Author Archives: Elena Craft, PhD

Outdoor Air Pollution Officially Labeled A Leading Environmental Cause of Cancer

Source: Webmd

For years, scientists have explored the links between excess air pollution and health conditions, such as heart disease, asthma and even cancer. Recently, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) evaluated the specific relationship between air pollution and occurrence of lung cancer in humans. IARC reviewed over 1,000 scientific papers from five continents and concluded that there is a clear relationship between exposure to everyday air pollution and lung cancer.

Based on the results of the evaluation, the WHO officially classifies outdoor air pollution as carcinogenic to humans – listing air pollution alongside other carcinogens like formaldehyde, plutonium and asbestos. According to IARC officials, breathing in polluted air was found to be very similar to breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke, depending on one’s level of exposure. But unlike tobacco smoke, outdoor air pollution is often unavoidable.

The most common sources of air pollution are transportation, fossil fuel power plants, industrial and agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking—all of which are a part of everyday life in most parts of the world. Because almost all of us are exposed to these pollutants, the occurrence for cancer-related death is quite high. In fact, the most recent data indicate that in 2010 alone 223,000 lung cancer deaths resulted from air pollution.  The most devastating thing about these numbers is that these are all preventable deaths. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Car Standards, Environmental Protection Agency | Tagged | Comments closed

Texans Believe In Climate Change—It’s Time Our Voices Are Heard

Last month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth report on where humanity stands on climate change. IPCC brings together thousands of volunteer scientists and other global experts to review humankind’s current scientific understanding of climate change. After these academic experts have come to consensus, officials from nearly 200 U.N. member countries review their results. The latest report shows that we are more certain than ever before that the climate is changing, and if humanity doesn’t act now, we could face devastating warming in the future.

The broad international consensus on climate change stands in stark contrast with what we typically hear from our elected representatives in Texas. Too often, they call climate change “unsettled science,” or claim that some uncertainty around the extent of warming warrants inaction from the state that emits the most carbon dioxide in the nation. The state’s environmental agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), famously censors mentions of climate change from its reports. And even more aggressively, the state has fought the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) permitting process for large sources of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) tooth and nail. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed

West Strong: We Will Not Forget

Last weekend, The Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media publication that covers public policy, politics, environmental issues and other statewide matters, hosted its annual Texas Tribune Festival. As always, the festival did an amazing job of bringing folks together from around the state to discuss the most important policy issues of the year. I was lucky enough to participate on a panel titled “After West” as part of the environmental track. The panel was dedicated to lessons learned after this year’s terrible tragedy in West, Texas that took the lives of 15 people and devastated a small town.

Other participants on the panel included: Chris Connealy, Texas State Fire Marshall; Tim Herrman, State Chemist of Texas Tommy Muska, Mayor of West; Kyle Kacal, State Representative; and Alana Rocha, reporter, The Texas Tribune (panel moderator) Read More »

Posted in Environment, Texas Permitting | Tagged , | Comments closed

Texas To Benefit From EPA’s New Power Plant Standards

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its first-ever standard on carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants. The landmark standard will limit the amount of carbon dioxide that a power plant can emit into the atmosphere. The new rules will have the greatest impact on coal power plants, which release more carbon dioxide than any other power source. EPA’s announcement comes as welcome news in this era of prolonged inaction on climate change. Nevertheless, opponents are already lining up to fight EPA’s standards tooth and nail.

Attorneys General from 17 states, including Texas, have banded together and pledged to fight any limits on carbon pollution. They claim that individual states should have sole authority to regulate emissions from sources within their boundaries. Unfortunately, states like Texas have demonstrated in the past that they are unwilling to regulate carbon pollution, a big statement considering that Texas releases more carbon pollution than any other state in the nation.

EPA’s announcement today is a common sense approach to solving the climate crisis. The proposed standards would set the first uniform national limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. They do not apply to currently operating, existing power plants. As a result, the standards will hasten the transition toward cleaner electricity sources with fewer carbon emissions and help drive U.S. policy forward reflecting that these clean energy technologies are the best option for powering America. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Coal, Environmental Protection Agency | Comments closed

Houston’s Ozone Progress Commendable, But Still Inadequate To Protect Human Health

Source: Houston Air Quality

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region VI, representing Texas and surrounding states, announced that Houston was on track to meet the 1997 federal health standard for ozone within the next five years. Of course, I am and have been supportive of the multitude of efforts deployed and enforced to reduce ozone levels in Houston over the years. At the same time, I am concerned that the recent announcement may create a public perception of Houston as out of the weeds.

The truth is that the 1997 standard has been found to be woefully inadequate to protect human health from the harms of ozone, which include, but are not limited to, asthma, bronchitis and cancer. The 1997 standard of 84 parts per billion (ppb) was revised in 2008 to a standard of 75ppb.  Even this standard of 75ppb, however, has been criticized for failing to provide adequate public health protection. In addition, a closer look at ozone Design Values (a wonky term for the three-year average of the four highest days of eight-hour ozone concentration in each year) in Houston over the last five years suggests that the region may have reached a plateau in terms of reducing ozone. Read More »

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

Regional Clean Air Coalitions Take The Next Step To Improve Air Quality

Last month, I highlighted some Texas cities working to educate their citizens on the importance of air quality. Because air pollution is a persistent problem throughout Texas, the state’s largest cities all maintain websites focusing on ways to mitigate emissions and take precautions when air pollution reaches concentrations considered to be unhealthy. While these informational campaigns promote voluntary reductions in emissions, they aren’t sufficient to keep air quality under control.

Regional coalitions all over the state are at the front line forging needed partnerships to achieve major emissions reductions and improve the quality of air across Texas. The following are a few organizing leading the effort: Read More »

Posted in Dallas Fort-Worth, Environment, Houston, Ozone, San Antonio | Comments closed

NOAA Reports On Climate; Texas Politicians Stick Heads In Sand

This post originally appeared on EDF's Voices blog.

Last week, a coalition of environmental groups presented U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and other Texas politicians with “awards” for their persistent denial of basic climate science. In fact, climate change denial is all too common among Texas lawmakers. Governor Rick Perry, for example, calls climate change “a theory that has not been proven.”

In contrast, the international scientific community almost unanimously agrees that greenhouse gases associated with human activity are responsible for the global warming pattern we’ve seen since the mid-20 century. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual State of the Climate report. The report brings together leading scientists and academics to assess the state of the Earth’s climate. The 2012 report, which included contributions from 384 authors from 52 countries, is the most authoritative analysis of climate change and its global effects. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Coal, Drought, Extreme Weather | Tagged , | Comments closed

EPA Seeks New Ideas To Include Environmental Justice Groups In The Rulemaking Process

Source: online.liebertpub.com

Do you have ideas to help federal decision makers ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately represented in new rules?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a technical guidance document in May to assist its staff with tools and information to include environmental justice (EJ) issues in the agency’s rulemaking process. This document, titled “Draft Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis,” is open for public comment until Sept 6, 2013. Time is running out to have your voice heard!

What is Environmental Justice?

EPA defines Environmental Justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. EPA launched its EJ movement in the early 1980s to provide an open forum for citizens and communities particularly impacted by environmental and pollution hazards. For instance, communities disproportionately impacted by pollution around the Houston Ship Channel or near the Port of Houston would be considered EJ areas. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Chinese Reverse Trade Delegation Visits Houston

A couple of weeks ago, the China Green Ports Technology Reverse Trade Mission brought Chinese transportation officials to Houston to introduce them to U.S. technologies and the trade industry’s best practices to reduce ports’ environmental impact. Green port technologies are of particular interest in China, because seven of the ten largest ports in the world are located in China. The Chinese government and private sector are making efforts to modernize and strengthen China’s maritime management, while reducing its environmental footprint.

The purpose of the mission was to introduce the delegates to innovative technologies and service provider firms associated with green ports. As I spoke with the delegation, the conversation focused on many of the same efforts we are pursuing in the U.S. and right here in Texas, including:

  • Reducing the environmental impact of our nation’s seaports;
  • Improving the health of communities affected by port activities;
  • Increasing the efficiency and sustainability of ports;
  • Highlighting best management practices currently deployed at leading ports.

As we move forward with developing a port recognition system to highlight green port efforts across the nation, we know that our partners to the East are thinking likewise. We look forward to continued conversations such as these with new partners on novel technologies, continually improving port environmental impacts.

Posted in Environment, Goods Movement, Houston, Ports, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Irving Summit Hosts International Experts To Modernize The Global Transportation System

(Source: Getty Images)

We at EDF have written a lot about the need to transform the nation’s aging electricity system.  Now, more than ever, we have to transition away from fossil fuel electricity to reduce our out-of-control greenhouse gas emissions.  With renewables poised to make up a quarter of the world’s electricity mix by 2018, it appears we’re making steady progress toward a modern, clean energy grid.

But there’s another global energy system that’s often overlooked: the transportation system.  An overwhelming majority of the world’s transportation infrastructure is powered by fossil fuels.  Ordinary passenger vehicles, short and long-haul trucks, freight rail, and large cargo ships are all fueled by petroleum.  And unlike the grid, we’re still far from transitioning to a clean alternative.

EDF has spearheaded a number of initiatives to help reduce the environmental impact of transportation.  Last month, we released a request for proposals for a marine port environmental recognition program.  The program will help establish performance benchmarks for ports, so that we can identify and acknowledge those ports making strides toward reducing emissions and improving air quality.  EDF is also part of the brain trust of organizations, such as the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board, working to understand the best practices to modernize the global transportation system and reduce transportation’s environmental footprint. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Environment, GHGs, Goods Movement, Transportation | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed
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    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

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    Ramon AlvarezRamon Alvarez
    Senior Scientist

    Elena Craft
    Health Scientist

    Jim Marston
    Vice President, US Climate and Energy Program, Director of the Texas regional office

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    Marcelo Norsworthy
    Transportation Research Analyst

    Kate Zerrenner
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