Author Archives: Elena Craft, PhD

Understanding the Ozone Standard and Principles of Public Health

Source: flickr/tofuttibreak

Source: flickr/tofuttibreak

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:

Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone, TCEQ| Comments closed

Money to Burn? EDF Questions Public Health Priorities at TCEQ

Source: flickr.com/photos/earthworks

Flaring in Eagle Ford Shale
Source: flickr.com/photos/earthworks

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 »

Posted in Air Pollution, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environment, Flare emissions, Natural gas, Ozone, TCEQ| Comments closed

Bill Would Obstruct Clean Air Act Protections

Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watch - Harris County Courthouse Annex 19 - Gulfton, Houston.

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 , , , , , , , | Comments closed

EDF Highlights Clean Ports Progress – Starting with Houston

This week, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) hosted the Energy and Environment Seminar in Chicago, an important event for environmental advocacy efforts with ports across the country. And Houston will take center stage in the ports world this November when the city hosts the AAPA annual meeting in conjunction with the Houston Ship Channel’s 100th anniversary.

EDF participated in this important seminar and discussed how ports can engage effectively with environmental groups to address environmental concerns. Our presentation focused on the “value add” that environmental organizations can provide to ports, specifically in three key areas:

  • research
  • grants & technology advancement
  • policy development

Some of the panels at this seminar included: Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Houston, Panama Canal, Ports, Transportation| Comments closed

New EPA Report Assesses Achievements and Hurdles in Reducing Urban Air Toxics

Haze over Dallas (Source:  Texas Tribune)

Haze over Dallas (Source: Texas Tribune)

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the second of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress about actions and progress in reducing air toxics. Given Texas’ history as an industrial state and major emitter of millions of tons of toxics per year, the report highlights the importance of the CAA in curbing toxic pollution. Ultimately, this is about saving lives, as exposure to air toxics is associated with health effects such as cancer, respiratory disease, neurological and reproductive problems, and other health risks.

 

 

What does the report say?

  • It demonstrates that federal, state, and local regulations have been effective in reducing millions of tons of air toxics over the last two decades.
  • It highlights that much more needs to be done, particularly in areas where there may be increased health risks from emissions of air toxics.
  • It shows that benzene and formaldehyde, two extremely potent and ubiquitous air toxics, contribute to the largest portion of estimated cancer risk in urban areas.
    • The report mentions the 2005 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) data, which estimated that more than 13.8 million people in urban areas were exposed to cancer risks greater than 100-in-a-million due to air toxics from all outdoor sources. The next NATA will be released in 2015. Read More »
Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston| Tagged | Comments closed

Soot Pollution Limits Unanimously Upheld in Court, Continuing Clean Air Victory Streak

rp_air-pollution-source-NRDC-300x187.jpgLast week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) particulate matter (soot) pollution standard, ruling that EPA’s decision to strengthen the standard in 2012 was firmly grounded in science and the law. The ruling also upheld EPA’s new requirement that states install air quality monitors near heavy traffic roads, where soot pollution levels can spike. The court’s decision is the latest in a string of legal victories for critical health protections on air pollution.

When fossil fuels are burned in an automobile or power plant, they release soot pollution, very fine, ashy particles less than one tenth the width of a human hair. These particles are so small that the air can carry them for long distances. When inhaled, soot particles penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can cross into the bloodstream via the path normally taken by inhaled oxygen. Exposure to soot pollution can inflame and alter our blood vessels, cutting off the oxygen supply to our heart and brain, leading to a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiac event. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate Matter| Tagged | Comments closed
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    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

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