Author Archives: EDF Staff

New Video Contest – Houston Teens Care about Clean Air

Environmental Defense Fund is working together with four local high schools on a new video contest about the value of clean air.

EDF is sponsoring the contest for students at four schools in Houston’s East End – Chavez, Furr, Galena Park and Milby.

Students at those schools can submit short videos about the health effects of air pollution in Houston. Winning videos will be eligible to receive prizes worth up to $2,500. Winning students will also have the opportunity to learn filmmaking, editing and post-production techniques from Houston-area filmmaking professionals.

 Student entry forms and video submission instructions are available at the participating schools.

The Challenge

In 2015, Houston experienced 44 days of unhealthy air quality. The region also continues to be unable to meet federal health-based air quality standards for ground-level ozone, commonly referred to as smog.

This is cause for concern. Poor air quality is associated with a range of adverse health effects, including respiratory diseases like asthma, stroke, heart disease, pre-term birth, and cancer.

The sources and distribution of air pollution vary geographically. For example, the 39 million Americans who live near ports (like Houstonians in the East End near the Ship Channel) may have a higher risk of exposure to harmful air pollution from diesel. That’s due to large volumes of diesel-fueled freight traffic and other port-related emissions, such as from ships docking at port and cargo-handling equipment. Emissions from industrial facilities such as petroleum refineries and power plants, as well as from traffic, can also contribute to poor air quality.

The Contest

A major challenge for community leaders working to protect health and improve air quality in the Houston area is a lack of information available to the public regarding the health effects of air pollution. This is especially true for communities living close to the Houston Ship Channel, in Houston’s East End.

Here is where local teens come in:

Students from Chavez, Furr, Galena Park and Milby High Schools are invited to submit a short video about the health effects of air pollution in Houston.

  • Videos should be no longer than 3 minutes in length.
  • Students must be currently enrolled at one of these four Houston-area high schools to participate in this competition.
  • Bilingual videos are eligible and encouraged.

Winning Videos will receive prizes worth up to $2,500

  • First Place Video: $2,500 Visa gift card
  • Second Place Video: $1,500 Visa gift card
  • Third Place Video: $500 Visa gift card

Winning students may also be eligible to learn filmmaking, editing and post-production techniques from Houston-area industry professionals.

All videos must be submitted to school contest coordinators by April 21, 2017 at 11:59 PM Central Time.

Posted in Air Pollution, Houston, Ozone, Ports| Leave a comment

Groundbreaking Study Shows New Coal Plants are Uneconomic in 97 Percent of US Counties

wind-energy-pixabayBy: Ferit Ucar

At Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we understand that market forces can drive either a healthy environment – or harmful pollution. I recently wrote about how generating electricity often creates pollution, which comes with environmental and health costs that are usually not paid for by the polluters. That’s why EDF works to identify and correct market failures, like the failure to understand – as well as account for – all of the costs pollution imposes on society.

The Energy Institute at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) just released a useful tool in that pursuit: a study that aims to capture the full cost of new electric power generation – including environmental and public health costs – on a county-by-county basis in the United States. The study evolves traditional ways of estimating new generation costs by 1) incorporating pollution costs, and 2) breaking data down to the county level.

The results show economics are leading the U.S. to a cleaner energy economy, in which there is no role for new coal plants. Let’s break it down. Read More »

Posted in Solar, Wind| Tagged | Read 2 Responses

Affordable Housing Can Save Money, Water, and Energy with this Innovative Finance Tool

By: Laura Sanchez, EDF Climate Corps 2016 Fellow

Like many booming cities, Texas’ capital is experiencing overwhelming demand for affordable housing. Austin’s Mayor Steve Adler highlighted the affordable housing crisis shortly after taking office in January 2015, and urged the use of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to help encourage affordability. PACE enables commercial, industrial, and multifamily property owners to improve the water or energy efficiency of their buildings – without having to worry about steep upfront costs. Investing in these types of upgrades can reduce a property’s operating costs, as well as tenants’ utility bills.

That’s why I spent this past summer with Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), as an EDF Climate Corps Fellow with Texas PACE Authority, the PACE program administrator in the state. In June 2016, Mayor Adler created a committee of housing experts to determine how to leverage PACE for affordable housing. Alongside the committee, I worked to size up the opportunity, benefits, and challenges of using PACE to help pay for upgrades to affordable multifamily-housing properties.

After conversations with officials and program administrators from over 30 public for-profit and non-profit entities, we found there are significant opportunities – in Texas and nationwide – for the affordable multifamily-housing sector to leverage PACE. We are proud to present a new whitepaper that can serve as a guide to unlocking water, energy, and cost savings. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy| Tagged | Comments are closed

Asthma in Texas

ChildAsthma(This post was written by Grace Tee Lewis, EDF’s Kravis Postdoctoral Science Fellow)

August in Texas is not for the weak of heart or lung.

As temperatures rise, so do levels of air pollutants such as ground-level ozone – better known as smog. For those with asthma, being outside on high ozone days can lead to asthma attacks. Children, older adults and people who work outside are the most susceptible.

In Texas, asthma affects roughly 1 in 13 adults and 1 in 11 children. In 2014, this represented 1.4 million Texans aged 18 years or older and 617,000 children according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Justice, Particulate Matter, Ports| Comments are closed

On the Front Lines: Climate Action from Agriculture Can Help Defend a Texan Way of Life

longhorn-cattle-pixabayBy: Simone Ballard, energy-water nexus intern

Growing up in a rural community in Illinois, agriculture was a part of my everyday reality. My neighbors took pride in their livestock and centennial family farms. It wasn’t just a job for them, but a way of life. Sustaining farms and ranches is still a livelihood for millions of people in this country, putting food on our tables and fueling our economy. This traditional lifestyle is celebrated here in Texas too, but now it faces a unique challenge and opportunity presented by a shifting climate.

So, following the recent historic climate agreement in Paris, now is the time for agriculture to take a prominent role alongside other sectors in leading emission reductions worldwide. Why? The security of our food supply is at stake. The opening remarks of Paris’ COP21 Conference outline the reasons we must take action to mitigate the impacts of a changing climate: …safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Climate change will impact every facet of human society, so it is critical that diverse groups like agriculture, industry, and municipal contribute new solutions to solving our growing emissions problem. Sometimes those of us who now live in cities – and that’s over half the human population worldwide – forget about agriculture’s critical and tangible role at the beginning of the discussion. However, that narrative is shifting in this pivotal moment of climate discussions, as shown in the above statement.

In Texas, where agriculture makes up a large part of our economy, we should be thinking creatively about how to reduce emissions alongside other major players, like energy industry innovators. If we want to protect our natural resources, keep our communities thriving, and create a healthy environment for many generations to come, we need each sector to play its part and act on climate. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus| Comments are closed

Asthma Awareness Month – Show How You Care About the Air

ChildAsthma

May, which is well into ozone season in many regions in Texas, is also Asthma Awareness Month — an opportunity for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and health partners to educate Americans on asthma health risks and prevention strategies.

Asthma is a condition in which inflamed airways make it difficult for a person to breathe, and smog may be a trigger for asthma attacks. According to the American Lung Association, almost 26 million Americans have asthma, including more than seven million children.

Asthma and other health issues such as lung disease are directly affected by air quality. Asthma Awareness Month is kicked off by Air Quality Awareness Week, a week that health officials use to spread awareness of the effects of air quality on human health. The week included celebrating champions of asthma education and prevention by announcing the winners of EPA’s National Leadership Awards in Asthma Management on May 3rd. These recipients have developed national models for effective asthma care. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone| Read 1 Response
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    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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