Texas Clean Air Matters

EPA Seeks New Ideas To Include Environmental Justice Groups In The Rulemaking Process

Source: online.liebertpub.com

Do you have ideas to help federal decision makers ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately represented in new rules?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a technical guidance document in May to assist its staff with tools and information to include environmental justice (EJ) issues in the agency’s rulemaking process. This document, titled “Draft Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis,” is open for public comment until Sept 6, 2013. Time is running out to have your voice heard!

What is Environmental Justice?

EPA defines Environmental Justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. EPA launched its EJ movement in the early 1980s to provide an open forum for citizens and communities particularly impacted by environmental and pollution hazards. For instance, communities disproportionately impacted by pollution around the Houston Ship Channel or near the Port of Houston would be considered EJ areas. Read More »

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Historically Black Colleges And Universities Lead Climate Action In Minority Communities, Starting With Texas

This commentary, authored by N. Jenise Young, originally appeared on EDF’s Climate Corps blog.

In June, President Obama called for action during his milestone climate change speech. He said, “…we’ve got a vital role to play. We can’t stand on the sidelines. We’ve got a unique responsibility.”

Melting ice glaciers are out of sight, out of mind in Houston where extreme heat and hurricanes are the norm and where I’ve spent the last year studying at Texas Southern University (TSU). What I have learned while studying at TSU surprised me – urban, minorities communities, like those surrounding TSU, are among those already struggling with the effects of climate change. In fact, numerous studies document the unequal burden of climate change and the differential application of climate policies within African American communities. For example, the Race, Poverty and Environment Journal for Social and Environmental Justice reports that African-Americans spend 30 percent more of their income on energy than their white counterparts, despite emitting 20 percent fewer greenhouse gases per household. In addition, the journal reports that “the six states with the highest African American populations are all within Atlantic hurricane zones expected to experience more storms like Katrina in the future.” In Texas, more than 20 weather and climate disasters that cost over one billion dollars have impacted the state over the past decade.

As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I am excited to spend my summer on TSU’s campus and in the community laying the groundwork that will educate and enable students and administrators to address climate issues already impacting our community. I had the opportunity to connect with the university President, student government and other key personnel to discuss the negative effects of climate change. In these conversations, I emphasized the importance of making energy efficiency upgrades and improvements a part of the university’s capital budget. Although I was hired as an EDF Climate Corps fellow to ultimately identify the savings from energy efficiency projects, I am working diligently to educate the entire campus about climate change, sustainability and best energy practices. Read More »

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Irving Summit Hosts International Experts To Modernize The Global Transportation System

(Source: Getty Images)

We at EDF have written a lot about the need to transform the nation’s aging electricity system.  Now, more than ever, we have to transition away from fossil fuel electricity to reduce our out-of-control greenhouse gas emissions.  With renewables poised to make up a quarter of the world’s electricity mix by 2018, it appears we’re making steady progress toward a modern, clean energy grid.

But there’s another global energy system that’s often overlooked: the transportation system.  An overwhelming majority of the world’s transportation infrastructure is powered by fossil fuels.  Ordinary passenger vehicles, short and long-haul trucks, freight rail, and large cargo ships are all fueled by petroleum.  And unlike the grid, we’re still far from transitioning to a clean alternative.

EDF has spearheaded a number of initiatives to help reduce the environmental impact of transportation.  Last month, we released a request for proposals for a marine port environmental recognition program.  The program will help establish performance benchmarks for ports, so that we can identify and acknowledge those ports making strides toward reducing emissions and improving air quality.  EDF is also part of the brain trust of organizations, such as the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board, working to understand the best practices to modernize the global transportation system and reduce transportation’s environmental footprint. Read More »

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Abbott Fails In Fight Against Clean Air Protections

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed lawsuits filed by Attorney General Greg Abbott and a group of power companies that could have undermined the Clean Air Act and hurt efforts to reduce climate pollution.

The Clean Air Act requires that large sources of pollution, including greenhouse gases (GHGs), obtain permits when they are constructing or making a major change to their facility.  These permits require facilities to use modern emission control technologies to cost-effectively reduce their pollution.

Some states, including Texas, didn’t have the authority to issue these clean air permits for greenhouse gases under their state laws, so the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the limited actions challenged here to ensure that sources in these states could get the permits they needed to begin construction.  Every state – except Texas – worked with EPA to make sure sources could get the permits they needed (either under state or federal authority).

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has been quoted as saying, “What I really do for fun is I go into the office, [and] I sue the Obama administration,” took the EPA to court over the agency’s efforts to ensure sources in Texas could get the permits they needed to construct.  All of this despite the fact that most facilities in Texas were already working to reduce their emissions and comply with the new federal standards.  On Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that the Clean Air Act unambiguously requires large GHG sources, like coal-fired power plants, to obtain permits.  As a result, the court dismissed Texas’ lawsuit, finding that EPA’s actions didn’t cause Texas any injury.  Much to the contrary, they were necessary to ensure GHG sources could obtain permits that they otherwise could not obtain at all. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Coal, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Renewable Energy, Texas Permitting / Tagged , , , | Read 1 Response

Texas Leads The Nation In Carbon Emissions. It’s Time To Mess With Texas.

Source: brionv/Flickr

This commentary originally appeared on the EDF Voices blog.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently released its annual report on carbon emissions from energy-related activities. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Texas once again led the nation, emitting an estimated 652.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2010. That represents close to 10% of the carbon emissions from the entire country.

I love my state, but this isn’t a “#1” we should be proud of. Our emissions contribute to the global increase in carbon in the atmosphere and influence extreme weather patterns.

And yet, Texas continues to challenge protections to limit the amount of greenhouse gases, wasting valuable time and resources trying to thwart the efforts to handle a critical public health threat.

I know there are people in Texas who are concerned about the greatest environmental challenge of our time. And I am inspired by news of the 7% increase in renewable power generation in the state last year. And I am inspired by visionaries such as Elon Musk who is exploding into the market with zero emission technologies like Tesla. You’d see more of his cars in Texas if the state would let them.

Texas has tooted its horn as a pro-business state for years, which has led us down the smog-ridden road we are on now. It’s not too late to change the tune of our song to be pro- clean energy business.  Rather than constructing more fossil-fuel driven power plants, Texas can continue leading the nation with wind and solar development.  Renewable energy will not only continue to propel Texas’ economy, but also cut down on air pollution.  That’s a win-win for everyone, and a ranking for which Texas can be proud.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Extreme Weather, Renewable Energy / Read 2 Responses

EDF Goes Back To Court To Support Climate Pollution Reductions

This commentary originally appeared on EDF’s Climate 411 blog.

Another high-profile clean air case played out yesterday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

A three-judge panel heard oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas and some industry petitioners.

The lawsuit challenges EPA’s efforts to ensure smooth, uninterrupted permitting for large new industrial sources of climate pollution in Texas.

EDF was part of a coalition of clean air advocates that filed two briefs in the case. We filed in support of EPA, along with Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Sierra Club.

At issue in the case are State Implementation Plans, or SIPs as they’re commonly known.

Here’s some background on the case

U.S. clean air laws require that large new industrial sources obtain construction permits providing for cost-effective modern solutions to mitigate climate pollution. The states are empowered to provide those permits – through their SIPs.

In 2010, EPA found that 13 states, including Texas, lacked the ability to carry out that requirement.

All those states except Texas worked with EPA to ensure permitting authority was in place. That allowed large new industrial sources in those states to obtain the needed construction permits.

In an August 2, 2010 letter to EPA, Texas wrote that it:

ha[d] neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring, or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions.

That brings us to the lawsuits.

Here’s a look at what happened in court yesterday

Judges Judith Rogers, David Tatel, and Brett Kavanaugh heard oral arguments.

The judges closely questioned Texas and industry petitioners about the impact of the court’s recent decision in another case that we’ve written about.

In that challenge to the Endangerment Finding, before the same court, judges upheld EPA’s first-generation climate protections.  The decision in that case said that EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act was:

unambiguously correct

In light of that earlier ruling, EPA argued that its actions were necessary to ensure that sources in Texas could get permits.

That became one of the main points of discussion during oral arguments yesterday – as the judges pressed Texas and the industry petitioners to describe how EPA’s actions caused them any injury.

Read More »

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