations like Save Our Springs, Faith Community Garden, Tecolote Farm, and more with information on a wide range of green topics. Activities for children and free food will be available. Read More
Source: flickr/Durant Weston
Spring time is once again punctuated by the start of the ozone season. March 1st began the ozone season for Houston and Dallas, while April 1st marks the season for San Antonio, Austin and Corpus Christi. The dangers of ozone remind us to take precaution during this time of year and call attention to the importance of clean air.
What is the harm?
Ozone is created when a combination of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) react to heat and sunlight. And the combination of rising Texas temperatures, sunlight, vehicles, industrial activity, and low winds create the ideal situation for unhealthy concentrations of ground-level ozone.
Ground-level ozone—better known as smog—contributes to a variety of adverse health outcomes, including respiratory issues, increased risk for asthmatic attacks, long term lung damage, cardiovascular effects, and premature mortalities. The most susceptible groups are young children and elderly adults. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) final 2014 health assessment, Health Risk and Exposure Assessment for Ozone, confirmed the causal relationship of ozone to harmful respiratory health. Read More
Smog over Dallas Skyline Source: WikiCommons/Turn685
This Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will hold hearings across the country on the proposed updates to our national smog (ground-level ozone) standards from their current level of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65 to 70 ppb. Exacerbated by the combustion of fossil-fuel power plants and car exhaust, ground-level ozone is the single most widespread air pollutant in the United States and is linked to severe respiratory health outcomes. For an industrious and populous state like Texas, ozone poses a great threat to public health. In Texas, the hearing will take place from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. local time at Arlington City Hall.
Does the proposal go far enough?
While EDF supports EPA’s proposal to strengthen these critical health protections, we believe that going even further, to 60 ppb, would provide the strongest protections for Americans and would be in line with what leading medical associations like the American Lung Association recommend. Read More
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a proposal to update our national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog, from the current 75 parts per billion level to 65 to 70 parts per billion. Smog is a dangerous air pollutant linked to asthma attacks and other serious heart and lung diseases. That’s why EPA is also seeking comments on establishing a health standard of 60 parts per billion, a level that would provide the strongest public health protections for Americans according to scientific record. But despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of the health benefits of a more protective ozone standard, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), publicly opposes it.
Sixty to 70 parts per billion is the health-based range recommended by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent panel of the nation’s leading scientists. The panel of scientists formed its recommendation based on an examination of bedrock scientific evidence and the requirement under the law to protect those most vulnerable.
In deconstructing TCEQ’s position on ozone, one can focus on a few key elements that stray from the mainstay of accepted public health principles:
Flaring in Eagle Ford Shale
The Texas Tribune recently published a piece debunking some of the science behind the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) position on the national health standard for ozone – one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet. As outlined in the agency’s latest newsletter, TCEQ’s Director of Toxicology, Mike Honeycutt, questions the benefits of a stronger standard, even though public health experts across the country have been calling for a more protective standard for years. What’s more disappointing than the agency’s apparent anti-health position, however, is the lack of attention to other legitimate air pollution issues in Texas.
It would seem that the agency must have a surplus of staff, as well as unlimited resources to establish such an aggressive position on a standard that hasn’t been proposed yet. The reality is that there are so many more important things that the agency could and should be doing to serve and protect Texas citizens from real air pollution threats, including: Read More
Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watch – Harris County Courthouse Annex 19 – Gulfton, Houston.
Earlier this year, close to 20 Texas counties received a grade of "F" from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution (up from 15 counties in 2013). Ozone is one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet and has been linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and other severe respiratory illnesses, as well as increased emergency room and hospital admissions. And it poses an especially serious risk to children, seniors and those with lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis.
If realized, a stronger public health standard for ozone would prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, avoid up to 21,000 hospitalizations and provide $100 billion in associated economic benefits.
Why then are Texas officials fighting tooth and nail against it?
U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, joined by fellow Texas Republican Reps. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, Pete Sessions of Dallas, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Kevin Brady of the Houston area, John Carter of Round Rock and Sam Johnson of Richardson, introduced a bill that would serve to obstruct health protections promised in the Clean Air Act. This bill would deny Texas cities, the state and the country from their right to strong public health protections. Read More
Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone Tagged Blake Farenthold, John Carter, Kevin Brady, Lamar Smith, Pete Olson, Pete Sessions, Randy Weber, Sam Johnson