By: Andrew Hoekzema, Air Quality Program Manager for Capital Area Council of Governments
This Saturday, the Texas Air Quality community will celebrate the life of Bill Gill. Most of us knew Bill either as Air Quality Program Manager at the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) or as the Emissions Inventory Section Manager at the Texas Natural Resources Commission (TNRCC). Bill dedicated his life to public service and improving air quality in Texas, and every day of his 42-year career in air quality put the principles of the Environmental Defense Fund into action – guided by science and economics, he found practical and lasting solutions to Texas’s air quality problems.
His career was extraordinary. In 1972, the State of Texas submitted its first State Implementation Plan under the Clean Air Act. Bill may not have known it at the time, but his career would become a major part of the state’s air quality plans over the next four decades. That same year, he started working in enforcement at the Texas Air Control Board (TACB), which was part of the Texas Department of Health at the time. A decade later, he helped establish the state’s Emissions Inventory section, and later served as the Emissions Inventory Section Manager until he retired in 2002 from the TACB’s successor agency, the TNRCC. In his time at TACB and TNRCC, he built one of the premier programs in the world for assessing emissions and ensuring that decisions on air quality had the best information available. Bill’s work won him national recognition: as the TNRCC’s Emissions Inventory Section Manager, he also co-chaired the national point source committee of the Emissions Inventory Improvement Program for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read More
Flaring in Eagle Ford Shale
The Texas Tribune recently published a piece debunking some of the science behind the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) position on the national health standard for ozone – one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet. As outlined in the agency’s latest newsletter, TCEQ’s Director of Toxicology, Mike Honeycutt, questions the benefits of a stronger standard, even though public health experts across the country have been calling for a more protective standard for years. What’s more disappointing than the agency’s apparent anti-health position, however, is the lack of attention to other legitimate air pollution issues in Texas.
It would seem that the agency must have a surplus of staff, as well as unlimited resources to establish such an aggressive position on a standard that hasn’t been proposed yet. The reality is that there are so many more important things that the agency could and should be doing to serve and protect Texas citizens from real air pollution threats, including: Read More
Haze over Dallas (Source: Texas Tribune)
Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the second of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress about actions and progress in reducing air toxics. Given Texas’ history as an industrial state and major emitter of millions of tons of toxics per year, the report highlights the importance of the CAA in curbing toxic pollution. Ultimately, this is about saving lives, as exposure to air toxics is associated with health effects such as cancer, respiratory disease, neurological and reproductive problems, and other health risks.
What does the report say?
- It demonstrates that federal, state, and local regulations have been effective in reducing millions of tons of air toxics over the last two decades.
- It highlights that much more needs to be done, particularly in areas where there may be increased health risks from emissions of air toxics.
- It shows that benzene and formaldehyde, two extremely potent and ubiquitous air toxics, contribute to the largest portion of estimated cancer risk in urban areas.
- The report mentions the 2005 National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) data, which estimated that more than 13.8 million people in urban areas were exposed to cancer risks greater than 100-in-a-million due to air toxics from all outdoor sources. The next NATA will be released in 2015. Read More
Last 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
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
This post was co-authored by Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow.
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