Selected category: Air Pollution

Unhealthy Ozone Hits Houston Early

Cars drive on an eight lane expressway in Beijing on January 29,2013. Residents across northern China battled through choking pollution on January 29, as air quality levels rose above index limits in Beijing amid warnings that the smog may not clear until January 31. AFP PHOTO / WANG ZHAOIt seems too early in the year to worry about smog, right? Ozone is typically thought of as just a summertime problem. Unfortunately, not this year – and the health risks are troubling.

March 1 marked the beginning of ozone season in Houston – and April 3 was the first day in 2016 that a regulatory ozone monitor in Houston measured above 70 parts per billion (ppb), which is the level of the health standard established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. No other official air monitor in the state had recorded levels above 70ppb, meaning Houston is winning the early race for unhealthiest Texas air – which isn’t winning at all.

While stratospheric ozone plays a beneficial role by absorbing harmful ultraviolet rays, not all ozone is considered “good.” Ground-level ozone is a form of pollution, also known as smog, which can result in dangerous consequences for public health such as asthma attacks, and heart and lung disease. Read More »

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Houston, Dallas Mayors Show Leadership in Supporting Clean Energy Economy for Texas

power lines unsplashWhen the President announced the first-ever national limits on carbon pollution from power plants last year, he recognized that this policy would not only reduce carbon pollution, but it would boost the development of a clean energy economy that is driving growth and prosperity across the nation.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Dallas Mayor Michael Rawlings are among the many leaders who recognize this opportunity in the Clean Power Plan. The mayors know that states and cities that join the race first, and run it the fastest, will win both more investment in clean technologies and less air pollution for their communities.

Of course, we will all benefit by reducing the impacts of climate change – including extreme heat, dangerous sea level rise, and more powerful storms. That fact was reinforced by new research released last week highlighting that sea-level rise may be happening almost twice as fast as the worst case prediction made by the United Nations just a few years ago. Read More »

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Texas Organizer Named to National Climate Justice Panel

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Yudith Nieto, shown here holding an an air sampler in the Manchester neighborhood of Houston, was named to a national climate justice panel.

Environmental justice is a top priority for many millennials. And one young, Houston-based organizer is demonstrating her generation’s effectiveness by leading the way on this important issue.

Community groups play an important role in bolstering young leaders. Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), based in Houston’s Manchester neighborhood, supports residents in efforts to create sustainable and environmentally healthy communities by providing education and resources. They recognize millennial leadership on environmental justice issues, and often work with young organizers in their efforts to educate and engage community members on environmental laws and policy. Read More »

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Cash for clean air (and new trucks and equipment, too!)

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The DERA program has been particularly cost-effective for improving air quality, but it also provides local economic benefits, too

Looking to advance your green freight and sustainable supply chain initiatives? EPA has announced a call for projects through the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Clean Diesel Program to provide funding for projects that improve air quality by reducing dirty diesel emissions. This year’s opportunity will provide $26 million for projects nationwide, and EPA expects to make 10 to 40 funding awards. To take advantage of this opportunity, it’s important to act now—the deadline is April 26, 2016.

We’ve written about some of the unique aspects of the DERA program before, and the current opportunity follows the same approach—an “eligible applicant” such as a regional, state, and local agency, port authority, or non-profit focused on air quality can “sponsor” one or many projects in partnership with fleets, technology providers, and other stakeholders that reduce diesel emissions from sources like heavy-duty trucks, nonroad diesel equipment (like those used on construction sites or at marine terminals, for example), locomotives in railyards, and even marine engines. Community partners are important participants for these projects, as well, and EPA encourages applicants to ensure that diverse stakeholders are included in any project. Read More »

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Part IV: Reducing Pollution to Protect Houston’s Health

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Houston must demonstrate clear political will and a strong commitment to make health a top priority.

In Part I of our series on ozone, we described how 2015 was a bad year for Houston ozone, and in Part II we shared research from local scientists that explains which health risks go up when ozone levels are high in Houston. Part III deconstructed some of the flawed arguments and logic put forward by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in challenging the health-based standard. Now, in Part IV, we’ll take a look at how Houston can breathe cleaner air by reducing emissions and implementing response strategies.

Houston has always been a solution-oriented city, and that’s how we hope leaders will approach the ozone challenge. The air quality data, health studies, and growth trends make it clear that Houston needs to double down on efforts to reduce ozone pollution. The region also needs better planning to ensure that emergency responders have the best information available to protect the health of all residents, especially on high ozone days. Read More »

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Part III: Flawed Logic at Texas Environmental Agency Results in Costly Lawsuits and Poor Public Health Policy

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There is robust agreement on the dangers of ozone pollution in the medical health community.

Part I of our series on ozone described how 2015 was a bad year for Houston ozone. Part II reviewed recent research from leading Houston scientists that explains why more ozone pollution is harmful to our health. Part III explains how faulty logic and erroneous assumptions had led to costly lawsuits and poor public health policy across the state. Part IV will identify some solutions to Houston’s ozone problem and suggest measures to protect the health of Houston area residents.

There has been quite a bit of activity related to the proposed U.S. ozone regulations in the past year. As part of a four part series on ozone in 2015, we’d like to take the time to rebuke some of the scientifically-flawed testimony provided by state environmental officials, including Dr. Michael Honeycutt, toxicologist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state environmental agency. We feel that the agency has presented health information in a way that is misleading and contradicts the robust opinion of the medical health community on the issue.

First, a little context is important. We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have participated in the public process involving the ozone standard and provided testimony to Congress on the health effects of ozone exposure. TCEQ has challenged the health-based standards in an aggressive way, and their efforts have been fodder for expensive and frivolous lawsuits filed by the state. Read More »

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