There has been clean air progress at ports, but more leaders are calling for zero-emission strategies
When surveying the clean air progress in freight hubs like ports, community leaders and environmental advocates can see hard work has paid off.
But they also see we must do more as a nation to fully protect the health and environment of communities near goods movement corridors.
And when faced with the expected 45 percent growth in freight transportation from 2012 to 2040 – as well as the sound science linking diesel exhaust to damaging health effects like asthma – many leaders are calling for the next generation milestone for clean air efforts: zero-emission strategies. Read More
Several weeks ago, I attended an ozone workshop sponsored by the toxicology division at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and facilitated by Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA). Ozone, a component of smog, is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects including asthma attacks, decreased lung function, and premature death.
EPA has proposed new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) within the range of 65-70 parts per billion (ppb), and, according to TCEQ, this workshop was "designed to provide an independent evaluation and synthesis of key considerations for approaching the difficult ozone NAAQS decision."
Given the importance of this pollutant to public health, it is unfortunate a state environmental agency – that has plenty of other higher priority issues – chose to spend taxpayer money on a workshop designed to mislead the public and present a one-sided perspective on the issue.
What were the problems with TCEQ’s workshop? Read More
Texas is home to some of the highest polluting power plants in the country.
Recently, the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office announced plans to challenge the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan, which would place limits on carbon emissions from existing power plants for the first time in the country. A few days afterward, Texas Governor and former State Attorney General Greg Abbott pledged support for Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell's Just Say No campaign, an effort to encourage states not to comply with the upcoming federal regulations.
Apparently Texas has a short memory. Just a couple of years ago, Texas lost a series of challenges to EPA regarding greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting. Texas refused to issue GHG permits to new and modified large industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions, resulting in the establishment of a dual permitting system. This meant industrial facilities, like power plants and refineries, needed to apply to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for some air permits and separately to EPA for the portion of their permit addressing greenhouse gases.
Ultimately, however, Texas industry urged the state to issue the GHG portion of air quality permits as well. And in an about face, after spending millions of taxpayer dollars fighting common sense regulations, Texas regained the ability to issue the state’s GHG permits. Read More
Congratulations to the CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas Clean Air Partners Program! They received the 2015 Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Excellence Award in the Community Action category.
The Clean Air Excellence Awards Program recognizes and honors outstanding innovative efforts to help make progress in achieving cleaner air. Awards are given to programs that directly or indirectly reduce pollutant emissions, demonstrate innovation, offer sustainable outcomes, and provide a model for others to follow. Read More
Update: Governor Abbott signed SB 709 into law on May 23, 2015.
I overheard a colleague last week say she was impressed a group of elementary school students were learning about the tragedy of the commons, and it reminded me of what's been going on at the Texas Legislature this session. The "tragedy of the commons" is a term coined in the late 60's by ecologist Garret Hardin, described as "a situation where individuals acting independently and rationally according to each's self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource." It’s an unfortunate allegory for Texas politics and specifically the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 709, which is on its way to the governor’s desk as I write this.
In this case, a few individuals (polluting corporations and the lawmakers they fund) are acting in their self-interest, creating legislation that will get more money in their pockets faster. Unfortunately, the best interests of the whole group (all Texans) are virtually forgotten, and common resources like healthy air and water will suffer. The final bill, SB 709 sponsored by Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), shows Texas' leadership cares more about protecting big polluters at the expense of its citizens.
And while Sen. Fraser’s bill was the one that ultimately passed, the companion measure in the House, House Bill 1865, by Representative Genie Morrison (R-Victoria) included the same agenda and language. Rep. Morrison is from Victoria, Texas. As someone who is supposed to be fighting for the best interests of her constituents, many in Victoria are questioning just whom Morrison and other Texas lawmakers represent. Read More
Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz recently met in a meeting with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to discuss how they could sabotage the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed (CPP). The CPP would place the nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants – the rules for which are expected to be finalized this summer.
The reason for the meeting is simple: Sen. McConnell is currently touting a “just say no” approach to EPA’s regulations, advocating states refuse to create a compliance plan, which is clearly to protect his coal-producing state. He also supports legislation to let states opt-out of the pollution reduction program. After the closed-door meeting, Governor Abbott announced he is siding with the Senator from Kentucky on the CPP.
What the press release didn’t say: By aligning himself with Sen. McConnell, Governor Abbott is hurting Texas. Read More