Author Archives: Marcelo Norsworthy

Houston gets an extension on meeting air standards, but for what purpose?

houston skyline 4.19.16

EPA’s decision to grant the Houston region a new deadline to meet clean air standards may delay air pollution mitigation measures.

Last year was a troubling one for Houston air quality. Some areas recorded ozone concentrations not seen since the early 2000s. Overall, more than half of the regional monitors recorded smog at levels that exceeded the 2008 national health standard for at least four days. This unhealthy air affects everyone, but vulnerable populations such as the young and the elderly are especially susceptible to health effects of poor air quality, including asthma and lung disease.

This is why EPA’s recent decision to grant the Houston region a one-year extension to meet the federal health standards represents a missed opportunity for clean air action. The original deadline for Houston to meet the 2008 health standard was July 2015. Often, EPA grants extensions to areas that are close to attaining the standard. In this case, Houston’s air quality had been improving but took a significant step in the wrong direction last year with a large number of exceedance days.

Why Does it Matter? Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Ozone, Uncategorized| Tagged , , , | Comments are closed

Unhealthy Ozone Hits Houston Early

Cars drive on an eight lane expressway in Beijing on January 29,2013. Residents across northern China battled through choking pollution on January 29, as air quality levels rose above index limits in Beijing amid warnings that the smog may not clear until January 31. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAOIt seems too early in the year to worry about smog, right? Ozone is typically thought of as just a summertime problem. Unfortunately, not this year – and the health risks are troubling.

March 1 marked the beginning of ozone season in Houston – and April 3 was the first day in 2016 that a regulatory ozone monitor in Houston measured above 70 parts per billion (ppb), which is the level of the health standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No other official air monitor in the state had recorded levels above 70ppb, meaning Houston is winning the early race for unhealthiest Texas air – which isn’t winning at all.

While stratospheric ozone plays a beneficial role by absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays, not all ozone is considered “good.” Ground-level ozone is a form of pollution, also known as smog, which can result in dangerous consequences for public health such as asthma attacks, and heart and lung disease. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Ozone| Comments are closed

Texas Organizer Named to National Climate Justice Panel

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Yudith Nieto, shown here holding an an air sampler in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, was named to a national climate justice panel.

Environmental justice is a top priority for many millennials. And one young, Houston-based organizer is demonstrating her generation’s effectiveness by leading the way on this important issue.

Community groups play an important role in bolstering young leaders. Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), based in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood, supports residents in efforts to create sustainable and environmentally healthy communities by providing education and resources. They recognize millennial leadership on environmental justice issues, and often work with young organizers in their efforts to educate and engage community members on environmental laws and policy. Read More »

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Part IV: Reducing Pollution to Protect Houston’s Health

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Houston must demonstrate clear political will and a strong commitment to make health a top priority.

In Part I of our series on ozone, we described how 2015 was a bad year for Houston ozone, and in Part II we shared research from local scientists that explains which health risks go up when ozone levels are high in Houston. Part III deconstructed some of the flawed arguments and logic put forward by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in challenging the health-based standard. Now, in Part IV, we’ll take a look at how Houston can breathe cleaner air by reducing emissions and implementing response strategies.

Houston has always been a solution-oriented city, and that’s how we hope leaders will approach the ozone challenge. The air quality data, health studies, and growth trends make it clear that Houston needs to double down on efforts to reduce ozone pollution. The region also needs better planning to ensure that emergency responders have the best information available to protect the health of all residents, especially on high ozone days. Read More »

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Researchers Highlight Air Quality Ideas for Ports

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Shore power is a promising alternative allows ships to plug into the local electricity grid and reduce harmful emissions.

For ports that commit to reduce emissions and improve air quality, figuring out the best way forward can be challenging – the sheer volume of information on the subject may be overwhelming if you don’t know where to get started.

Fortunately, research facilitated by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) can help ports and terminals get up to speed on the latest breakthroughs in emissions technologies and clean air strategies.

Two weeks ago, TRB held its Annual Meeting in Washington, DC and welcomed more than 13,000 of the world’s top transportation researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders. The conference highlighted some of the top trends in transportation, and shared leading research on topics including air quality modeling, emissions control technologies, and environmental policy reviews. Texas ports can learn much from the air quality ideas presented at TRB – whether from the peer-reviewed research or insights from experienced panelists.

Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Energy Efficiency, Environment, Ports, Uncategorized| Tagged , , | Comments are closed

Part II: Studies Show Health Risks Associated with More Ozone Pollution

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High ozone days, particularly in sequence, increase the risk of an asthma attack requiring EMS intervention.

In Part I of our series on ozone, we described how 2015 was a bad year for Houston ozone. Why does this matter? In Part II, we’re reviewing recent research from leading Houston scientists that explains why more ozone pollution is harmful to our health.

Scientists have known for a long time that ground-level ozone, or smog, is harmful to human health. Smog is associated with adverse health effects like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and lung disease. Children, the elderly, and individuals that spend lots of active time outdoors are even more susceptible to high ozone levels and thus considered sensitive populations.

Fortunately, recent research on exposure to lower levels of ozone prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year to strengthen the national health-based standard to 70 parts per billion (ppb). The new standard means cleaner air and healthier lungs in Houston, where studies from area scientists have demonstrated local, negative health implications of high ozone levels. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, TCEQ, Uncategorized| Tagged | Read 1 Response
  • About the author

    Research Analyst
    Marcelo works on air pollution issues related to seaports and the freight movement sector of transportation. He has developed and analyzed metrics for estimating emissions at ports, worked with EDF’s corporate partners on leveraging their support for pollution mitigation programs, conducted an evaluation of clean truck programs, and partnered with the U.S. EPA and other federal agencies on transportation sustainability.

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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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