Author Archives: EDF Staff

EDF Helps Standardize Energy Efficiency Projects in Texas

By: Matt Golden, Senior Energy Finance Consultant

Texas Pace In A BoxTexas currently has the highest rate of energy consumption of any U.S. state and accounts for 10% of the country’s total energy consumption. Most of that energy goes to energy-intensive industries, such as aluminum, chemicals, forest products, glass, and petroleum refining, which consume 50% of the state’s energy, compared with a national average of 32%.

Last year, the Texas legislature passed statewide legislation enabling cities to use their property taxes as a way to finance clean energy and energy efficiency for industrial, agriculture, water, and commercial buildings. This innovative financing tool, generally referred to as property-assessed clean energy (PACE), has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of funding for both renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the state, while simultaneously offering building owners cheaper financing options and secure repayment through their property tax assessment. Read More »

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Shelley: EPA Mandate Would Benefit the Lives of all Houstonians

This post was written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle on February 22, 2014.

Adrian Shelly, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

Adrian Shelly, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

We know that ozone pollution is a public health threat in Houston. Now a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that threat is greater than previously thought. As a result, the ozone standard is likely to be lowered by the end of the year. Houston has never met an ozone standard, but it is time for us to get serious about protecting our health.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been considering lowering the standard since 2008, when President George W. Bush's EPA revised it to 75 parts per billion. That revision defied an EPA recommendation for a standard as low as 70 parts per billion. Now the agency recommends that 60 parts per billion may be needed to protect public health.

Ozone, unlike other air pollutants, isn't restricted to certain parts of Houston. It's found everywhere, and it causes asthma attacks, heart disease and even early death. In the Houston region, 6 million people are at risk.

It is the responsibility of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to bring ozone down to healthy levels. In reacting to the EPA's new findings, the TCEQ focuses not on the need to protect public health, but on the regulatory burden of reducing air pollution. The TCEQ is already attacking the science behind the new study. TCEQ Chief Toxicologist Michael Honeycutt has questioned even the concept of an eight-hour ozone standard, suggesting in a Houston Chronicle story that it might be "more appropriate" to return to a one-hour standard, as the EPA had in the 1970s.  Read More »

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

EDF and Allies Defend EPA Emission Standards for Oil and Gas Pollution

Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC

Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC

By: Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow

This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog

As we have highlighted before, EPA’s recent actions regarding storage tank standards is of particular interest to Texas.  In 2009 alone, there were 6,120 storage tanks built in Texas large enough to be subject to EPA’s standards. The standards will apply only to new tanks. Since the number of new tanks is related to the number of existing wells, and Texas accounts for approximately 23% of new oil wells and 33% of new gas wells drilled in the U.S. (far greater than any other state), Texas is likely to account for a large share of the country’s new storage tanks. From a health standpoint, this rule preserves important protections for Texans, but much more remains to be done. Many counties in Texas fail to meet health based air quality standards. EPA needs to fortify thoughtful rules that place public health above all else, so that Texans (and many others) can breathe safe, healthy air that is free of ozone and other harmful contaminants. 

A new year may be upon us, but – unfortunately – some members of the oil and gas industry would prefer we roll back the clock on common sense, long-overdue emission standards for oil and gas equipment.

Oil and natural gas production continues to expand rapidly in the United States – and with it the potential for emissions of climate-destabilizing pollutants (especially methane), smog-forming compounds and carcinogenic substances, such as benzene.  We urgently need rigorous national standards that comprehensively address the full suite of pollutants from oil and gas facilities, protect public health and the environment and conserve needless waste of our nation’s natural resources. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone | Comments closed

Texans Speak Out Against Air Pollution at EPA’s Listening Session

Source: Sierra Club

Source: Sierra Club

This post was written by guest blogger Julia Collins, EDF Communications Intern, US Climate and Energy Program. 

Last Thursday, over a hundred people, including moms, grandfathers, businessmen, coal miners and environmentalists, descended upon the Dallas Public Library to speak to the EPA regarding new regulations for carbon emissions on existing coal power plants – a topic charged with political tension. The auditorium was packed with engaged citizens eager to participate in just one of 11 “Listening Sessions” held around the country to solicit input on the proposed regulations. I stood alongside other groups, such as Sierra Club, the NAACP, Public Citizen and several others.

As an intern, I don’t always have the opportunity to create the formative changes this country needs. Instead, I, like many other Americans, put my faith and trust in the EPA to do the right thing – for the planet’s future, for the country’s future, for my future.

During the listening session, I heard speeches that were heartfelt and honest, and that touched upon many subjects we can all relate to – family, history and country. I heard several children with asthma lament that they can’t play on the playground with their friends and have to keep an inhaler close at hand all day. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | Comments closed

Historically Black Colleges And Universities Lead Climate Action In Minority Communities, Starting With Texas

This commentary, authored by N. Jenise Young, originally appeared on EDF's Climate Corps blog.

In June, President Obama called for action during his milestone climate change speech. He said, “…we've got a vital role to play. We can't stand on the sidelines. We've got a unique responsibility.”

Melting ice glaciers are out of sight, out of mind in Houston where extreme heat and hurricanes are the norm and where I’ve spent the last year studying at Texas Southern University (TSU). What I have learned while studying at TSU surprised me – urban, minorities communities, like those surrounding TSU, are among those already struggling with the effects of climate change. In fact, numerous studies document the unequal burden of climate change and the differential application of climate policies within African American communities. For example, the Race, Poverty and Environment Journal for Social and Environmental Justice reports that African-Americans spend 30 percent more of their income on energy than their white counterparts, despite emitting 20 percent fewer greenhouse gases per household. In addition, the journal reports that “the six states with the highest African American populations are all within Atlantic hurricane zones expected to experience more storms like Katrina in the future.” In Texas, more than 20 weather and climate disasters that cost over one billion dollars have impacted the state over the past decade.

As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I am excited to spend my summer on TSU’s campus and in the community laying the groundwork that will educate and enable students and administrators to address climate issues already impacting our community. I had the opportunity to connect with the university President, student government and other key personnel to discuss the negative effects of climate change. In these conversations, I emphasized the importance of making energy efficiency upgrades and improvements a part of the university’s capital budget. Although I was hired as an EDF Climate Corps fellow to ultimately identify the savings from energy efficiency projects, I am working diligently to educate the entire campus about climate change, sustainability and best energy practices. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, GHGs, Utilities | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

West Texas Electricity Prices Skyrocket – Demand Response Is The Answer

This commentary, authored by John Finnigan, originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Source: ENR New York

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that electricity prices in West Texas skyrocketed over 20% this year.  West Texas is home to the Permian basin, one of the world’s largest oilfields, and energy producers use hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” here to unlock vast new oil and gas supplies.  The increased drilling, oil refining and natural gas processing uses large amounts of electricity.

Cheaper electricity supplies are available, but cannot be delivered to West Texas due to transmission bottlenecks, or “congestion.”  The only power that can be delivered is from older coal plants.  This leads to transmission “congestion” charges (i.e., higher energy supply costs caused by the transmission bottlenecks), which commercial and industrial consumers must pay as a surcharge on their monthly electricity bills.  Using these older coal plants leads to more pollution as well because these plants burn fuel less efficiently and have higher levels of toxic air emissions.

The typical solution is to build new transmission lines to access cheaper electricity supplies.  But a better and cheaper approach is to pay consumers for voluntarily reducing their electricity usage when energy supplies are tight.  Known as “demand response,” this solution:

Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, ERCOT, Smart Grid, Texas Energy Crunch | Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Texans Celebrate Earth Day This Weekend

This post was written by guest blogger Katherine “Koko” Owens, EDF Communications Intern, US Climate and Energy Program.


By now many of us know that Earth Day is this coming Monday.  Countries around the world have been celebrating Earth Day every April 22 since 1970, when the Clean Air Act was enacted.  It’s a day when citizens of the world stop for just a moment to appreciate the planet on which we live, reflect on how to protect our precious resources, and most importantly, improve the sustainability and quality of life for all.

According to Wikipedia, the April 22 date was designated as International Mother Earth Day after the United Nations adopted a resolution in 2009.  Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

Because April 22 falls on a Monday this year, many Earth Day events throughout the state of Texas will be held on Saturday and Sunday.  I have the happy privilege of joining some of my fellow EDFers on Saturday and Sunday at the Earth Day Dallas festival, where we invite all of our Texas Clean Air Matters readers to visit and say hello.  We will have coloring activities for those young, budding environmentalists and information on all of EDF’s initiatives.

This year, we will have EDF representatives talking about the environment related to oceans, ecosystems, our Climate Corps and Texas’ energy resources.  Naturally, I’ll be on the lookout for all things related to air quality and promise to remind visitors of the significance of the Clean Air Act. Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Dallas Fort-Worth | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Ozone Action Days: What Do They Really Mean

This post was written by guest blogger Deanna Altenhoff, Executive Director of CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas.

We are all familiar with the term “Ozone Action Day” and typically associate it with a hot summer day.  But what does it really mean?  The CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas, the only non-partisan, public/private organization in Central Texas exclusively focused on air quality improvement, explains the significance of ozone pollution – and what you can do to make a difference. The CLEAN AIR Force Board of Directors consists of 32 executives from both the public and private sector, including Dr. Elena Craft of the Environmental Defense Fund, united in the common goal of finding workable solutions for improving our region’s air quality. The CLEAN AIR Force is not about waiting for the federal government to tell us what to do to clean up our air; we’re about taking early action now to keep air quality decisions at the local level.

The CLEAN AIR Force oversees a number of voluntary air quality programs that serve the public and help to reduce ozone levels in the Central Texas region. Two examples of those programs are the Clean Air Partners Program and the Clean School Bus Program.  We help implement and coordinate the air quality improvement efforts of local businesses, governments and organizations through our Clean Air Partners Program and we help retrofit and replace older polluting school buses with newer cleaner technologies and implement anti-idling policies through our Clean School Bus Program.  Educating citizens on what they can do to reduce their emissions is also a key part of our mission.

Central Texas is considered near-nonattainment for ground-level ozone under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The ozone standard is currently set at 75 parts per billion (ppb) and the Central Texas Design Value for 2012 was 74 ppb. Despite two new and lower ozone standards in the past 16 years and a doubling of the population in the last 22 years, Central Texas has been able to avoid nonattainment because of positive weather conditions and the many pro-active air quality efforts our region is making, but there are many challenges ahead.

EPA has announced they may lower the existing standard of 75 ppb to 60-70 ppb by the end of 2013. This means we must continue to work together as a region to significantly lower our ozone emissions or risk being designated as nonattainment, which would negatively impact both public health and the health of our economy.

So what’s so bad about ozone health-wise? Ozone is a form of oxygen that is formed through chemical reactions between natural and man-made emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) in the presence of sunlight.  Sources of VOCs and NOx include automobiles, boats, refineries, chemical manufacturing plants, solvents used in dry cleaners and paint shops, and wherever natural gas, gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, and oil are combusted.

Ozone Season in Central Texas runs from April 1st to October 31st. Ozone pollution is mainly a daytime problem during summer months because warm temperatures are key to its formation. When temperatures are high, sunshine is strong, and winds are low, ozone can accumulate to unhealthy levels. Read More »

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

Now You Can Use Your Smartphone To Check Houston Smog Levels

This post was written by Larry Soward, Air Alliance Houston Transition Director.

Source: Air Alliance Houston

Houston area residents can now track ozone pollution levels anytime, anywhere with a new groundbreaking Smartphone app created through a partnership between Air Alliance Houston, the American Lung Association Plains-Gulf Region, and the University of Houston Honors College.

This exciting new tool extends the resources already available through the Houston Clean Air Network website – the first real-time ozone website for the Houston region – developed by these three groups through a generous grant from the Houston Endowment. The Houston Clean Air Network website and now the Smartphone app enable citizens of the Houston region to get up-to-the-minute air quality information and take control over their own exposure to ozone, reducing the associated health effects.

The new “Ozone Map” app is available free on iPhone and iPad through the Apple App Store and on Android devices through Google Play.

Although individuals are currently able to check ozone values at monitor locations through various government agencies, that data available is typically about 1.5 hours old. This is important because ozone values can change quickly, and people in sensitive groups need to know actual exposure levels. “Ozone Map” provides a unique visual representation of how the real-time ozone levels are moving throughout the Houston area. Displayed much like a weather radar map, users can see the ozone “cloud” moving across the Houston area, as well as the ozone levels in different parts of the city. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Ozone | Tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

What More Sound Science Does The TCEQ Need?

This blog post was written by Larry R. Soward, and it originally appeared on the Air Alliance Houston’s blog.

In our December 2012 article, “New Soot Standards Will Better Protect Public Health,” we wrote about the new, stricter national air quality standard for fine particulate matter adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Particulate matter (PM) is one of the six "criteria" pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment for which the EPA is required to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards. PM that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller — called “fine particulate matter” or “PM2.5” and commonly known as “soot” — is of greatest concern because of its significant health effects on people with heart or lung diseases, children and older adults.

Because reductions in fine particle pollution have direct health benefits including decreased mortality rates, fewer incidents of heart attacks, strokes, and childhood asthma, the new PM 2.5 standard is predicted to have major economic benefits with comparatively low costs. The EPA estimates health benefits of the new standard to range from $4 billion to over $9 billion per year, while estimated costs of implementation range from $53 million to $350 million. While the EPA cannot consider costs in selecting a standard under the federal Clean Air Act, those costs are estimated as part of the careful analysis undertaken for all significant regulations.

Strongly supportive of this new, more health-protective standard is a landmark study recently announced at a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and published in the American Heart Association journal. The study found a direct link between out-of-hospital cardiac arrests and levels of air pollution from PM and ozone. Conducted by Rice University researchers right here in Houston and based on 8 years of data collected from Houston's network of air quality monitors and more than 11,000 concurrent out-of-hospital cardiac arrests logged by Houston Emergency Medical Services, the study shows that the risk of cardiac arrest ratchets up significantly as the amount of air pollution increases.

Rice statisticians Katherine Ensor, a professor and chair of Rice's Department of Statistics, and Loren Raun, a research professor in the department, found that a daily average increase in fine particulate matter of 6 micrograms per day over two days raised the risk of cardiac arrest by 4.6 percent, with particular impact on those with pre-existing, but not necessarily cardiac-related, health conditions. The study also found that increases in ozone levels produced similar results, but in a compressed timeframe. Each increase of 20 parts per billion of ozone over one to three hours also increased the risk of cardiac arrest, reaching a peak of 4.4 percent. The risks were higher for men, African-Americans and people over age 65. Ensor and Raun noted that 55 percent of the cardiac arrest cases occurred during the summer months, the period of typically high ozone levels in Houston. Approximately 300,000 persons in the U.S. experience an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest each year, of which over 90 percent die. Read More »

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