Author Archives: Elena Craft, PhD

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

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
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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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