This post was written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director.
State of the Air keynote speaker Dr. Bob Bullard on environmental justice and air pollution.
Earlier this month, Air Alliance Houston held its annual “State of the Air” luncheon. This event is an opportunity for our friends, allies, and supporters—including EDF—to learn about our work and for other groups to highlight how they are also working to improve Houston air quality.
The first guest speaker at this year’s State of the Air was Better Houston’s Peter Brown, known in some circles as Pedestrian Pete. Mr. Brown serves on a committee developing Houston’s first ever General Plan. Although to many “Houston planning” is an oxymoron, the General Plan provides an opportunity for Houston to intelligently manage the City’s explosive growth, which will see an additional one million people move to Houston in the next twenty years. Air Alliance Houston is participating in the planning process, encouraging the city to adopt strategies that promote increased use of mass transit, walkability, and a reduction in the impact of diesel trucks on residential areas. (If you live in Houston, you too can provide input by clicking here.)
The real highlight of the event came with a presentation by our keynote speaker Dr. Robert Bullard, the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. Dr. Bullard—also the newest board member of Air Alliance Houston—delivered a powerful presentation titled “Environmental Justice Challenges in the 21st Century: The Right to Breathe vs the Right to Pollute.” Read More
Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled a proposal to update our national air quality standards for ground-level ozone, more commonly known as smog, from the current 75 parts per billion level to 65 to 70 parts per billion. Smog is a dangerous air pollutant linked to asthma attacks and other serious heart and lung diseases. That’s why EPA is also seeking comments on establishing a health standard of 60 parts per billion, a level that would provide the strongest public health protections for Americans according to scientific record. But despite the overwhelming scientific evidence of the health benefits of a more protective ozone standard, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), publicly opposes it.
Sixty to 70 parts per billion is the health-based range recommended by the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, an independent panel of the nation’s leading scientists. The panel of scientists formed its recommendation based on an examination of bedrock scientific evidence and the requirement under the law to protect those most vulnerable.
In deconstructing TCEQ’s position on ozone, one can focus on a few key elements that stray from the mainstay of accepted public health principles:
Refineries cast a long shadow along the Texas Gulf Coast: its emissions of cancer-causing compounds leave overburdened communities facing serious health concerns, even as the industry resists implementing commonsense, protective policies. The shadow, however, need not be so dark for much longer. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to strengthen long-overdue emissions standards for petroleum refineries, which is a critical step toward securing healthier air quality for millions of Americans.
Refineries are a major source of extremely harmful air pollutants including neurotoxins, hazardous metals, and cancer-causing pollutants. Exposure to these compounds can cause lung disease, skin disorders, headaches, and immune system ailment, as well as increase the risk of cancer. Refineries nationwide reported about 22,000 tons of hazardous air pollution in 2010, and many of the largest polluters are right here in Texas. These numbers come to life when you walk the streets of communities like Galena Park or Port Arthur and meet the families who live and work in the shadow of refineries every day. Read More
Calling all heavy-duty truck owners who work at the Port of Houston! Cold, hard cash is available for the purchase of new trucks that are more fuel-efficient and cleaner-burning, providing up to 80 percent of the cost of a new truck.
The Houston-Galveston Area Council (HGAC) will be hosting a Drayage Truck Event at the Port of Houston on Saturday, November 1, from 10:00am to 1:30pm, to share information about available grants and loans in order to help owners replace older, dirtier vehicles with new, cleaner ones (see how others have taken advantage of these opportunities in the past).
Why is funding like this available to help someone pay for a new truck? By replacing an older truck with a new one, we all benefit from improved air quality. These benefits include:
- better health, since cleaner air reduces the onset of asthma and cancer and helps avoid the loss of work and schooldays, and
- economic advancement, as these programs help the state and city progress towards meeting critical air quality standards. Read More
Air quality signboard indicating an ozone watch – Harris County Courthouse Annex 19 – Gulfton, Houston.
Earlier this year, close to 20 Texas counties received a grade of "F" from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution (up from 15 counties in 2013). Ozone is one of the most ubiquitous and harmful air pollutants on the planet and has been linked to premature deaths, increased asthma attacks and other severe respiratory illnesses, as well as increased emergency room and hospital admissions. And it poses an especially serious risk to children, seniors and those with lung diseases like asthma and bronchitis.
If realized, a stronger public health standard for ozone would prevent up to 12,000 premature deaths, avoid up to 21,000 hospitalizations and provide $100 billion in associated economic benefits.
Why then are Texas officials fighting tooth and nail against it?
U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, joined by fellow Texas Republican Reps. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, Pete Sessions of Dallas, Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, Kevin Brady of the Houston area, John Carter of Round Rock and Sam Johnson of Richardson, introduced a bill that would serve to obstruct health protections promised in the Clean Air Act. This bill would deny Texas cities, the state and the country from their right to strong public health protections. Read More
Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone Tagged Blake Farenthold, John Carter, Kevin Brady, Lamar Smith, Pete Olson, Pete Sessions, Randy Weber, Sam Johnson
This week, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) hosted the Energy and Environment Seminar in Chicago, an important event for environmental advocacy efforts with ports across the country. And Houston will take center stage in the ports world this November when the city hosts the AAPA annual meeting in conjunction with the Houston Ship Channel’s 100th anniversary.
EDF participated in this important seminar and discussed how ports can engage effectively with environmental groups to address environmental concerns. Our presentation focused on the “value add” that environmental organizations can provide to ports, specifically in three key areas:
- grants & technology advancement
- policy development
Some of the panels at this seminar included: Read More