Texas Clean Air Matters

What to watch as the Texas Legislature takes up climate, energy, water and more

We’re past the midpoint of the Texas legislative session and the bill filing deadline is behind us. Because the legislature only meets for five months every other year, there’s a lot to accomplish in a short span.

Now, as things pick up steam we’ll see which bills move forward and which don’t. A bill needs to be heard in committee to have any chance of passing (here’s a helpful primer on the legislative process), and less than a month remains until the House starts reporting bills out of committee. The clock is ticking.

Although most bills won’t make it across the finish line, here are a few related to climate, energy and water that warrant a closer look.

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Also posted in Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Legislation, Methane, Natural gas, Oil, Renewable Energy, Solar / Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Texas Public Utility Commission defends competitive markets, customer interests

The Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) might not be a household name, but electricity customers across Texas have plenty of reason to be thankful for its latest actions.

Recently, the PUC has made some key decisions to protect Texas’ competitive electricity markets and make sure all Texans have access to affordable and clean electric energy.

As we move toward the hot summer months and ERCOT projects record demand and potential grid alerts, these policy moves will hopefully be paired with further support of tools like distributed energy resources to ensure a reliable and resilient grid.

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Also posted in clean energy, Demand Response, ERCOT, Utilities / Comments are closed

Here’s how a Houston neighborhood is taking action after decades of environment injustice

Environmental Defense Fund has launched a project with Houston-based nonprofit Achieving Community Tasks Successfully (ACTS) and Texas Southern University to bring community-led air monitoring to a neighborhood surrounded by several pollution sources.

Pleasantville, located on Houston’s east side, was established in 1948 as the first planned community for African-Americans in the city. Today, however, the Houston Ship Channel and one of the busiest stretches of Interstate 610, as well as a sprawling brewery, warehouses, metal recyclers and salvage yards, push hard against the neighborhood, producing significant concerns about environmental justice and human health.

Despite these concerns, Texas regulators have not placed an air monitor in Pleasantville to document the impacts of the pollution sources. In fact, the state’s closest monitor is about two miles away, meaning that the community’s residents are unaware of which pollutants are in the air they are breathing. As we know from our work in Oakland, a monitor this far away may miss important local pollution sources – and likely does not accurately reflect their exposures to harmful chemicals. Read More »

Also posted in Environmental Justice, Houston / Read 2 Responses

It’s not too late to improve Texas plan for VW money. Here’s how.

Texas recently put forth a spending plan for its $209 million share of the settlement from VW’s emissions-cheating scheme, with the goals of reducing smog-forming emissions and protecting people’s health through the repower or replacement of the biggest polluters on the road.

Yet the plan’s author, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, ignored some of the oldest, dirtiest engines and equipment. That is a glaring omission because we are learning that these pollution sources—marine tugboats and switcher locomotives that operate at railyards—stay in service for much longer than previously thought. TCEQ’s plan also highlighted that the agency has failed to leverage federal funding for emissions reduction projects for several years.

The good news is that TCEQ can remedy both of these missed opportunities. Read More »

Also posted in Ports, TCEQ / Comments are closed

Taking shortcuts won’t protect our families from air pollution

We know that air pollution is bad for our families. Science makes that abundantly clear. Studies, for example, show that mercury can damage the nervous system of children and fetuses, while ground-level ozone, or smog, can trigger asthma attacks.

Even pollution levels below those generally considered safe increase the risk for premature death, according to a study of more than 60 million Medicare recipients published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2017.

Remarkably, when faced with evidence that pollution kills, the Trump administration has attacked science rather than do the necessary work to protect public health and save lives. This excising of science deeply concerns me, as a mother and scientist. Read More »

Also posted in Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ / Tagged , , | Read 1 Response

Houston neighborhood maps decades-old pollution problem, paving way for communities nationwide

Bridgette Murray, a retired nurse, lives in a predominantly black neighborhood on Houston’s east side, where small houses grace tree-shaded streets, all built around two schools and a city park.

Its name is Pleasantville, a postwar version of the American dream. But the reality is something different.

Warehouses, metal recyclers, salvage yards, Anheuser-Busch’s Houston brewery and an interstate push hard against the neighborhood, proof and product of the city’s light-on-regulations approach to land use. Trains and trucks rumble through the area day and night. It can be difficult to breathe.

“Playing victim has never been one of my personality traits,” said Murray, whose family moved to Pleasantville in 1957, years before industry’s arrival. “I am here to work with the residents for solutions.”

As founder of the nonprofit Achieving Community Tasks Successfully, or ACTS, Murray is working with Environmental Defense Fund to fully understand Pleasantville’s air pollution and its associated harmful health effects. She wants to map a fair, just and sustainable path forward for her community. Read More »

Also posted in Environmental Justice, Houston, Particulate Matter, Ports / Comments are closed