Category Archives: Dallas Fort-Worth

State of the Air 2014: 19 Texas Counties Continue to Struggle with Ozone Pollution

State of the Air ALA 2014Last week, the American Lung Association (ALA) released its annual State of the Air report, which reviews air pollution data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for two of the most hazardous types of air pollution: ozone and particulate matter.

Overall findings indicate that ozone pollution increased in metropolitan areas throughout the nation due to warmer temperatures. At the same time, fine particle pollution, or soot as it is most commonly called, decreased due to fewer emissions from coal-fired power plants and wider use of cleaner fuels and engines.

For a primer on ozone pollution and health, read here.

Unfortunately, Houston crept up in the rankings to 6th most polluted for ozone in the country (up from 7th last year).  And with the exception of Dallas-Fort Worth, other cities in Texas followed the national ozone trend, reporting a greater number of unhealthy days this year. Texas cities did fare better on soot pollution, although a notable exception was El Paso, which was one of only five U.S. cities that saw an increase in year-round pollution. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Ozone, Particulate Matter | Tagged | Comments closed

A New Study Points to the Need for Improved Air Monitoring in Texas

Source: Dallas Observer

Source: Dallas Observer

A new study accepted for publication in Environmental Science & Technology takes a close look at the amount of certain air pollutants in the Barnett Shale, a booming oil and gas region in North Texas. Using public monitoring data from 2010-2011, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared air pollution levels measured at a monitor surrounded by oil and gas operations to the levels that would be expected based on available emission estimates. The result brings to light that the emissions inventory from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the Barnett Shale does not add up to the observations.

There are numerous air pollutants that can be emitted by oil and natural gas development.  Depending on the local composition of the produced gas, emissions can often include volatile organic compounds (VOC, such as propane, butane, pentane, etc.) that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (also known as smog), and toxic air pollutants like benzene and hexane that are directly hazardous to human health.  Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas and a greenhouse gas catching lots of attention these days, is another powerful pollutant associated with these operations. Unlike the pollutants listed above, methane directly affects the health of our climate rather than human health. Fortunately, available technologies designed to capture methane are also effective in reducing these other pollutants. However, methane controls alone may not ensure that local air quality concerns are addressed – these require special attention.  Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, GHGs, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone, TCEQ | Comments closed

EDF Is Going to Court to Secure Healthier Air for Millions of Texans

This post was co-authored by Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow.

Source: Texas Tribune Haze over Dallas Area

Source: Texas Tribune
Haze over Dallas Area

Last week, EDF took one more step toward protecting Texans from harmful levels of ozone pollution that have afflicted the state for far too long.

Ozone pollution, better known as “smog,” is one of the most severe and persistent public health problems affecting Texans.  Smog causes a range of health issues — including aggravation of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, decreased lung function, increased hospital and emergency room visits for respiratory conditions — and it is associated with premature mortality in urban areas.

According to the American Lung Association (ALA), Dallas-Fort Worth is the eighth most affected area in the country for smog.  ALA estimates the city is home to millions of people who are sensitive to ozone-related health problems — including 1.6 million people suffering cardiovascular disease; nearly 1.9 million children; nearly 650,000 elderly residents; and over 520,000 people with asthma. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, GHGs, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

2013 Texas Air Quality: Year In Review

Elena CraftAs we come to the end of another year, we look back on the progress that has been made to improve Texas’ air quality. Our work is especially important in Texas. Ozone pollution in the state’s largest cities routinely spikes above healthy levels, and Texas leads the nation in annual carbon emissions.

Throughout 2013, my fellow bloggers and I tracked the critical progress made towards cleaner air in Texas. Texas experienced a handful of victories and a handful of losses. To summarize the year, I’ll discuss a few of the areas where we made progress, and a few of the areas where there is still more work to do.

Progress Toward Smart Power and Clean Air

Over the past year, Texas wind power continued its promising positive trend, thanks in part to the state’s forward-looking decision to build new high-capacity electricity transmission lines linking the windy plains of West Texas with the state’s cities. The Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission project was approved by the state in 2008, and the new power lines are set to come online in a few weeks. The new power lines can carry 18,500 megawatts of electricity—enough to power millions of homes. The CREZ lines will help ensure Texas wind energy continues to expand, offsetting electricity produced from fossil-fuel power plants and reducing pollution. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone, Renewable Energy, Wind | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Texans Speak Out Against Air Pollution at EPA’s Listening Session

Source: Sierra Club

Source: Sierra Club

This post was written by guest blogger Julia Collins, EDF Communications Intern, US Climate and Energy Program. 

Last Thursday, over a hundred people, including moms, grandfathers, businessmen, coal miners and environmentalists, descended upon the Dallas Public Library to speak to the EPA regarding new regulations for carbon emissions on existing coal power plants – a topic charged with political tension. The auditorium was packed with engaged citizens eager to participate in just one of 11 “Listening Sessions” held around the country to solicit input on the proposed regulations. I stood alongside other groups, such as Sierra Club, the NAACP, Public Citizen and several others.

As an intern, I don’t always have the opportunity to create the formative changes this country needs. Instead, I, like many other Americans, put my faith and trust in the EPA to do the right thing – for the planet’s future, for the country’s future, for my future.

During the listening session, I heard speeches that were heartfelt and honest, and that touched upon many subjects we can all relate to – family, history and country. I heard several children with asthma lament that they can’t play on the playground with their friends and have to keep an inhaler close at hand all day. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | Comments closed

EPA Is Listening: Share Your Climate Change Story

BiLK_Thorn/flickr

The following post regarding U.S. EPA’s listening sessions on carbon pollution standards for existing power plants originally appeared on EDF’s Voices blog. There will be a listening session in Dallas on Thursday, November 7 at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library. More information, including time, address, how to sign up or submit comments via email, and information about sessions around the country can be found here.

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.

Imagine if we didn’t have seatbelt or car safety standards in place to reduce the dangers of car crashes, the leading cause of unintentional death to children. Or what if society made no effort to curb tobacco use, the single most preventable cause of disease?

Well, we didn’t always have these important standards and guidelines even though today they are well accepted. It took the work of many advocates to bring them about.

Our country currently has the chance to address another hazard. We can help slow climate change by placing common sense limits on carbon pollution from power plants – the single largest source of climate pollution in the United States. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act, Climate Change, En Español, Environmental Protection Agency | Comments closed

Regional Clean Air Coalitions Take The Next Step To Improve Air Quality

Last month, I highlighted some Texas cities working to educate their citizens on the importance of air quality. Because air pollution is a persistent problem throughout Texas, the state’s largest cities all maintain websites focusing on ways to mitigate emissions and take precautions when air pollution reaches concentrations considered to be unhealthy. While these informational campaigns promote voluntary reductions in emissions, they aren’t sufficient to keep air quality under control.

Regional coalitions all over the state are at the front line forging needed partnerships to achieve major emissions reductions and improve the quality of air across Texas. The following are a few organizing leading the effort: Read More »

Also posted in Environment, Houston, Ozone, San Antonio | Comments closed

Air Quality Websites: A Starting Place For Texas Public Outreach

Given that it’s July and we’re nearing the annual peak of ozone or “smog” season, our team wondered what public education and outreach efforts cities in Texas might be undertaking to raise air pollution awareness.

We started by looking at Texas cities’ websites. Overall, we were pleased to see the depth of information readily available for all citizens. Here’s a summary of what we found:

City of Arlington: Undoubtedly the largest city in North Texas, with a population of more than 350,000, Arlington provides its citizens with a “Cleaning Up Our Air” site, which includes facts on ground-level ozone, health implications and major air pollution sources, namely vehicles, industrial facilities, refineries and household products. The site lists 12 tips for how everyone can improve air quality.  It also outlines the steps the city has taken to reduce emissions, such as maintaining city vehicle tune-ups and routinely updating emission control equipment.

City of Austin: Texas’ capital, with more than 800,000 people, boasts an air quality page that includes a two-day ozone forecast and insight into how population growth is a major factor in increased ozone levels. The site provides a tutorial on the creation of ozone and tips on how to reduce emissions. These tips include less use of cars and trucks, limited engine idling, regular car tune-ups and more use of public transit.

City of Dallas: With more than 1.2 million people, the people of Dallas make up a sizeable portion of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, which ranked eighth among the U.S. cities with the worst ozone levels. Dallas’ page offers basic information on ozone with links to the American Lung Association and to the state’s Air Pollution Watch.  What’s particularly helpful is the option to subscribe to ozone email alerts. Green Dallas, another city page dedicated to Dallas air quality offers tips on controlling air pollution, anti-idling ordinances, climate change, regional initiatives and more. It also cites ozone as the only air pollutant for which Dallas does not meet national air quality standards. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Houston, Ozone, San Antonio | Tagged , | Comments closed

Texans Celebrate Earth Day This Weekend

This post was written by guest blogger Katherine “Koko” Owens, EDF Communications Intern, US Climate and Energy Program.

Source: www.earthdaykids.com

By now many of us know that Earth Day is this coming Monday.  Countries around the world have been celebrating Earth Day every April 22 since 1970, when the Clean Air Act was enacted.  It’s a day when citizens of the world stop for just a moment to appreciate the planet on which we live, reflect on how to protect our precious resources, and most importantly, improve the sustainability and quality of life for all.

According to Wikipedia, the April 22 date was designated as International Mother Earth Day after the United Nations adopted a resolution in 2009.  Earth Day is now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network, and is celebrated in more than 192 countries each year.

Because April 22 falls on a Monday this year, many Earth Day events throughout the state of Texas will be held on Saturday and Sunday.  I have the happy privilege of joining some of my fellow EDFers on Saturday and Sunday at the Earth Day Dallas festival, where we invite all of our Texas Clean Air Matters readers to visit and say hello.  We will have coloring activities for those young, budding environmentalists and information on all of EDF’s initiatives.

This year, we will have EDF representatives talking about the environment related to oceans, ecosystems, our Climate Corps and Texas’ energy resources.  Naturally, I’ll be on the lookout for all things related to air quality and promise to remind visitors of the significance of the Clean Air Act. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Air Act | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Dallas Fort-Worth Breathes Easier Following EPA’s Decision On Wise County Ozone Petitions

Just in time for the holidays, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delivered a valuable gift to residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth area: the promise of stronger protections against the harmful public health and environmental impacts of ground-level ozone (the main component of smog).  Specifically, EPA announced on January 7 that it has decided to deny 19 petitions filed by the state of Texas and other parties last summer — all demanding that the agency reverse its determination that Wise County, Texas contributes to high ozone levels in nearby Dallas-Fort Worth (EPA’s responses were signed December 14, 2012).  EPA’s action means that polluters in Wise County will have to do their fair share to reduce ozone levels in Dallas-Fort Worth, which have been among the worst in the country for many years.  Because of the importance of this issue to the public health of Texans, EDF has already taken steps to defend EPA’s action in Federal court.

Background

Ozone pollution has long been regulated under the Clean Air Act because of the tremendous hazards that ozone poses to public health and the environment.  High ozone levels lead to respiratory distress and disorders; decreased lung function; increases in emergency room visits and sick days; and more.  To address the serious problem of ozone, the Clean Air Act provides a multi-step process for ensuring that all areas of the country achieve acceptable ozone levels.  First, EPA must establish nationwide air quality standards for ozone (called National Ambient Air Quality Standards), which are required to be strong enough to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety.  Second, EPA must designate which areas of the country meet those standards, and which do not.  Lastly, states are required to submit plans for achieving and maintaining compliance with EPA’s ozone standards — with especially strict requirements for areas that currently do not meet the standards.

EPA last updated its ozone air quality standards in March 2008. The revised standard requires that average ozone concentrations over an 8-hour period remain at or below 75 parts per billion (ppb) — a level that is more protective than the previous standard set in 1997, but still significantly higher than the range of 60 to 70 ppb recommended by EPA’s own Scientific Advisory Committee.  EDF has consistently advocated for a stronger ozone standard, and has even taken EPA to court over this issue together with other public health and environmental organizations.  At the same time, EDF has also fought hard against attempts to weaken the 2008 ozone standards or stop their implementation.

Designation of Wise County

On May 21, 2012, EPA issued a regulation designating 45 areas of the country as out of compliance with the 2008 ozone standards – including a group of ten counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which had long failed to meet the earlier and less stringent ozone standards.  For the first time, however, the Dallas-Fort Worth designation also included Wise County, Texas, due in large part to emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds from a recent boom in oil and gas production in the area.

As EPA explained in a detailed technical analysis, Wise County was included in the Dallas-Fort Worth ozone designation because of the county’s contribution to unhealthy levels of ozone.  Among other things, EPA found that ozone monitors less than half a mile from the county line were recording unhealthy levels of ozone; that Wise County emits some of the highest levels of ozone-forming pollution in the 19-county area surrounding Dallas-Fort Worth; and that the prevailing winds on high-ozone days are responsible for bringing that pollution from Wise County to the nearby city.

Ensuing Litigation and Requests for Reconsideration

EPA’s determination was reached after a lengthy process during which the state of Texas and other stakeholders had ample opportunity to submit comments and data on Wise County’s contribution to ozone in Dallas-Fort Worth.  However, this didn’t stop the state, some local governments, and various oil and gas producers and trade associations from trying to stop the designation of Wise County by filing a total of 19 petitions asking EPA to reverse its decision.  The state of Texas, Wise County, and four industry parties also filed legal challenges to EPA’s determination in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals — and EDF responded by moving to intervene in defense of EPA’s action.

EPA’s Denial of Reconsideration and Next Steps

In detailed responses to the petitions, EPA reaffirmed its analysis of Wise County’s contribution to the local ozone crisis and offered rebuttals to each of the major arguments advanced by the petitioners.  EPA’s responses confirm that the designation of Wise County rests on the best available science.  EPA’s action is also an important advance for public health — ensuring that polluters in Wise County will do their fair share to address ozone pollution in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and that the important protections of the Clean Air Act extend to ozone-contributing areas and sources that have been overlooked in the past.

We hope that the parties challenging the Wise County designation will ultimately decide to demonstrate leadership by becoming part of the solution to the air quality challenges facing Dallas-Fort Worth.  In the meantime, vital work remains to be done to defend EPA’s actions in court: the ongoing D.C. Circuit challenges to the original designation of Wise County, which were suspended while EPA processed the reconsideration petitions, are likely to resume in a matter of weeks.  In addition, EPA’s decisions on the petitions may provide fresh fodder for additional legal challenges in the D.C. Circuit.  EDF’s legal team stands ready to vigorously defend EPA’s decision in the months ahead.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone | Comments closed
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