Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, TX
On Tuesday, I spoke at a well-attended public hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) vital proposal to reduce toxic emissions at oil refineries. At the hearing, I witnessed industry representatives and backers argue that refineries have already done enough to protect local citizens and that the public knows all there is to know about hazardous refinery pollution. Clean air advocates, including labor unions, public officials, residents, and health practitioners, took the stand and called on EPA to improve the status quo.
The status quo, unfortunately, is pollution loopholes for certain refinery processes, outdated pollution control technologies, and an inadequate health impact assessment. This refinery air toxics proposal, currently open for public comment, will help protect public health in some of the nation’s most toxically overburdened communities. That’s why direct federal attention to oil refineries is needed in states with questionable environmental records like Texas and Louisiana. Read More
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott falls flat in flawed legal challenge against EPA
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to address climate pollution under the Clean Air Act. The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of allowing EPA to require that large industrial sources of greenhouse gas pollution install the best available control technology when building or rebuilding plants that are also sources of other major air pollutants. This means that large cement plants, refineries, power plants, chemical facilities, and other industrial facilities must use modern emissions controls for climate pollution.
This is a big win for Texans who are hard hit by air pollution. Unfortunately, the state leads the nation in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and is home to several cities and communities with significant air quality challenges.
A 5-4 majority of the Court also held that EPA must narrow its permit program to avoid applying the program to many smaller sources that EPA itself had concluded would pose serious problems yet yield relatively small pollution mitigation benefits. But Justice Scalia recognized that EPA achieved an important victory for public health and clean air. While describing the outcome of the high Court’s decision from the bench, Justice Scalia stated that “EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.” Read More
Last month, Texas Governor Rick Perry penned an open letter to President Barack Obama criticizing the administration’s energy policy and urging the federal government to adopt the “Texas approach” to energy and environmental regulations. The letter stoked its fair share of controversy, prompting Politifact Texas to weigh in on Perry’s claims about Texas air pollution. Unsurprisingly, they found that Perry’s words were only a half-truth, masking the true state of air quality in Texas. With this post, I’ll unpack Perry’s claims, discuss the true state of the air in Texas, and suggest where the state should go from here.
In his letter, Perry claimed that, since 2000, Texas has reduced “harmful pollutants in the air like nitrogen oxide by 62.5 percent, and ozone by 23 percent—a reduction that is 12 percent greater than the national average.” Politifact deemed this statement more spin than substance for good reason; while Texas air quality has improved in recent years, Texas cities ranked among the worst in the nation for ozone and particulate matter in the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report. Both ozone and particulate matter pose a risk to human health, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, especially in children and the elderly. And because ozone forms more readily on hot, sunny days, Texas ozone season lasts for several months, increasing health risks for Texans exposed to pollution. While Texas air quality has improved, we still fair worse than most of the nation—it’s far too early for Rick Perry to claim victory over air pollution. Read More
Growth at the Port of Houston. Aftermath of the BP oil spill. Resiliency in the era of climate change. These are but three of the critical environmental justice issues facing communities in Texas and the South. Thriving in light of these challenges will require innovative partnerships and creative solutions – all of which were showcased at last week’s “Encuentro.” We first highlighted this influential event last week and a few members of EDF’s Texas office had the opportunity to attend. Organized by the Houston Peace and Justice Center and hosted by Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Encuentro brought together community leaders, environmental advocates, and energy and sustainability experts with a goal of advancing the environmental justice movement in the region.
In the face of grave challenges, there was a tremendous spirit of optimism as a panel of TSU graduate students kicked off the day with their insights on sustainable communities and the power of participatory research. Renowned experts, such as Dr. Robert Bullard and Dr. Al Armendariz, deepened the resolve of Encuentro participants with their eye-opening analysis of some of society’s most entrenched and complex challenges. For example, a zip code is still the most accurate predictor of health. Where you grew up and where you live are closely associated with environmental quality and health outcomes. This means that fence-line communities, like Manchester, TX which neighbors a large rail yard, major highways, chemical plants, manufacturing facilities, and a car crushing facility, are in a precarious and often dire situation. This stark reality is what drives Encuentro and all of the efforts to improve environmental and public health. Read More
This year Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of its SmartWay program, a voluntary program created to help freight companies move more goods across more miles without the extra emissions. Texas boasts more than 180 SmartWay partners and affiliates, including Dell, AT&T, and BNSF Railway to name a few, that have made a commitment to improve fuel efficiency, reduce diesel consumption, and increase sustainability along transportation routes. These pledges have turned into action as SmartWay partners across the nation have saved $16.8 billion in fuel costs, reduced oil consumption by more than 120.7 million barrels, and reduced 51.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide across the nation – that’s equivalent to taking over 10 million cars off the road every year. Read More
Source: Texas Tribune Haze over Dallas Area
Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.
As bluebonnets dot the Texas highways signaling the arrival of spring and summer, concerns about ozone pollution also begin to surface. March 1 marks the official start of ozone season in the Dallas Metroplex and in Greater Houston. Other metro areas, including Austin and San Antonio, mark April 1 as their start date. Ozone forecast season ends for most areas on October 31, but in Houston it lasts through November 30. Ozone season is nothing to celebrate, but this primer can help get you up to speed on the basics of ozone pollution and what you can do to improve air quality and protect the health of your family.
What is ozone? Ground-level ozone is the main component of smog and is the single most widespread air pollutant in the United States. Ozone pollution forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (primarily released from combustion of fossil fuels, like car exhaust) react with heat and sunlight. Texas’ combination of heavy industrial activity, hot summers, and millions of cars on the road increases the potential for generation of harmful levels of ozone. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Voices Blog.
This post was co-authored by Lucía Hennelly, with contributions from Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Presidential Executive Order calling for Federal Actions To Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations, which prompts us to ask: What would the environmental movement in the United States look like if there were genuine cross-pollination, collaboration, and feedback between large, national-scale organizations and locally-based, environmental justice organizations?
Last week, we at EDF had a chance to experience a small glimpse of what this would be like when we delivered comments at EPA’s public hearing on new carbon pollution limits for new power plants alongside other Latino representatives and environmental activists. Among these activists was Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.
Air Alliance Houston (AAH) is the region’s leading air quality and public health non-profit, working in the most diverse city in the United States. With a population that is more than one-third Latino, Houston is a majority-minority city seated in Harris County, the fastest-growing county in the country. It’s also ground zero for the environmental justice movement. The distribution of health risks is unequal, as air pollutants that pose a definite risk to human health are found in greater numbers in several East Houston neighborhoods adjacent to the Houston Ship Channel. Read More
Source: Mom's Clean Air Force
Your abuela or your friend’s abuela may not mention “carbon pollution” or “greenhouse gas emissions” much, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Hispanics are not aware of or unconcerned with what is happening to our planet. In fact, polling confirms that Latinos overwhelmingly support action to curb climate change. A recent poll for the Natural Resources Defense Council by Latino Decisions shows that 80 percent of Latino voters somewhat-to-strongly favor Presidential action to fight carbon pollution.
Why? Family values.
The reasons are similar to those held by many interested in protecting the planet for future generations. The poll proves that Latinos are concerned about air quality, health effects of a worsening environment and teaching a cultural legacy of environmental stewardship and conservation. Read More
Source: Texas Public Radio
Air pollution and sustainability may not have been hot topics for transportation professionals in the past, but they were widely discussed during the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a conference that brings together transportation professionals from around the world. And as we have highlighted in the past, air emissions from the transportation sector are of particular concern in Texas, and many at the conference took note of the state’s progress.
For instance, one panel highlighted efforts to reduce costly cargo truck delays at various Texas-Mexico border crossings. These truck delays occur due to a myriad of reasons, including rush-hour transit times and customs issues, but a recently launched initiative known as the Border Crossing Information System, or BCIS, is aiming to shorten these delays through accurate monitoring and reporting of truck queues and, in turn, reduce harmful air emissions. Read More
Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.
Source: AmCham Colombia
Texas is a big player in international trade and leads the country in exports, sending over $260 billion worth of goods to overseas markets in 2012. While robust trade can bring many positives, it can also present challenges for local air pollution. As we have highlighted before, poor air quality is a growing concern as scientists learn more about the connection between air pollution and diseases, such as asthma, bronchitis and cancer.
What does that mean for a state trying to reduce the impact of freight transportation on urban air quality? As international trade growth continues to strengthen the Texas economy, EDF recognizes that diverse partnerships are pivotal to reducing air pollution here at home.
This week, we are pleased to share the latest of our outreach efforts targeting international freight shippers: our article was published in the AmCham-Colombia Spanish-language magazine Business Mail, in a special issue dedicated to corporate social responsibility. This trade publication reaches hundreds of leading companies engaged in international trade and will enable us to introduce EDF’s principles of green freight transportation to a new audience.
The Business Mail article considers the journey of Colombian coffee as it travels from the highlands of Colombia to stores in North America, transferring to various modes of transportation along the way. For each step of the journey, we highlight an approach that can improve efficiency and sustainability such as sharing container space or choosing fuel-efficient cargo ships. The bottom line of the story is that decisions about trucks, ships and trains made globally can directly impact the quality of air that we breathe in Texas. Read More