Category Archives: Houston

Bridging the Gap and Building Solidarity at Regional Environmental Justice Training

By: Kelsey Monk, program coordinator, and Marcelo Norsworthy, research analyst

Source: Pat Sullivan  — AP Photo

Source: Pat Sullivan — AP Photo

Addressing environmental justice challenges is an ongoing learning process, and, like many environmental and public health concerns, there is no silver bullet. However, there are effective strategies and productive collaborations that can lead to success. As I learned from Vernice Miller-Travis, co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, “passion, matched with data, is a really powerful conversation to be having.” And EDF is definitely into data and powerful conversations, so last week, Marcelo Norsworthy and I participated in a three-day Environmental Justice Training Workshop.

The National Governor’s Association defines environmental justice (EJ) as protecting minority and low-income communities from bearing a disproportionate share of pollution, and this can have implications at the legal, regulatory, and policy levels. The workshop, co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 6 Office, the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Series, and the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, is part of a larger effort by EPA’s Region 6 Office of Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs. The intent is to bring together grassroots organizations and partners, local officials, and government entities to build sustainable relationships and broaden decision-making skills. Essentially, EPA is utilizing a participatory and collaborative process to draft an environmental justice action plan that addresses region-wide priorities, such as air quality, chemical security, and Gulf Coast restoration. Read More »

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Public Calls for Health Protections at Refinery Hearing in Texas, Industry Defends Status Quo

Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, TX  (Source: FuelFix)

Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, TX
(Source: FuelFix)

On Tuesday, I spoke at a well-attended public hearing on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) vital proposal to reduce toxic emissions at oil refineries. At the hearing, I witnessed industry representatives and backers argue that refineries have already done enough to protect local citizens and that the public knows all there is to know about hazardous refinery pollution. Clean air advocates, including labor unions, public officials, residents, and health practitioners, took the stand and called on EPA to improve the status quo.

The status quo, unfortunately, is pollution loopholes for certain refinery processes, outdated pollution control technologies, and an inadequate health impact assessment. This refinery air toxics proposal, currently open for public comment, will help protect public health in some of the nation’s most toxically overburdened communities. That’s why direct federal attention to oil refineries is needed in states with questionable environmental records like Texas and Louisiana. Read More »

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"Refinery Pollution Affects ME!"

This commentary originally appeared in Air Alliance Houston's newsletter.

Isn't it time you said that to the EPA?

By: Adrian Shelley, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

There are 149 oil refineries in the United States. Of those, 5 are located in Houston, with an additional 3 in both Port Arthur and Texas City. The refining industry is more than 100 years old, and some people might be surprised to learn that there is equipment operating in some of our refineries that is a century old as well. As you can imagine, a lot has changed in that century.

Regulations governing the refining industry have not kept up. You've probably heard by now about the Environmental Protection Agency's new Refinery Air Toxics Rule. You may even have seen announcements lately about a hearing on the rule to be held in Houston on August 5. The hearing is a unique opportunity to influence a landmark rule in the fight against refinery pollution.

Air Alliance Houston has been promoting the hearing since it was announced. Today, I'd like to take a few minutes to explain why YOU should attend the hearing. Read More »

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Texas Air Quality Has Improved in Spite of State’s Flawed Approach to Environmental Protection

Source: www.nwf.org

Source: www.nwf.org

Last month, Texas Governor Rick Perry penned an open letter to President Barack Obama criticizing the administration’s energy policy and urging the federal government to adopt the “Texas approach” to energy and environmental regulations. The letter stoked its fair share of controversy, prompting Politifact Texas to weigh in on Perry’s claims about Texas air pollution. Unsurprisingly, they found that Perry’s words were only a half-truth, masking the true state of air quality in Texas. With this post, I’ll unpack Perry’s claims, discuss the true state of the air in Texas, and suggest where the state should go from here.

In his letter, Perry claimed that, since 2000, Texas has reduced “harmful pollutants in the air like nitrogen oxide by 62.5 percent, and ozone by 23 percent—a reduction that is 12 percent greater than the national average.” Politifact deemed this statement more spin than substance for good reason; while Texas air quality has improved in recent years, Texas cities ranked among the worst in the nation for ozone and particulate matter in the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report. Both ozone and particulate matter pose a risk to human health, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, especially in children and the elderly. And because ozone forms more readily on hot, sunny days, Texas ozone season lasts for several months, increasing health risks for Texans exposed to pollution.  While Texas air quality has improved, we still fair worse than most of the nation—it’s far too early for Rick Perry to claim victory over air pollution. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Environment, Natural gas, Oil| Tagged | Comments closed

Environmental Justice “Encuentro” Highlights Optimism and Creative Solutions

Source: Ecopolitology

Source: Ecopolitology

Growth at the Port of Houston. Aftermath of the BP oil spill. Resiliency in the era of climate change. These are but three of the critical environmental justice issues facing communities in Texas and the South. Thriving in light of these challenges will require innovative partnerships and creative solutions – all of which were showcased at last week’s “Encuentro.” We first highlighted this influential event last week and a few members of EDF’s Texas office had the opportunity to attend. Organized by the Houston Peace and Justice Center and hosted by Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Encuentro brought together community leaders, environmental advocates, and energy and sustainability experts with a goal of advancing the environmental justice movement in the region.

In the face of grave challenges, there was a tremendous spirit of optimism as a panel of TSU graduate students kicked off the day with their insights on sustainable communities and the power of participatory research. Renowned experts, such as Dr. Robert Bullard and Dr. Al Armendariz, deepened the resolve of Encuentro participants with their eye-opening analysis of some of society’s most entrenched and complex challenges. For example, a zip code is still the most accurate predictor of health. Where you grew up and where you live are closely associated with environmental quality and health outcomes. This means that fence-line communities, like Manchester, TX which neighbors a large rail yard, major highways, chemical plants, manufacturing facilities, and a car crushing facility, are in a precarious and often dire situation. This stark reality is what drives Encuentro and all of the efforts to improve environmental and public health.   Read More »

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Houston’s Environmental Justice “Encuentro” to Chart Path Forward for Communities

This post was co-authored by Dr. Denae King, research associate professor at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, and Juan Parras, founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.

Source: Houston Peace and Justice Center

Source: Houston Peace and Justice Center

Encuentro in Spanish means meeting, awareness, or encounter, but in this instance it is the title of an environmental justice event. Environmental Justice (EJ) is 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. The goals for this event are to bring conservation groups and residents most affected by severe environmental health risks together to foster a dialog around the EJ movement. Encuentro also seeks to enlighten Houstonians with an understanding that environmental injustices suffered by "fence-line" communities affect all Houstonians. Through this discussion, Houstonians can identify and pool the resources needed to help improve environmental quality, public health, and the well-being of local families and neighbors.

Next Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, community leaders, environmental advocates, and energy and sustainability experts will convene at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs for the “2014 Encuentro.” The ideas and strategies to be presented at this year’s Encuentro build upon a rich history of the Environmental Justice movement in the Houston region. Read More »

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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 »

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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
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