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
Texas Southern University Students Jenice Young, Joy Semien and Steven Washington Attended COP21 in Paris
The Texas Clean Air Matters team is thrilled to share that the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Climate Change Consortium sent 50 student leaders from around the United States to the U.N. COP21 climate summit in Paris, three of whom are Texas Southern University students awarded with the Mickey Leland Scholarship. These students represent future environmentalists, who could have a large impact on the future of Texas in terms of solving the climate crisis. This delegation of students was able to witness the construction of the agreement and had a chance to see countries reach a historic agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilizing global temperatures. You can read more about them in this guest post by Dr. Robert Bullard, one of the foremost experts on environmental justice in the world.
EDF is excited these students had such an amazing opportunity and to witness first hand climate diplomacy in action. Read More
Also posted in Climate Change
Earlier this month, Juan Parras, founder and director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (Tejas), was recognized as the 2015 recipient of the Robert Bullard Environmental Justice Award by the Sierra Club. Juan has worked for decades in Houston and along the Gulf Coast to improve the health and welfare of communities and is known for his dedication, courage, and optimism. Juan has been committed to improving the lives of those most affected by environmental degradation and is driven by his powerful vision and understanding of socioeconomic, gender, and racial justice issues.
As Environmental Protection Agency is set to release two vitally important standards next week to protect public health – first, updated emissions standards for petroleum refineries and second, a strengthened ground-level ozone standard – the Houston region will benefit tremendously from Juan’s leadership. These are important developments, but more needs to be done to address pressing environmental justice concerns. Environmental Defense Fund congratulates Juan on this deserving recognition and looks forward to even more improvements in air and health for Houston residents.
Photo source: Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services
U.S. EPA Region 6 EJ Workshop, Arkansas LaQuinta Downtown Conference Center, June 16-18, 2015
Environmental justice issues are inextricably linked to broader social justice concerns.
That relationship was clear last month at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6’s Environmental Justice Training Workshop, as a discussion on race, class, and environmental health was punctuated by reflections on the tragic massacre at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.
The training workshop, held in Little Rock, Arkansas, was one in a series in each of the five states in EPA Region 6, designed to bring together affected communities, government officials, environmental advocates, social justice champions, faith leaders, and academic researchers. Speakers shared their powerful stories of challenge and success. Environmental justice issues weren’t discussed in isolation. Rather, they were considered as one aspect of social injustice facing many Americans that must be addressed. Protecting civil rights and reducing the burden of air pollution – it is all part of the mission to safeguard lives and health. As I listened, I was able to reflect on how my own life has instilled a deep commitment to working on issues like toxic air pollution and improving air quality in urban areas. Read More
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
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