Texas Clean Air Matters

A healthier, more resilient Houston needs cleaner air

This op-ed originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.

In 2017, Houston endured 21 days with unhealthy levels of smog, triggering asthma attacks and missed school days for many of our children and hospitalizations for grandparents.

And, believe it or not, that was an improvement. As this century began, Houston took the unwanted title of America’s smog capital from Los Angeles, a sign of the region’s growing industries and traffic. Since then, our community, with the help of stronger federal safeguards, has made significant advances in air quality, allowing us to drop to No. 12 in the American Lung Association’s latest ranking of most polluted cities.

As the coughing and burning lungs from last year painfully remind us, Houston is still suffering from a public health problem that we cannot pretend is in our rear-view mirror. We must face the reality: There is a lot more work to do bring our air into compliance with health-based standards.

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Also posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Justice, Extreme Weather, Legislation, TCEQ / Comments are closed

World Series starts with fever pitch

Photo courtesy dabruins07

The World Series’ nickname is the Fall Classic, a nod to its place on the calendar. However, it will not feel like autumn tonight when my Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers open this year’s championship series at Dodger Stadium.

Forecasts call for the warmest World Series game on record, with the temperature expected to be 97 degrees when the first pitch is thrown at 5:08 p.m. Pacific time.

The current high came during the 2001 World Series, when the temperature was 94 degrees outside the domed stadium in Phoenix.

Southern California typically enjoys temperatures in the 60s this time of year. The National Weather Service attributes the unusual heat to a strong high pressure system and offshore winds. Read More »

Also posted in Climate Change, Extreme Weather / Comments are closed

Smoggier Skies in Texas? No Thanks, Washington!

Before leaving for summer recess, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill, H.R. 806, that would sideline public health protections by changing the Clean Air Act fundamentally and delay important air quality protections. This so-called by changing the required review by EPA of standards from the current 5-year interval to 10 years.

In Texas, several of our metro areas already fail the health-based standards for ozone, including the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth regions. Now, some legislators in Washington, D.C., have put forward legislation that would put even more Texans at risk, since the new 2015 health-based ozone standard would likely have identified the San Antonio region, as well as Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth, as areas requiring new clean air actions be taken. The 2015 ozone air quality standard was put forward after a lengthy scientific evaluation process that involved many in the public health, medical, and scientific communities. Delaying these standards to 2025 means delaying commonsense measures that safeguard the air we breathe.

It’s no surprise that this bill was opposed by more than a dozen organizations in the medical and public health community, including the National Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association and the American Thoracic Society. Health effects from ground-level ozone can exacerbate respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. For some in Texas, like the 1.4 million adult and 617,000 children statewide affected by asthma, air quality standards that protect against harmful levels of ground-level ozone can protect against life-threatening asthma attacks.

Texas only stands to lose when lawmakers in Washington weaken and delay important health protections. The “Smoggy Skies” bill has passed the House of Representatives, but hopefully, its fate in the Senate will be dead on arrival.

No thank you, Washington, Texans prefer clean air to breathe.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Dallas Fort-Worth, Environmental Protection Agency, Legislation, Ozone, San Antonio / Comments are closed

Houston students share stories about the air they breathe

In Bianca Ibarra’s neighborhood on Houston’s eastside, the smokestacks are simply a given, part of the landscape.

“It surrounds us,” she said. “When you leave for the first time as a kid, it’s a shock. You see that other places do not have this. We are living in one of the most polluted cities in the country.”

To help others understand that this is not normal or healthy, Ibarra, 18, produced “Houston, At What Cost?” The three-minute video details how air pollution damages hearts and lungs and offers ways for young people to help solve the problem.

Her work won the first video contest sponsored by Environmental Defense Fund for students from high schools near the heavily industrialized Houston Ship Channel.

Elena Craft, senior health scientist at EDF, said the contest provided students with a platform to talk about air pollution, a pressing concern in the eight-county Houston region, which has yet to meet federal standards for ozone, or smog. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Ozone, Particulate Matter / Comments are closed

Texas lawmakers, take note: The business case for clean air

Texas lawmakers are nearing the end of another legislative session. Before they leave Austin, though, there are two things that we would like them to do to improve air quality:

  1. They should extend the successful Texas Emissions Reduction Plan, or TERP, beyond 2019.
  2. They should fully fund the program.

This matters because the 16-year-old program works.

Last week, the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed on the importance of this program, co-authored by EDF’s Dr. Elena Craft and Nolan Richardson, president of Richardson Companies, Port Houston’s largest tenant.

Here is the bottom line – Clean air is good for business.

EDF supports this program because it has been an excellent investment for Texas.

We also remind lawmakers that there is work to do until every Texan has access to clean air. Cities and counties across the state continue to receive alerts for unhealthy air. Today is another bad ozone day for Dallas-Fort Worth and the eight-county Houston region.

We urge lawmakers to finish the job by extending TERP and using every cent collected for the program on its intended purpose.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Dallas Fort-Worth, Legislation, Ozone / Comments are closed

In Memory of Leah Oberlin

Leah Oberlin

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Leah Oberlin, Director of Environmental Affairs at Port Houston, last week.

Over the past couple of years, Leah’s leadership helped strengthen EDF’s partnership with Port Houston on air quality and sustainability initiatives.

Just last summer, Leah championed the Port’s sponsorship of a successful EDF Climate Corps project that analyzed opportunities for on-site energy efficiency and renewable energy generation.

We will miss Leah’s energy and genuine commitment to environmental stewardship.

From everyone in the EDF Texas office, our thoughts and prayers are with Leah’s family, and with the greater Houston ports and transportation community – where she was considered an important colleague and friend by so many.

A memorial in Leah’s honor will be held this Saturday, May 13, at 1:00 p.m. at the Jasek Chapel of Geo H. Lewis & Sons, 1010 Bering Drive in Houston.

Also posted in Environment / Read 1 Response