Category Archives: Air Pollution

Money to Burn? Questioning Public Health Priorities at the TCEQ

Source: flickr.com/photos/earthworks

Flaring in Eagle Ford Shale
Source: flickr.com/photos/earthworks

The Texas Tribune recently published a piece debunking some of the science behind the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) position on the national health standard for ozone – one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet. As outlined in the agency’s latest newsletter, TCEQ’s Director of Toxicology, Mike Honeycutt, questions the health benefits of a stronger standard, even though public health experts across the country have been calling for a more protective standard for years. What’s more disappointing than the agency’s apparent anti-health position, however, is the lack of attention to other legitimate air pollution issues in Texas.

It would seem that the agency must have a surplus of staff, as well as unlimited resources to establish such an aggressive position on a standard that hasn’t been proposed yet. The reality is that there are so many more important things that the agency could and should be doing to serve and protect Texas citizens from real air pollution threats, including:  Read More »

Also posted in Dallas Fort-Worth, Environment, Flare emissions, Natural gas, Ozone, TCEQ| Leave a comment

Bill Would Obstruct Clean Air Act Protections

Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watch - Harris County Courthouse Annex 19 - Gulfton, Houston.

Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watch – Harris County Courthouse Annex 19 – Gulfton, Houston.

Earlier this year, close to 20 Texas counties received a grade of "F" from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution (up from 15 counties in 2013). Ozone is one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet and has been linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and other severe respiratory illnesses, as well as increased emergency room and hospital admissions. And it poses an especially serious risk to children, seniors and those with lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis.

If realized, a stronger public health standard for ozone would prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, avoid up to 21,000 hospitalizations and provide $100 billion in associated economic benefits.

Why then are Texas officials fighting tooth and nail against it?

U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, joined by fellow Texas Republican Reps. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, Pete Sessions of Dallas, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Kevin Brady of the Houston area, John Carter of Round Rock and Sam Johnson of Richardson, introduced a bill that would serve to obstruct health protections promised in the Clean Air Act. This bill would deny Texas cities, the state and the country from their right to strong public health protections. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone| Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EDF Highlights Clean Ports Progress – Starting with Houston

This week, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) hosted the Energy and Environment Seminar in Chicago, an important event for environmental advocacy efforts with ports across the country. And Houston will take center stage in the ports world this November when the city hosts the AAPA annual meeting in conjunction with the Houston Ship Channel’s 100th anniversary.

EDF participated in this important seminar and discussed how ports can engage effectively with environmental groups to address environmental concerns. Our presentation focused on the “value add” that environmental organizations can provide to ports, specifically in three key areas:

  • research
  • grants & technology advancement
  • policy development

Some of the panels at this seminar included: Read More »

Also posted in Houston, Panama Canal, Ports, Transportation| Comments closed

New EPA Report Assesses Achievements and Hurdles in Reducing Urban Air Toxics

Haze over Dallas (Source:  Texas Tribune)

Haze over Dallas (Source: Texas Tribune)

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the second of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress about actions and progress in reducing air toxics. Given Texas’ history as an industrial state and major emitter of millions of tons of toxics per year, the report highlights the importance of the CAA in curbing toxic pollution. Ultimately, this is about saving lives, as exposure to air toxics is associated with health effects such as cancer, respiratory disease, neurological and reproductive problems, and other health risks.

 

 

What does the report say?

  • It demonstrates that federal, state, and local regulations have been effective in reducing millions of tons of air toxics over the last two decades.
  • It highlights that much more needs to be done, particularly in areas where there may be increased health risks from emissions of air toxics.
  • It shows that benzene and formaldehyde, two extremely potent and ubiquitous air toxics, contribute to the largest portion of estimated cancer risk in urban areas.
    • The report mentions the 2005 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) data, which estimated that more than 13.8 million people in urban areas were exposed to cancer risks greater than 100-in-a-million due to air toxics from all outdoor sources. The next NATA will be released in 2015. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston| Tagged | Comments closed

Clean Power Plan to Reward Texas, not Wyoming Coal-Backers

Source: Aurora Lights

Chronicle readers would be forgiven if they opened their papers last weekend and thought it was 2005. That’s because the Koch brothers-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation published an editorial that echoed the pro-coal rhetoric we heard nearly 10 years ago when then-TXU wanted to build new power plants across Texas that would burn Wyoming coal.

Sure, this weekend’s piece had a different news hook – the new Clean Power Plan that will require Texas to reduce carbon emissions from power plants like every other state. But TPPF’s conclusion was the same: better, cleaner technology is bad and coal is king. As Yogi Berra would have said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Texas is the number one carbon emitter in the U.S. and power plants, together, are the largest emitters. Our state represents close to 10 percent of the entire nation’s carbon emissions. The Clean Power Plan will simply require Texas to adhere to the rules all other states have to follow. I love Texas more than the average person, but I don’t think we should get special treatment simply because some of our energy companies doubled-down on fossil fuels. And I certainly don’t think we should rely on Wyoming coal when Texas is the nation’s energy powerhouse. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Clean Power Plan, Climate Change, GHGs, Renewable Energy, TPPF| Comments closed

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 »

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

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 | Comments closed

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 »

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

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
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