Author Archives: EDF Staff

Houston students share stories about the air they breathe

In Bianca Ibarra’s neighborhood on Houston’s eastside, the smokestacks are simply a given, part of the landscape.

“It surrounds us,” she said. “When you leave for the first time as a kid, it’s a shock. You see that other places do not have this. We are living in one of the most polluted cities in the country.”

To help others understand that this is not normal or healthy, Ibarra, 18, produced “Houston, At What Cost?” The three-minute video details how air pollution damages hearts and lungs and offers ways for young people to help solve the problem.

Her work won the first video contest sponsored by Environmental Defense Fund for students from high schools near the heavily industrialized Houston Ship Channel.

Elena Craft, senior health scientist at EDF, said the contest provided students with a platform to talk about air pollution, a pressing concern in the eight-county Houston region, which has yet to meet federal standards for ozone, or smog. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Houston, Ozone, Particulate Matter| Comments are closed

Help Texas Make Best Use of Volkswagen Settlement Funds

The Texas Clean Air Working Group (TCAWG) and the city of Austin will hold a workshop on Monday (June 26th) to discuss how Texas can use funding from the Volkswagen settlement to reduce smog-forming pollution and increase the use of zero-emission, all-electric vehicles. More information and registration instructions available here.

In July 2016, Volkswagen agreed to pay $14.7 billion in penalties to resolve a decade-long case stemming from a scheme to cheat on diesel emissions tests. The automaker had imported almost 600,000 vehicles that emitted illegal levels of harmful pollutants.

The agreement, coupled with a May 2017 settlement, will provide almost $5 billion for projects that promote cleaner air and the development of zero-emissions vehicles and infrastructure.

As its portion of the agreements, Texas is eligible to receive $209 million for projects that reduce smog-forming nitrogen oxides over the next decade. The state also is eligible to receive a share of $1.2 billion that was set aside for zero-emission vehicles and infrastructure.

To access these funds, Texas must submit a plan that describes how it would spend the money and reduce emissions. The state also must show how it would engage the public when choosing projects.

Accordingly, TCAWG and the city of Austin will hold a workshop for all interested stakeholders. The session will provide participants with the opportunity to learn more about available and emerging technologies and to discuss the benefits of several potential projects.

With careful and strategic planning, Texas has the opportunity to maximize these dollars to transform transportation in the state while creating jobs and reducing pollution.

The workshop will be June 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez, in conjunction with the Smart Cities Connect Conference.

Admission is free, but registration is required. The full agenda and registration instructions are available here.

Posted in Air Pollution, Electric Vehicles| Read 1 Response

When Trump’s agencies undermine small businesses supporting responsible energy

By: Ben Ratner

Every physician would tell you that regular check-ups are important for your health, to catch problems before they become big issues, and to let you know that everything is in working order. Regular check-ups are also important for the oil and natural gas industry, whose leading actors benefit from periodic site inspections for natural gas leaks, which let product go to waste and pollute the air our families breathe.

Unfortunately, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt slammed the brakes on these regular check-ups for methane emissions (the main component of natural gas), when EPA announced its intention to freeze for two years safeguards that include a national standard for twice annual leak detection inspections at new well pads. And mere hours later, the Bureau of Land Management suspended waste prevention standards on federal and tribal lands. While these actions might initially be popular among some in the oil & gas community in Texas, the long-term repercussions will be severe.

With commodity prices recovering and a wave of development expected in the Permian Basin, the leak detection requirements were to take effect in time to support responsible development of new resources. Read More »

Posted in Natural gas, Oil| Comments are closed

Report identifies ways to reduce water contamination from oil and gas development in Texas

By: Nichole Saunders

new report from the Academy of Medicine, Engineering and Science of Texas (TAMEST) is shedding more light on what we know and don’t know about the potential health and environmental impacts caused by oil and gas development in Texas.

The report, the first of-its-kind authored by experts across the state, looks at all areas of concern related to oil and gas – including seismicity, air pollution, land and traffic issues  – but TAMEST’s observations about the risks to water are especially noteworthy.

Tracking and reducing spills and leaks

Wastewater that comes out of an oil or gas well is usually extremely salty and can be laden with chemicals, and TAMEST notes this wastewater can contaminate soil and harm vegetation. In fact, according to the report,  spilling or leaking wastewater and other substances is the most likely pathway for surface water contamination from oil and gas development in Texas. Yet Texas is the only major state that doesn’t require companies to report their produced water spills. The report suggests that Texas should consider improving spill reporting policies in order to better understand where spills are happening, and what is causing them. Read More »

Posted in Environment, Oil| Read 1 Response

Healthier, safer summers – brought to you by EPA

By: Mandy Warner, Senior Manager, Climate and Air Policy

This weekend is Memorial Day – the unofficial start to summer. That means kids across the country – and adults too – are counting down the days until summer vacation.

Whether your plans include going to a beach, visiting a national park, or just letting your kids play outside in the sprinklers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plays an important role in making your summer healthier and safer – in ways you might not realize.

Here are four examples of how EPA improves summers for all Americans:

1. Reducing deadly smog

Smog comes from pollution emitted from cars, power plants, and other sources. It can lead to asthma attacks, heart attacks and even deaths.

The summer smog season has already started in most parts of the country. A number of “code orange” days – the terms for days when the air may be too dangerous for some people, like children with asthma and seniors with heart conditions, to be outdoors – have already been issued. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency| Comments are closed

In Memory of Leah Oberlin

Leah Oberlin

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Leah Oberlin, Director of Environmental Affairs at Port Houston, last week.

Over the past couple of years, Leah’s leadership helped strengthen EDF’s partnership with Port Houston on air quality and sustainability initiatives.

Just last summer, Leah championed the Port’s sponsorship of a successful EDF Climate Corps project that analyzed opportunities for on-site energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

We will miss Leah’s energy and genuine commitment to environmental stewardship.

From everyone in the EDF Texas office, our thoughts and prayers are with Leah’s family, and with the greater Houston ports and transportation community – where she was considered an important colleague and friend by so many.

A memorial in Leah’s honor will be held this Saturday, May 13, at 1:00 p.m. at the Jasek Chapel of Geo H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

Posted in Environment, Houston| Read 1 Response
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    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

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