Category Archives: Houston

EPA Hosts National Summit to Address Environmental Concerns and Sustainability at Ports

Source: Digital Vision

Source: Digital Vision

Every day, countless heavy duty diesel trucks and oil-burning cargo ships move tons of goods through U.S. ports, adding pollution to urban areas that may be suffering from poor air quality. As many ports across the nation are undergoing expansion projects and increased throughput of goods, environmental concerns have become a high profile issue. With the right tools and collaboration among stakeholders, however, ports have significant opportunity to lessen their environmental impact and improve local air quality.

Thankfully, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a National Port Stakeholders Summit next week, in Baltimore, Maryland to address challenges and advance sustainability at ports. The summit invites experts and stakeholders to share expertise, ideas, and actions to reduce the ecological impact of port operations. Read More »

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

Clean Air and Sustainability Are Important Topics for Transportation Researchers

(Source: Texas Public Radio)

Source: Texas Public Radio

Air pollution and sustainability may not have been hot topics for transportation professionals in the past, but they were widely discussed during the 93rd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a conference that brings together transportation professionals from around the world. And as we have highlighted in the past, air emissions from the transportation sector are of particular concern in Texas, and many at the conference took note of the state’s progress.

For instance, one panel highlighted efforts to reduce costly cargo truck delays at various Texas-Mexico border crossings. These truck delays occur due to a myriad of reasons, including rush-hour transit times and customs issues, but a recently launched initiative known as the Border Crossing Information System, or BCIS, is aiming to shorten these delays through accurate monitoring and reporting of truck queues and, in turn, reduce harmful air emissions. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Goods Movement, Ports, Transportation | Tagged | Comments closed

Common Sense Policies Can Protect Thousands of Houston Schoolchildren from Roadway Air Pollution

Source: Campaign for Clean Air

Source: Campaign for Clean Air

Recently, the Houston Chronicle published an article showing that over 80,000 schoolchildren at 127 schools are frequently exposed to air pollution due to their proximity to busy roadways. Houston, in particular, is vulnerable to the formation of unhealthy air pollution, given the city is home to one of the busiest ports in the country and some of the busiest roadways, and emissions from all those vehicles tend to pool around the streets locals use most. But what’s critical to note is that exposure to this kind of pollution is especially harmful for our young ones, as children breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults. Now, with these staggering figures, it’s clear that something must be done to protect Houston children from the dangers of vehicle pollution.

In total, 127 Houston-area schools were found to be located within 200 meters of a roadway, the distance within which traffic-related pollution is most potent. The accumulation of these emissions, which contain nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), form ozone pollution under the right conditions—usually on warm, sunny days. With no shortage of vehicles emissions or sunlight, the city is definitely a hot spot for ozone pollution and Houstonians are faced with increased health risks. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Car Standards, Ozone | Comments 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, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Renewable Energy, Wind | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Texas Southern University Looks at Resiliency and Sustainability during Climate Justice Roundtable

Source OnEarth MagazineThe Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University is hosting a Climate Justice Roundtable this Friday December 13, 2013. The event is a follow-up to the Invisible Houston Revisited Policy Summit hosted by TSU last month, where I was lucky enough to attend and present. It also marks the kick off for the Houston Environmental Justice Climate Action Network (HEJCAN), a multi-ethnic network- the staff from the Mickey Leland Center for Environment Justice and Sustainability is helping organize.

The theme of the roundtable focuses on the efforts Houston is making to become a more resilient, sustainable and environmentally just city in the face of extreme weather and other climate change impacts.  The roundtable will also highlight the climate gap, inequity, social vulnerability, and environmental challenges that burden low-income and people of color communities and place them at special risk.  The event is free and open to the public.

If you are in Houston or the surrounding area, you should not miss this opportunity. The prestigious group of panelists will focus on identifying climate change and environmental justice challenges in the city, policies needed to eliminate the climate gap and vulnerable communities and the state of environmental justice programs in Houston. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution | Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Policy Summit Will Explore Environmental Justice And Disproportionate Health Risks In Houston

Source: The Beat News

On Thursday, health and policy experts will gather in Houston for the Invisible Houston Revisited Three Decades Later Policy Summit at Texas Southern University. The summit will explore and expand upon the topics and themes highlighted in Dr. Robert D. Bullard’s 1987 book Invisible Houston.

Dr. Bullard’s groundbreaking book revealed that Houston’s municipal authorities disproportionally sited environmental hazards, such as garbage dumps and incinerators, in neighborhoods predominately occupied by minorities. Since then, Dr. Bullard, “father of environmental justice” and current Dean of the School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, has led the charge for Environmental Justice, the concept that environmental laws and policies should not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin or income. His advocacy work culminated in the Environmental Justice Executive Order signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, which codified the values of Environmental Justice into law.

Since then, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has sought to advance Environmental Justice across the federal government, including developing guidance to consider environmental justice in EPA rulemakings. Ultimately, the goal of this mission is to eliminate the disproportionate impact of industrial activities on environmental justice communities. Read More »

Also posted in Environment, Ports, Transportation | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Community Colleges Play Key Role In Texas’ Clean Energy Economy

Recently, we highlighted some of the impressive clean energy research projects currently under development in universities across the state of Texas. These research initiatives form the foundation to Texas’ position as leader in the clean energy economy and a producer of a burgeoning workforce.  And this clean energy workforce requires a variety of skill sets that can be learned at different points along the educational spectrum.

In 2010, I produced a Texas Green Jobs Guidebook that highlights the job diversity within the clean energy sector—from solar panel installation to air quality enforcement. Universities train engineers, architects and city planners, but the clean energy workforce also requires a level of technical skill that is best taught at the community college level. In many ways, community colleges play a vital role in training the individuals that will put the clean energy future into action, and schools in Texas understand the growing need for skilled technicians.

Houston Community College recently launched a new solar energy program that trains students to install solar panels. Their education includes understanding proper placement and trouble-shooting and is, in fact, the first program in the area that is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Read More »

Also posted in Green Jobs, Renewable Energy, San Antonio, Solar, Wind | Tagged | Comments closed

Clean Truck Initiatives Hit The Road In Texas And Make A Personal Impact

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.

Courtesy of Juan Manuel Salazar

The following story about the clean truck program in Houston appears in the Fall 2013 issue of EDF’s Solutions newsletter. As we have highlighted before, ports are hotspots for air pollution and the best way to mitigate emissions from ships, trucks and other transportation equipment is to engage key stakeholders and find common sense solutions that provide access to cleaner, more efficient technologies. Below is a success story from Houston: Since the H-GAC Drayage Loan Program began in 2010, it has replaced almost 200 of the oldest, most polluting trucks with newer, cleaner ones. 

When Juan Manuel Salazar was hauling industrial materials all over Houston in his 1989 International truck, his two daughters worried. “They were concerned about me driving all day, then working half the night to fix the truck,” Salazar says. So it was no surprise that, as an owner-operator, Salazar jumped to qualify for a combined grant and low-interest loan program tailored by EDF and its partners such as the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC). Salazar invested in a cleaner 2012 Kenworth truck that uses less gas and goes farther without problems. “My daughters convinced me,” he says.

A few years before, an emissions inventory found that one-third of the toxic air pollution at the Port of Houston was spewed out by its 3,000-truck drayage fleet. The result was the loan program. Since its creation, almost 200 trucks in Houston have been updated. Read More »

Also posted in Clean Car Standards, Drayage, En Español, Goods Movement, SmartWay, Transportation | Comments closed

Houston’s Ozone Progress Commendable, But Still Inadequate To Protect Human Health

Source: Houston Air Quality

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region VI, representing Texas and surrounding states, announced that Houston was on track to meet the 1997 federal health standard for ozone within the next five years. Of course, I am and have been supportive of the multitude of efforts deployed and enforced to reduce ozone levels in Houston over the years. At the same time, I am concerned that the recent announcement may create a public perception of Houston as out of the weeds.

The truth is that the 1997 standard has been found to be woefully inadequate to protect human health from the harms of ozone, which include, but are not limited to, asthma, bronchitis and cancer. The 1997 standard of 84 parts per billion (ppb) was revised in 2008 to a standard of 75ppb.  Even this standard of 75ppb, however, has been criticized for failing to provide adequate public health protection. In addition, a closer look at ozone Design Values (a wonky term for the three-year average of the four highest days of eight-hour ozone concentration in each year) in Houston over the last five years suggests that the region may have reached a plateau in terms of reducing ozone. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone | 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 Dallas Fort-Worth, Environment, Ozone, San Antonio | Comments closed
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