Category Archives: Air Pollution

Now is the Time to Protect Our Children from the Dangers of Oil Refineries

By: Guest Blogger Trish O’Day, MSN, RN, Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility

(Source: Earth Justice) A child plays in a park next to the Valero oil refinery in Manchester, Texas.

(Source: EarthJustice) A child plays in a park next to the Valero oil refinery in Manchester, Texas.

Texas children growing up near oil refineries are not breathing easy. Living near a refinery can mean exposure to carcinogens, such as benzene, and heavy metals, such as lead. Sadly, there are five oil refineries located in Houston alone, with an additional three in both Port Arthur and Texas City.

Infants (and those still in the womb), babies, and young children are different; they are not little adults. They breathe faster; they live “close-to-the-ground”, and indulge quite often in “hand to mouth” behavior.

A look at lead exposure and children’s health

Lead toxicity in children has decreased in the US since lead was removed from gasoline and paint, but health experts recognize that even low-dose exposure to lead is harmful and irreversible. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention state: “there is simply no safe level of lead exposure for children.”

Children’s brains develop from the first month of conception continuing up to 7 or 8 years old. This long-term development of a child’s central nervous system and brain is sensitive, at all steps along the way, to contact with toxic substances, such as industrial chemicals or toxic substances, whether the exposure is from breathing, ingestion, or dermal (through the skin, while playing in the dirt). Read More »

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Bridging the Gap and Building Solidarity at Regional Environmental Justice Training

By: Kelsey Monk, program coordinator, and Marcelo Norsworthy, research analyst

Source: Pat Sullivan  — AP Photo

Source: Pat Sullivan — AP Photo

Addressing environmental justice challenges is an ongoing learning process, and, like many environmental and public health concerns, there is no silver bullet. However, there are effective strategies and productive collaborations that can lead to success. As I learned from Vernice Miller-Travis, co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, “passion, matched with data, is a really powerful conversation to be having.” And EDF is definitely into data and powerful conversations, so last week, Marcelo Norsworthy and I participated in a three-day Environmental Justice Training Workshop.

The National Governor’s Association defines environmental justice (EJ) as protecting minority and low-income communities from bearing a disproportionate share of pollution, and this can have implications at the legal, regulatory, and policy levels. The workshop, co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 6 Office, the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Series, and the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, is part of a larger effort by EPA’s Region 6 Office of Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs. The intent is to bring together grassroots organizations and partners, local officials, and government entities to build sustainable relationships and broaden decision-making skills. Essentially, EPA is utilizing a participatory and collaborative process to draft an environmental justice action plan that addresses region-wide priorities, such as air quality, chemical security, and Gulf Coast restoration. Read More »

Also posted in Environmental Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Natural gas| Tagged | Leave a comment

Public Calls for Health Protections at Refinery Hearing in Texas, Industry Defends Status Quo

Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, TX  (Source: FuelFix)

Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, TX
(Source: FuelFix)

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 »

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

"Refinery Pollution Affects ME!"

This commentary originally appeared in Air Alliance Houston's newsletter.

Isn't it time you said that to the EPA?

By: Adrian Shelley, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

There are 149 oil refineries in the United States. Of those, 5 are located in Houston, with an additional 3 in both Port Arthur and Texas City. The refining industry is more than 100 years old, and some people might be surprised to learn that there is equipment operating in some of our refineries that is a century old as well. As you can imagine, a lot has changed in that century.

Regulations governing the refining industry have not kept up. You've probably heard by now about the Environmental Protection Agency's new Refinery Air Toxics Rule. You may even have seen announcements lately about a hearing on the rule to be held in Houston on August 5. The hearing is a unique opportunity to influence a landmark rule in the fight against refinery pollution.

Air Alliance Houston has been promoting the hearing since it was announced. Today, I'd like to take a few minutes to explain why YOU should attend the hearing. Read More »

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Supreme Court Confirms EPA’s Authority to Address Climate Pollution, Abbott Fails in Yet another Attack on Clean Air

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott falls flat in flawed legal challenge against EPA

iStock_Coal_Plant_2_jpgLast 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 »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs| Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Diesel Engines in Need of an Overhaul, but not Without More Funding

By: Christina Wolfe, EDF's Ports & Transportation Analyst

Source: autos.ca

Source: autos.ca

Despite the well-known health risks from diesel emissions and the economic consequences of unhealthy air, clean air projects are often stalled because they lack money. Fortunately, funding options for transportation-related clean air initiatives are available at the national, regional, and state levels. One of the key national sources of funding has been the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), administered through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DERA provides up to $100 million each year through 2016 for reducing emissions from existing diesel engines, and recently, EPA announced that roughly $9 million is available for agencies seeking to undergo clean diesel projects.

DERA typically funds replacement, repower, and retrofit projects for diesel vehicles and equipment to improve air quality and public health by reducing hazardous air pollutants, like particulate matter and smog-forming pollutants, among others. Through the Request for Proposals, eligible applications are required to have a partnership with a local government or metropolitan planning organization, a public or private fleet of vehicles or equipment, and other interested entities (e.g., technology providers, community groups, etc.). Because of these unique partnerships, DERA has been able to make federal dollars go even further. The DERA partnership approach attracts public and private funding that, when combined with federal funds, allow for more emissions reductions. Both partners stand to gain a great deal in the way of enhancing business operations and improving local health and are eager to participate. In the end, for each federal dollar awarded, as much as $3 from non-federal sources is added to the project, and together these funds provide up to $7 – $18 in public health benefits. Read More »

Also posted in Drayage, Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate Matter, Transportation| Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Texas Air Quality Has Improved in Spite of State’s Flawed Approach to Environmental Protection

Source: www.nwf.org

Source: www.nwf.org

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 »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Environment, Houston, Natural gas, Oil| Tagged | Comments closed

Environmental Justice “Encuentro” Highlights Optimism and Creative Solutions

Source: Ecopolitology

Source: Ecopolitology

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 »

Also posted in Climate Change, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Natural gas, Oil| Tagged , | Comments closed

Soot Pollution Limits Unanimously Upheld in Court, Continuing Clean Air Victory Streak

rp_air-pollution-source-NRDC-300x187.jpgLast week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) particulate matter (soot) pollution standard, ruling that EPA’s decision to strengthen the standard in 2012 was firmly grounded in science and the law. The ruling also upheld EPA’s new requirement that states install air quality monitors near heavy traffic roads, where soot pollution levels can spike. The court’s decision is the latest in a string of legal victories for critical health protections on air pollution.

When fossil fuels are burned in an automobile or power plant, they release soot pollution, very fine, ashy particles less than one tenth the width of a human hair. These particles are so small that the air can carry them for long distances. When inhaled, soot particles penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can cross into the bloodstream via the path normally taken by inhaled oxygen. Exposure to soot pollution can inflame and alter our blood vessels, cutting off the oxygen supply to our heart and brain, leading to a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiac event. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate Matter| Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Houston’s Environmental Justice “Encuentro” to Chart Path Forward for Communities

This post was co-authored by Dr. Denae King, research associate professor at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, and Juan Parras, founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.

Source: Houston Peace and Justice Center

Source: Houston Peace and Justice Center

Encuentro in Spanish means meeting, awareness, or encounter, but in this instance it is the title of an environmental justice event. Environmental Justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. The goals for this event are to bring conservation groups and residents most affected by severe environmental health risks together to foster a dialog around the EJ movement. Encuentro also seeks to enlighten Houstonians with an understanding that environmental injustices suffered by "fence-line" communities affect all Houstonians. Through this discussion, Houstonians can identify and pool the resources needed to help improve environmental quality, public health, and the well-being of local families and neighbors.

Next Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, community leaders, environmental advocates, and energy and sustainability experts will convene at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs for the “2014 Encuentro.” The ideas and strategies to be presented at this year’s Encuentro build upon a rich history of the Environmental Justice movement in the Houston region. Read More »

Also posted in Environment, Houston| Tagged , , | Comments closed
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