Author Archives: EDF Staff

New Drayage Trucks – at Half the Price (and the Pollution)? It’s True!

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Source: flickr.com/photos/truckpr

By: Christina Wolfe, EDF's Ports & Transportation Analyst 

Calling all heavy-duty truck owners who work at the Port of Houston! Cold, hard cash is available for the purchase of new trucks that are more fuel-efficient and cleaner-burning, providing up to 80 percent of the cost of a new truck.

The Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) will be hosting a Drayage Truck Event at the Port of Houston on Saturday, November 1, from 10:00am to 1:30pm, to share information about available grants and loans in order to help owners replace older, dirtier vehicles with new, cleaner ones (see how others have taken advantage of these opportunities in the past).

Why is funding like this available to help someone pay for a new truck? By replacing an older truck with a new one, we all benefit from improved air quality. These benefits include:

  • better health, since cleaner air reduces the onset of asthma and cancer and helps avoid the loss of work and schooldays, and
  • economic advancement, as these programs help the state and city progress towards meeting critical air quality standards. Read More »
Posted in Air Pollution, Drayage, Goods Movement, Houston, Ports, Transportation| Comments closed

Schooling Demand Response in Texas Academia

By: Corina Solis, graduate of Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

2014-training-yale-cropThe Alamo Colleges began participating in local utility company, CPS Energy’s Demand Response Program in the summer of 2013. This Demand Response Program is one of CPS Energy’s strategies to achieve its 2020 goal of saving 771 megawatts of energy. The Alamo Colleges participated in the program in order to take advantage of a significant rebate opportunity, which was a maximum of $120,600 in 2013 and is $130,650 in 2014. Rebates are based on the level of participation, and in 2013, the Alamo Colleges earned rebates totaling $103,000. Through a self-funding strategy, all of this money went back to the Alamo Colleges to pay for faculty and staff salaries.

As an extra benefit, while saving all of this money, the Alamo Colleges trim their carbon footprint each time they participate in demand response. Last year, the Alamo Colleges prevented 2,250 lbs. of CO2 from going into the atmosphere from its demand response participation. This year, the Alamo Colleges are contracted to prevent up to five and a half tons of CO2 from escaping into the atmosphere, which would otherwise take 140 tree seedlings ten years to naturally take out of the atmosphere. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response| Tagged | Comments closed

Start Your Engines, New Funding Available in Texas for Newer, Cleaner Vehicles

By: Christina Wolfe, EDF's Ports & Transportation Analyst

Delivery trucks, wheel-loaders, school buses, and locomotives all have one thing in common – an internal combustion engine that keeps these machines churning for years. Maybe for too many years. The useful life for some of these engines, especially diesel engines, can last decades, deterring owners from upgrading to newer models with greater fuel economy and operational efficiency. Plus, these machines can be very expensive, making it difficult for owners to replace older equipment once the newest, cleanest technology becomes available. From an environmental perspective, this is bad news. Engines emit a variety of dangerous pollutants that adversely affect our health, including particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). So without the means to upgrade polluting, heavy-duty engines, what can owners do?

Enter the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP).

First, EPA established more protective emissions standards that require new engines to be many times cleaner compared to older models. These strong standards have helped drive innovations in engine technology so that emissions are now a fraction of what they once were. Here’s a breakdown: Read More »

Posted in Uncategorized| Comments closed

The First US City to Run Out of Water?

By: Rachel Finan, student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

Rachel Finan

Experts predict that by 2025 Sana’a, Yemen will become the first capital city to run out of water. They predict that by 2030 India will need to double its water-generation capacity or face the same fate, and water supplies in Istanbul, one of the world’s largest cities, is at just 28 percent. Yet before any of those cities run dry (in far off developing countries that most people in the US associate with water scarcity issues), it could be a US city that runs out of water. And it’s not just the usual suspects in the Southwest who face increasingly serious water concerns. Miami, FL is the second-most vulnerable US city in a drought according to a University of Florida Environmental Hydrology Laboratory study. Cities such as Cleveland, OH; Chicago, IL; and New York, NY follow not far behind.

Just last February, California state officials announced that 17 communities and water districts could run out of water in as little as 100 days. In Texas, that number more than doubles. Earlier this year state officials reported 48 communities were within 90 days of water interruptions; as of August 20th, there are 27 communities on that list. One small town in TX reportedly already has run dry.

This begs an obvious question; what are we doing about it? Additionally, what should we be doing about it – not just as a temporary fix, but as a long-term, strategic response? What would you do if water stopped coming out of your tap? Imagine if your town was one of the California or Texas communities with only 90 days of water left. As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I’ve spent the last several weeks contemplating these questions and identifying opportunities for Texas-based institutions to not only conserve water, but to save money while doing so. I’ve been inspired by many examples throughout the state. Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus| Tagged | Comments closed

Now is the Time to Protect Our Children from the Dangers of Oil Refineries

By: Guest Blogger Trish O’Day, MSN, RN, Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility

(Source: Earth Justice) A child plays in a park next to the Valero oil refinery in Manchester, Texas.

(Source: EarthJustice) A child plays in a park next to the Valero oil refinery in Manchester, Texas.

Texas children growing up near oil refineries are not breathing easy. Living near a refinery can mean exposure to carcinogens, such as benzene, and heavy metals, such as lead. Sadly, there are five oil refineries located in Houston alone, with an additional three in both Port Arthur and Texas City.

Infants (and those still in the womb), babies, and young children are different; they are not little adults. They breathe faster; they live “close-to-the-ground”, and indulge quite often in “hand to mouth” behavior.

A look at lead exposure and children’s health

Lead toxicity in children has decreased in the US since lead was removed from gasoline and paint, but health experts recognize that even low-dose exposure to lead is harmful and irreversible. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention state: “there is simply no safe level of lead exposure for children.”

Children’s brains develop from the first month of conception continuing up to 7 or 8 years old. This long-term development of a child’s central nervous system and brain is sensitive, at all steps along the way, to contact with toxic substances, such as industrial chemicals or toxic substances, whether the exposure is from breathing, ingestion, or dermal (through the skin, while playing in the dirt). Read More »

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

Studying Solar in Texas: Big Energy Savings Opportunities on Small Campuses

By: Andy Ferris, student of the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business

Andy Ferris and Dr. Jeff Wilson pictured here in Wilson’s home- as part of the Dumpster Project, a sustainable living experiment, Wilson is living in the dumpster for a full year.

Distributed generation solar has been a growing trend around the country. Home owners, large commercial entities and other facilities all have looked to their rooftops to cash in on a previously underutilized asset. My EDF Climate Corps fellowship at Huston Tillotson University focused on evaluating opportunities for solar power on a 23 acre, private, tax-exempt HBCU (Historically Black College or University) campus in Austin, TX. Huston-Tillotson has a target of 50 percent carbon emissions reduction by 2030 and hopes to become one of the most sustainable HBCUs in the country. My analysis calculated that completing the recommended solar installation would increase the portion of their energy from renewable sources to 14 percent; a level high enough to place them first in the country among private HBCUs.

Challenges Facing Small Organizations

With an abundance of sun and a highly competitive solar industry, making solar photovoltaic (PV) installations work in Texas should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, a less-than encouraging regulatory environment can complicate solar installations for commercial scale projects. In Austin, a production based incentive has been rapidly reduced from $0.14/kWh to $0.09/kWh in just the last three months. This trend along with a policy that eliminates net-metering for installations over 20 kW capacity has made it challenging for small organizations looking to add PV panels to their facilities. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Solar, Utilities| Tagged , | Comments closed
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