Texas Clean Air Matters

Trump has put Harvey relief funds at risk

By Jeremy Symons, Associate Vice President, Climate Political Affairs

Rain continues to fall on Houston and surrounding areas at tragic levels. When the rains stop and the flood waters begin to recede — I hope that is very soon — the cost to rebuild will be massive. Pressure on Congress to act quickly will be intense. President Trump, however, has already put relief funds at risk.

Only ten days prior to Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, Trump issued a reckless executive order that affects all federal agencies and contractors involved in Harvey’s relief effort. As part of his agenda of imposing climate denial throughout his administration, Trump rescinded a policy directing federal agencies to consider worsening future flood conditions when planning federally funded projects. The “Federal Flood Risk Management Standard” was aimed at improving America’s preparedness and resilience against flooding, and ensuring taxpayer funds are used wisely, by using the best information and building federally-funded infrastructure to withstand floods, as well as preserving natural floodplains that can minimize the threat to surrounding communities. Read More »

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Research competition invites students to solve real-world energy problems

Reviewing residential electricity data in Pecan Street's Pike Powers Lab.

By Maddie Venn, clean energy communications intern

Recently, it seems like everyone is competing to become the next big thing in the energy sector. Whether it’s electric vehicles, smart grid technology, or energy storage, innovation continues to pop up left and right as we work to build a smarter, cleaner electric grid.

If innovation and technology spark your competitive drive, here’s your opportunity to dive in and join a community of engaged researchers working to solve some of our most pressing energy concerns. Pecan Street is hosting its second student research competition, inviting the best and the brightest to use the organization’s extensive collection of energy-use data to help solve real-world problems.

Open to all full-time graduate and undergraduate students and with prizes totaling $10,000, the competition aims to connect Pecan Street’s well-established dataset with the innovation of young minds. As the grid gets smarter, data can help people play a more active role in how their electricity is made, moved, and used. Competitions like Pecan Street’s will get us there faster. Read More »

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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