By: Sarah Holland, Director, CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas
Ozone season is now upon us, which means citizens and cities need to be aware of daily ozone levels and how they impact daily life. Ozone, also known as smog, is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects, including asthma attacks, decreased lung function and premature death. Children, older Americans, and those with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially at risk. Poor air quality not only affects public health, but is bad for the Texas economy as well. Currently our region is on the cusp of nonattainment, meaning several cities in Texas do not meet federal health-based air quality standards. Designation could mean a requirement for new emission reduction control measures. In addition, a non-attainment designation has several consequences, including diminished attractiveness for talent recruitment, new businesses, and families. Read More
This post, written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston executive director, originally appeared on airCurrent News.
Spring is coming to Houston, and with it the start of ozone season. You probably haven’t thought about ozone yet this year, and with all the cold weather we’ve had, you could be forgiven. But Houston’s ozone season officially began on March 1, and it may be time to start thinking about this pernicious air pollutant once again.
First we should remember that 2015’s ozone season begins amid a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the federal ozone pollution standard. Comments on that proposal were due this week. Air Alliance Houston, with help from students at the University of Houston Law Center, submitted comments calling for a standard as low as 60 parts per billion. The best science of the day indicates that such a low standard is needed to protect public health.
Meanwhile our Governor Greg Abbot, along with Governors from ten other states, ignored public health needs and asked the EPA not to update the ozone standard again, ever. Governor Abbot et. al. claim that the new ozone standard will cost billions of dollars and 1.4 million jobs nationwide. This claim ignores a recent EPA study of the results of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, which estimates that benefits from implementing the Act exceed costs by a factor of more than 30 to 1.
So there are some hard questions about what the ozone standard will be in the future. But putting those aside for right now, what do you need to know for 2015’s ozone season? Read More
Also posted in Houston, Ozone
EDFers Marcelo Norsworthy and Chris Wolfe (L) with Rachel Powers, Executive Director of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition (CEC).
The Houston environmental community was strengthened and reinvigorated after last week’s Greater Houston Environmental Summit, an event organized by the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition (CEC). The summit was designed to allow local environmental leaders to share their take on how Houston is addressing key challenges related to growth, transportation, air quality, and infrastructure. A principle message from the summit was how high-paced growth and demographic changes have been altering the face of Houston. What does Houston’s rapidly-growing, multi-ethnic population, in fact, mean for environmental issues?
Houston, the 6th largest metro region, is expected to see its population jump to more than 7 million people by 2020. This rapid growth means that, while there are more pressures on natural resources like air quality, there may also be a new resolve to make significant emissions reductions. As many of the speakers at the summit highlighted, the time is now to move the needle on a number of environmental challenges facing Houston and its diverse population. Read More
This post was written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director.
State of the Air keynote speaker Dr. Bob Bullard on environmental justice and air pollution.
Earlier this month, Air Alliance Houston held its annual “State of the Air” luncheon. This event is an opportunity for our friends, allies, and supporters—including EDF—to learn about our work and for other groups to highlight how they are also working to improve Houston air quality.
The first guest speaker at this year’s State of the Air was Better Houston’s Peter Brown, known in some circles as Pedestrian Pete. Mr. Brown serves on a committee developing Houston’s first ever General Plan. Although to many “Houston planning” is an oxymoron, the General Plan provides an opportunity for Houston to intelligently manage the City’s explosive growth, which will see an additional one million people move to Houston in the next twenty years. Air Alliance Houston is participating in the planning process, encouraging the city to adopt strategies that promote increased use of mass transit, walkability, and a reduction in the impact of diesel trucks on residential areas. (If you live in Houston, you too can provide input by clicking here.)
The real highlight of the event came with a presentation by our keynote speaker Dr. Robert Bullard, the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. Dr. Bullard—also the newest board member of Air Alliance Houston—delivered a powerful presentation titled “Environmental Justice Challenges in the 21st Century: The Right to Breathe vs the Right to Pollute.” Read More
Big Bend National Park Source: flikr/MarcusCalderon
The vistas at some of Texas’ natural treasures, like Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, aren’t the same as they used to be. Right now seven coal-fired power plants in Texas are emitting such large amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other pollutants that they are obstructing visibility, causing what’s known as “regional haze.” That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently held a public hearing in Austin to take comments on its plan to restore visibility in these parks, as well as the Wichita Falls National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, since Texas’ dirty power plant emissions also affect our neighbor to the north. EPA is focusing its attention on Texas, in particular, after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposed an unreasonable plan to restore “natural visibility” in the parks by 2155 (140 years from now!). Frankly put, waiting until 2155 to restore natural visibility in our national parks is not an acceptable course of action from the TCEQ, as Texas is required to show “reasonable progress” toward a national goal of restoring visibility by 2064. Texas should step up as a leader to keep our state a great place to live by prioritizing public and environmental health, while building out our robust renewable energy sector and supporting clean technologies that don’t obstruct our health or views.
Fortunately, EPA proposes to ensure that Texas meets the regional haze requirements through an alternative plan that will provide improved visibility in these areas, as well as health benefits: Read More
Rep. Issac teaching fellow lawmakers about the TERP program and benefits.
Last week, I went to the Texas Capitol to show support for Representative Jason Isaac’s efforts to educate his fellow lawmakers on the importance of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP). A diverse group of stakeholders, including Texas businesses, local governments, environmental groups, and others are calling on the Texas Legislature to 1) preserve an essential program that helps improve air quality in Texas, and 2) use the funds that have already been collected from Texas businesses and residents for their intended use – healthier air quality. Representative Isaac has jokingly referred to the unique coalition of industry, government, and environmental organizations as “dogs and cats living together,” but the solidarity is an important indication of both the success and importance of the TERP program to the health of Texans and our economy. But only if the State Legislation spends the funds already collected rather than keep the money in state coffers. Read More