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
Source: By NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
At a recent event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the group’s director, Kathleen Harnett White, declared that carbon dioxide, the pollutant most responsible for warming Earth’s climate, is the “gas of life” and that we don’t need limits on carbon emissions. Yes, some amount of carbon is needed for the climate, just like some amount of arsenic is needed by the human body. But at higher levels, arsenic is deadly poisonous. The fast-growing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is like too much arsenic in the body – deadly. White apparently has forgotten elementary aspects of high school science.
Here is what the real scientists say about the impact of carbon dioxide on our climate: Read More
Hilary Sinnamon, clean air and transportation consultant, contributed to this post.
A key component of one of the most significant health protection measures adopted in the past several years will take effect in the New Year – and Texas is positioned to reap significant benefits.
Large ocean-going ships, like container vessels, tankers, and cruise ships are often called floating smokestacks because they have historically burned fuel hundreds to thousands of times dirtier than all other mobile sources, including cars, trucks, trains and construction equipment. That’s why the North American Emissions Control Area (ECA), approved by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2010, requires these vessels to reduce harmful emissions by switching to cleaner fuels when transiting within 200 nautical miles of U.S. and Canadian coastlines. This means healthier air for communities across Texas and the rest of the country, as these measures are estimated to reduce millions of pounds of harmful air pollutants and save tens of thousands of lives. Read More
The New York Times recently came out with an article that I could not ignore. It looked at how Attorneys General across the country have been supported by campaign donations from a “secretive energy alliance” that includes some of the nation’s top fossil fuel power companies. Texas Attorney General and Governor-elect Greg Abbott received the most—a whopping $2.5 million, compared to the $577,000 for the next largest beneficiary of the polluters’ largess.
Abbott has been quoted as saying, “What I really do for fun is I go into the office, [and] I sue the Obama administration.” True to his word, Abbott has sued the federal government 30 times (27 since Obama took office), including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) eight times, spending at least $2.58 million of taxpayers' money and more than 14,113 in state employee staff hours in the process—all with little success. But, of course, those $2.5 million in campaign funds had no effect on his actions. He's doing it for fun. Read More