Category Archives: Air Pollution

Air Emissions from Eagle Ford Oil and Gas Activity Expected to Quadruple over next Four Years

Well site located in Eagle Ford Shale play

Well site located in Eagle Ford Shale play

Late last week, the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) released a report outlining emission projections from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play, the most active drilling area in the country right now. Under the moderate drilling activity scenario, projections of air pollutants are expected to quadruple in the next four years. Even though this seems like a staggering prediction, it is likely an underestimation, given certain emissions are not accounted for in the inventory.

What does the report say?

The report assesses the emissions from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play and projects air pollution under three different development scenarios: low, moderate, and aggressive. Projections over the next several years indicate that we can expect substantial increases in smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carbon monoxide. Read More »

Also posted in GHGs, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone, Particulate Matter, San Antonio, TCEQ | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A New Study Points to the Need for Improved Air Monitoring in Texas

Source: Dallas Observer

Source: Dallas Observer

A new study accepted for publication in Environmental Science & Technology takes a close look at the amount of certain air pollutants in the Barnett Shale, a booming oil and gas region in North Texas. Using public monitoring data from 2010-2011, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared air pollution levels measured at a monitor surrounded by oil and gas operations to the levels that would be expected based on available emission estimates. The result brings to light that the emissions inventory from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the Barnett Shale does not add up to the observations.

There are numerous air pollutants that can be emitted by oil and natural gas development.  Depending on the local composition of the produced gas, emissions can often include volatile organic compounds (VOC, such as propane, butane, pentane, etc.) that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (also known as smog), and toxic air pollutants like benzene and hexane that are directly hazardous to human health.  Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas and a greenhouse gas catching lots of attention these days, is another powerful pollutant associated with these operations. Unlike the pollutants listed above, methane directly affects the health of our climate rather than human health. Fortunately, available technologies designed to capture methane are also effective in reducing these other pollutants. However, methane controls alone may not ensure that local air quality concerns are addressed – these require special attention.  Read More »

Also posted in Barnett Shale, Dallas Fort-Worth, GHGs, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone, TCEQ | Comments closed

EPA Hosts National Summit to Address Environmental Concerns and Sustainability at Ports

Source: Digital Vision

Source: Digital Vision

Every day, countless heavy duty diesel trucks and oil-burning cargo ships move tons of goods through U.S. ports, adding pollution to urban areas that may be suffering from poor air quality. As many ports across the nation are undergoing expansion projects and increased throughput of goods, environmental concerns have become a high profile issue. With the right tools and collaboration among stakeholders, however, ports have significant opportunity to lessen their environmental impact and improve local air quality.

Thankfully, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a National Port Stakeholders Summit next week, in Baltimore, Maryland to address challenges and advance sustainability at ports. The summit invites experts and stakeholders to share expertise, ideas, and actions to reduce the ecological impact of port operations. Read More »

Also posted in Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ports | Tagged | Comments closed

Will Texas Step Up to the Plate on Energy Efficiency and Carbon Pollution Standards?

rp_Kate-Zerrenner-200x300.jpgA couple of weeks ago, I wrote about energy efficiency and the Clean Air Act section 111(d) provisions in anticipation of the SPEER Second Annual Summit, a gathering of top energy efficiency industry leaders from Texas and Oklahoma. At the Summit, I co-led a session on Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) push to regulate power plant emissions. Session attendees agreed that Texas would be an unlikely leader in developing innovative ways to comply with carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.

This is a missed opportunity on Texas’ part, as states will get the first crack at drafting plans to comply with new federal standards. This is an important opportunity because individual states are in the best position to craft frameworks that enable maximum flexibility and are appropriately tailored to local circumstances. So, this begs the question: is there an alternative, more constructive path that is most beneficial to Texas?  Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Coal, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Renewable Energy | Tagged | Comments closed

Newly Released Vehicle and Fuel Standards Will Clean Up U.S. Fleet and Improve Texas Air Quality

Source: Green Mountain Energy Cleaner Times

Source: Green Mountain Energy Cleaner Times

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released updated Tier 3 vehicle emissions and fuel standards. The new standards are an update to the successful Tier 2 performance standards, which were finalized in 2000. Like the legacy Tier 2 program, the new Tier 3 standards will look at vehicles and fuels as a combined system to reduce both tailpipe pollution and gasoline sulfur content, improving urban air quality and saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Despite Tier 3’s projected benefits, lawmakers, and oil industry groups insist the standards are too costly. Of course, they fail to count the lasting health benefits from Tier 3—which more than outweigh the cost of the program.

The Benefits

The new fuel standards will instantly reduce emissions from every vehicle on the road once they are implemented in 2017, by reducing the amount of sulfur permitted in gasoline to 10 parts per million. Furthermore, the new vehicle tailpipe standards will cut smog-forming emissions by over 20 percent and fine particulate matter by 10 percent by 2030. EPA projects these vital emissions reductions will prevent between 770 and 2,000 premature deaths, 2,200 hospital admissions, and 19,000 asthma attacks annually by 2030, providing approximately $6.7 – $19 billion in annual health benefits. All of these benefits come at the low cost of less than one additional cent per gallon of gasoline, or about $72 per vehicle. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Car Standards, Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation | Tagged | Comments closed

Shelley: EPA Mandate Would Benefit the Lives of all Houstonians

This post was written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle on February 22, 2014.

Adrian Shelly, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

Adrian Shelly, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

We know that ozone pollution is a public health threat in Houston. Now a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that threat is greater than previously thought. As a result, the ozone standard is likely to be lowered by the end of the year. Houston has never met an ozone standard, but it is time for us to get serious about protecting our health.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been considering lowering the standard since 2008, when President George W. Bush's EPA revised it to 75 parts per billion. That revision defied an EPA recommendation for a standard as low as 70 parts per billion. Now the agency recommends that 60 parts per billion may be needed to protect public health.

Ozone, unlike other air pollutants, isn't restricted to certain parts of Houston. It's found everywhere, and it causes asthma attacks, heart disease and even early death. In the Houston region, 6 million people are at risk.

It is the responsibility of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to bring ozone down to healthy levels. In reacting to the EPA's new findings, the TCEQ focuses not on the need to protect public health, but on the regulatory burden of reducing air pollution. The TCEQ is already attacking the science behind the new study. TCEQ Chief Toxicologist Michael Honeycutt has questioned even the concept of an eight-hour ozone standard, suggesting in a Houston Chronicle story that it might be "more appropriate" to return to a one-hour standard, as the EPA had in the 1970s.  Read More »

Also posted in Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone | Tagged , | Comments closed

Collaboration on Environmental Justice Issues Leads to Stronger, More Inclusive Action

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.

Source: Mataparda/flickr

Source: Mataparda/flickr

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 »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | Tagged , | Comments closed

Time for Texas to Work With EPA To Secure Cleaner Air For All Texans

Elena QuoteLast Wednesday, I traveled to Washington D.C. to testify at a House Science, Space, and Technology hearing entitled Examining the Science of EPA Overreach: A Case Study in Texas. It was my first time testifying on Capitol Hill and I was grateful for the opportunity to connect with some of our Texas lawmakers on issues concerning the relationship between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas.

One item of discussion focused on the greenhouse gas permitting authority in the state and the fact that Texas’ legal actions have thwarted industrial facilities in the state from conducting business. A recent article in the Texas Tribune, titled “Anti-Regulation Politics May Have Hurt Energy Industry,” highlights the burden that a dual permitting process places on businesses seeking greenhouse gas permits.

The process, which requires industrial facilities, such as power plants and refineries, to apply to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for criteria air pollutants permits and separately to EPA for greenhouse gas permits, has proved onerous for industry. In the article, the Texas Pipeline Association says, “more than 50 planned projects since early 2011 have been significantly delayed by the [Texas] permitting process, putting 48,000 jobs at risk.” Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting | Tagged , , | Comments closed

How Electric Vehicles Are Strengthening the Texas Power Grid and Improving Air Quality

Source: SAE

Source: SAE

San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) brings Texas the latest example of an intelligent, demand-side resource that can play an active role in the power grid and offset the use of fossil-fuel power plants. Late last month, SwRI announced that its innovative vehicle-to-grid system got the green light from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator, to participate in the state’s electricity market. This system is able to control the charging and discharging for a fleet of electric delivery trucks, meaning that when the supply of electricity struggles to meet demand, the intelligent vehicle charging system can simply stop charging (thus lowering demand). This technology will significantly increase grid reliability, thanks to its quick response time, and effectively deter the need for firing up another dirty power plant.

In order to avoid a blackout, the supply of electricity to the power grid must equal the electric demand from customers. Conventionally, this balance is maintained by power plants that remain on stand-by, ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Every hour of the day, ERCOT precisely controls these power plants to keep the grid balanced. In the process, a power plant has to rapidly increase or decrease its power output, which decreases its efficiency and increases its carbon and pollution footprint, much like an a car revving its engine. Read More »

Also posted in Demand Response, Electric Vehicles, ERCOT, Smart Grid | Tagged | Comments closed

Energy Efficiency Is Key to Achieving Carbon Pollution Standard

Kate ZerrennerRight now, there are no limits on carbon pollution from power plants, even though these facilities were responsible for  roughly 40 percent of all U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2012.

That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is crafting greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations for new fossil fuel-fired power plants by setting a limit on how much CO2 the plants can emit. Later this year, EPA will issue proposed CO2 “emission guidelines” for existing fossil fuel-fired power plants using various Clean Air Act tools to protect human health and to clean up our air.

To achieve significant and cost-effective emission reductions from existing power plants, EPA should look to leading states that are already implementing successful measures to reduce emissions. These measures include investing in renewable energy, harvesting energy efficiency, and utilizing more efficient and lower-emitting fossil fuel-fired units. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | Tagged , , | Comments closed
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