Author Archives: Elena Craft, PhD

Newly Released Vehicle and Fuel Standards Will Clean Up U.S. Fleet and Improve Texas Air Quality

Source: Green Mountain Energy Cleaner Times

Source: Green Mountain Energy Cleaner Times

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released updated Tier 3 vehicle emissions and fuel standards. The new standards are an update to the successful Tier 2 performance standards, which were finalized in 2000. Like the legacy Tier 2 program, the new Tier 3 standards will look at vehicles and fuels as a combined system to reduce both tailpipe pollution and gasoline sulfur content, improving urban air quality and saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Despite Tier 3’s projected benefits, lawmakers, and oil industry groups insist the standards are too costly. Of course, they fail to count the lasting health benefits from Tier 3—which more than outweigh the cost of the program.

The Benefits

The new fuel standards will instantly reduce emissions from every vehicle on the road once they are implemented in 2017, by reducing the amount of sulfur permitted in gasoline to 10 parts per million. Furthermore, the new vehicle tailpipe standards will cut smog-forming emissions by over 20 percent and fine particulate matter by 10 percent by 2030. EPA projects these vital emissions reductions will prevent between 770 and 2,000 premature deaths, 2,200 hospital admissions, and 19,000 asthma attacks annually by 2030, providing approximately $6.7 – $19 billion in annual health benefits. All of these benefits come at the low cost of less than one additional cent per gallon of gasoline, or about $72 per vehicle. Read More »

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

Time for Texas to Work With EPA To Secure Cleaner Air For All Texans

Elena QuoteLast Wednesday, I traveled to Washington D.C. to testify at a House Science, Space, and Technology hearing entitled Examining the Science of EPA Overreach: A Case Study in Texas. It was my first time testifying on Capitol Hill and I was grateful for the opportunity to connect with some of our Texas lawmakers on issues concerning the relationship between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas.

One item of discussion focused on the greenhouse gas permitting authority in the state and the fact that Texas’ legal actions have thwarted industrial facilities in the state from conducting business. A recent article in the Texas Tribune, titled “Anti-Regulation Politics May Have Hurt Energy Industry,” highlights the burden that a dual permitting process places on businesses seeking greenhouse gas permits.

The process, which requires industrial facilities, such as power plants and refineries, to apply to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for criteria air pollutants permits and separately to EPA for greenhouse gas permits, has proved onerous for industry. In the article, the Texas Pipeline Association says, “more than 50 planned projects since early 2011 have been significantly delayed by the [Texas] permitting process, putting 48,000 jobs at risk.” Read More »

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

Common Sense Policies Can Protect Thousands of Houston Schoolchildren from Roadway Air Pollution

Source: Campaign for Clean Air

Source: Campaign for Clean Air

Recently, the Houston Chronicle published an article showing that over 80,000 schoolchildren at 127 schools are frequently exposed to air pollution due to their proximity to busy roadways. Houston, in particular, is vulnerable to the formation of unhealthy air pollution, given the city is home to one of the busiest ports in the country and some of the busiest roadways, and emissions from all those vehicles tend to pool around the streets locals use most. But what’s critical to note is that exposure to this kind of pollution is especially harmful for our young ones, as children breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults. Now, with these staggering figures, it’s clear that something must be done to protect Houston children from the dangers of vehicle pollution.

In total, 127 Houston-area schools were found to be located within 200 meters of a roadway, the distance within which traffic-related pollution is most potent. The accumulation of these emissions, which contain nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), form ozone pollution under the right conditions—usually on warm, sunny days. With no shortage of vehicles emissions or sunlight, the city is definitely a hot spot for ozone pollution and Houstonians are faced with increased health risks. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Houston, Ozone| Comments closed

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 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

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

Ozone Season Is Over, but the Fight for Clean Air in Texas Isn’t

Elena CraftOctober 31 marked the official end of ozone season in Texas. Ozone pollution, commonly known as smog, forms when compounds found in fossil fuel emissions react with sunlight. Ozone is a serious health concern for Texans, as excess exposure to ozone has been linked to a number of detrimental health effects, including asthma, heart attacks and even cancer.

Unfortunately, for many Texas cities, the combination of sunny days and crowded highways led to consistent violations of the standard over the course of this ozone season, and on a few days outside the season.

This year’s air quality measurements from the Houston region demonstrate that ozone pollution surpassed EPA’s health-based standard during 24 separate 8-hour intervals in 2013. Last year, the same air monitoring stations recorded 37 ozone violation days. Houston saw the highest ozone levels across the state, but Dallas and San Antonio followed closely behind. The worst days for both Houston and Dallas came when ozone peaked at 100 ppb—a level considered unsafe for healthy children and adults to have prolonged outdoor activities. Read More »

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

Policy Summit Will Explore Environmental Justice And Disproportionate Health Risks In Houston

Source: The Beat News

On Thursday, health and policy experts will gather in Houston for the Invisible Houston Revisited Three Decades Later Policy Summit at Texas Southern University. The summit will explore and expand upon the topics and themes highlighted in Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s 1987 book Invisible Houston.

Dr. Bullard’s groundbreaking book revealed that Houston’s municipal authorities disproportionally sited environmental hazards, such as garbage dumps and incinerators, in neighborhoods predominately occupied by minorities. Since then, Dr. Bullard, “father of environmental justice” and current Dean of the School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, has led the charge for Environmental Justice, the concept that environmental laws and policies should not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin or income. His advocacy work culminated in the Environmental Justice Executive Order signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, which codified the values of Environmental Justice into law.

Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sought to advance Environmental Justice across the federal government, including developing guidance to consider environmental justice in EPA rulemakings. Ultimately, the goal of this mission is to eliminate the disproportionate impact of industrial activities on environmental justice communities. Read More »

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

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
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    Ramon AlvarezRamon Alvarez
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    Vice President, US Climate and Energy Program, Director of the Texas regional office

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