Author Archives: Elena Craft, PhD

Ozone Season in Texas Here Again

Source: flickr/Durant Weston

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 »

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EPA to Host an Ozone Hearing in Arlington, TX, and You’re Invited

Source: WikiCommons/Turn685

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 »

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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 are closed

Money to Burn? EDF Questions Public Health Priorities at TCEQ


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 »

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

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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 are closed
  • About the author

    Health scientist
    Dr. Craft’s expertise is on air toxics issues, focusing specifically on reducing criteria and greenhouse gas emissions from the energy and transportation sectors. She has worked to reduce emissions and toxics and has been an integral strategist in designing and initiating comprehensive clean air measures, as well as in developing standards to measure environmental performance.

  • About this Blog

    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

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