Selected category: Clean Car Standards

EDF Tracks Air Quality in Areas Removed from the Texas Air Pollutant Watch List

EDF’s Maia Draper co-wrote this post

We’ve written before about the Air Pollutant Watch List, a Texas program for addressing harmful air pollutants that pose a particularly high risk to public health.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) adds areas to the Air Pollution Watch List where monitoring data show persistently high concentrations of air toxics above the state’s health-based guidelines for these substances.

Listing an area on the Air Pollution Watch List enables TCEQ to dedicate additional time and resources to reducing air toxic emissions in these areas. A listing can serve as an important tool for reducing dangerous air pollution and protecting public health.

However, since 2007, TCEQ has removed 14 monitored pollutants in 10 areas from the Air Pollution Watch List. TCEQ says that average concentration levels of air toxics in these areas no longer exceed state guidelines, and therefore that additional scrutiny and resources to encourage air quality improvements are no longer necessary.

TCEQ’s Air Pollution Watch List delisting decisions can be controversial, in part due to questions about whether air monitoring data are sufficient to support the delisting decision, and to what extent the Air Pollution Watch List label is still needed as a tool to deter high long-term emissions of harmful pollutants or short-term emissions spikes that can pose an immediate danger to public health.

To find out whether air quality improvements have persisted in areas that have been removed from the Air Pollution Watch List, EDF conducted a comprehensive analysis of air monitoring data for all Air Pollution Watch List areas delisted since the program’s inception.

Our analysis reveals several shortcomings in the way that TCEQ currently collects and reports these data, and recommends several crucial steps that TCEQ should take to better monitor emissions and protect public health in areas that have been removed from the Air Pollution Watch List.

Areas among 16 TCEQ regions that have been removed from the APWL. Source: TCEQ Air Monitoring Site Data. Map created using ArcGIS.

Among them:

  • Address short-term emissions spikes in delisted areas

For some areas that have been delisted, we found continuing exceedances of TCEQ’s recommended concentration levels for air toxics, suggesting that these areas have not adequately maintained the air quality improvements that led to their removal from the Air Pollution Watch List. In particular, while average annual concentration levels of air toxics for most areas are below TCEQ’s health-based threshold, there is wide variability in these levels throughout the year, indicating that short-term spikes in concentrations of harmful air pollutants continue to be a problem in these delisted areas, posing a potential threat to public health. TCEQ should take steps to address these short-term spikes.

  • Improve transparency of the Air Pollution Watch List program 

Our analysis also revealed problems with data transparency – air monitoring data for nine monitors located in the delisted Air Pollution Watch List areas analyzed in this report are not currently available to the public. We also recommend that TCEQ improve transparency about the investigative and enforcement actions it takes in response to violation of health-based pollution levels. Improving the transparency of all aspects of the Air Pollution Watch List program, including areas that have been removed from the list but still require ongoing monitoring, is a fundamental step needed to improve its effectiveness.

  • Improve accuracy of data collection and presentation to the public 

Our analysis also finds inconsistencies in TCEQ’s data collection and presentation protocols for hazardous air pollutants that undermine the accuracy of its air quality monitoring and data analysis. We propose ways for TCEQ to improve the precision and usefulness of its air quality monitoring data, in order to provide the public with a more accurate and complete assessment of air quality levels. In order to better protect public health, TCEQ should improve the precision and granularity of the data it uses as the basis for Air Pollution Watch List listing and delisting decisions.

Reducing emissions of air toxics is an important public health goal. Both short-term and long-term exposure to these emissions can cause severe adverse health effects, including respiratory distress, problems with the central nervous system, and cancer. At high levels, exposure to these toxics can even result in death.

The Texas Air Pollution Watch List system plays an important role in limiting human exposure to these dangerous compounds, which is why it is important for TCEQ to use rigorous and transparent data analysis before it decides to delist an area, and for it to continue to monitor these areas after delisting to safeguard against continued emissions of hazardous air pollutants in these areas.

You can read our full analysis here.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Texas Permitting| Leave a comment

Texas Companies Among Winners of EPA Award for Sustainable Freight Transport

trucks flickrEPA just announced the winners of the 2016 SmartWay Excellence Award for sustainable freight transport.

44 companies — out of more than 3,500 partners in the program – were honored for their accomplishments in freight supply chain environmental performance and energy efficiency.

This year’s well-deserved accolades went to 43 truck carriers, seven shippers and one barge carrier – including some SmartWay partners in Texas.

The awards demonstrate that environmental stewardship and economic success go hand in hand, and are an example of EPA’s commitment to recognizing companies that achieve those “win-wins.”  Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Goods Movement, Transportation| Comments are closed

Walking the Walk: Companies Lead the Call for New Clean Truck Standards

trucks flickrAs readers of this blog will know, Texas often prides itself on being a great place to do business. As you will see below, business can also have an important voice in keeping Texas (and the U.S.) a great place to live.

This post, originally published on the EDF+Business blog, is from our colleague Tom Murray, VP, Corporate Partnerships Program who notes that leading companies recognize the business value of clean trucks, for business, for health, and for the planet. We wanted to share this post with Texas Clean Air Matters because of its relevance to the Lone Star State. Our state stands to benefit significantly from the new rules, especially since truck freight in Texas is forecast to grow 120 percent by 2040.  

— The EDF Texas Clean Air Matters Team

A number of America’s most iconic brands helped pave the way for the new Clean Truck standards announced August 16th by the U.S. EPA and DOT. Nearly 400 companies, large and small, publicly urged strong, final fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy trucks.

Through their action, these companies have reaffirmed a basic truth of business today: to be a “leader”, companies must align their sustainability goals and strategies with their external engagement on policy. Read More »

Also posted in Goods Movement, Transportation| Tagged | Comments are closed

Texas Takes Backseat Controlling Its Massive Methane Problem

3829465133_78b173bff0_bA new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, finds that methane emissions from oil and gas facilities in North Texas’ Barnett Shale are likely as much as 90 percent higher than previous estimates based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is no small matter. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas rapidly accelerating the rate of climate change. But it’s also emitted with other harmful pollutants, like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that contribute to smog levels, as well as the cancer causing compound benzene. One study estimates that oil and gas production in the Barnett Shale Region in Texas contributes 19,888 tons of VOCs per year while estimates for the Eagle Ford Shale region just south of San Antonio project oil and gas operations could produce up to 1,248 tons per day VOC by 2018. Both the DFW area and San Antonio are struggling with high smog levels.

And based on the findings of the new methane study, we now know that there are instances where the magnitude of oil and gas emissions is even higher than previously thought. That is especially troubling for the more than 6 million people living in the DFW area who are at risk of developing or exacerbating respiratory and other health problems as a result of this unnecessary air pollution. Unnecessary because recent analysis concludes that emissions can be drastically reduced by implementing cost-effective and “off the shelf” pollution reduction technologies and practices – begging the question: why has Texas, the leading oil and gas producing state, not been a leader on reducing this harmful pollution?

Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, Methane, Natural gas, Ozone, TCEQ| Read 1 Response

Newly Released Vehicle and Fuel Standards Will Clean Up U.S. Fleet and Improve Texas Air Quality

Source: Green Mountain Energy Cleaner Times

Source: Green Mountain Energy Cleaner Times

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released updated Tier 3 vehicle emissions and fuel standards. The new standards are an update to the successful Tier 2 performance standards, which were finalized in 2000. Like the legacy Tier 2 program, the new Tier 3 standards will look at vehicles and fuels as a combined system to reduce both tailpipe pollution and gasoline sulfur content, improving urban air quality and saving billions of dollars in healthcare costs. Despite Tier 3’s projected benefits, lawmakers, and oil industry groups insist the standards are too costly. Of course, they fail to count the lasting health benefits from Tier 3—which more than outweigh the cost of the program.

The Benefits

The new fuel standards will instantly reduce emissions from every vehicle on the road once they are implemented in 2017, by reducing the amount of sulfur permitted in gasoline to 10 parts per million. Furthermore, the new vehicle tailpipe standards will cut smog-forming emissions by over 20 percent and fine particulate matter by 10 percent by 2030. EPA projects these vital emissions reductions will prevent between 770 and 2,000 premature deaths, 2,200 hospital admissions, and 19,000 asthma attacks annually by 2030, providing approximately $6.7 – $19 billion in annual health benefits. All of these benefits come at the low cost of less than one additional cent per gallon of gasoline, or about $72 per vehicle. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Transportation| Tagged | Comments are closed

Why Do Latinos Support Action on Climate Change?

Source: Mom's Clean Air Force

Your abuela or your friend’s abuela may not mention “carbon pollution” or “greenhouse gas emissions” much, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Hispanics are not aware of or unconcerned with what is happening to our planet. In fact, polling confirms that Latinos overwhelmingly support action to curb climate change. A recent poll for the Natural Resources Defense Council by Latino Decisions shows that 80 percent of Latino voters somewhat-to-strongly favor Presidential action to fight carbon pollution.

Why? Family values.

The reasons are similar to those held by many interested in protecting the planet for future generations. The poll proves that Latinos are concerned about air quality, health effects of a worsening environment and teaching a cultural legacy of environmental stewardship and conservation. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Environment, GHGs, Renewable Energy| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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