This post, written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston executive director, originally appeared on airCurrent News.
Spring is coming to Houston, and with it the start of ozone season. You probably haven’t thought about ozone yet this year, and with all the cold weather we’ve had, you could be forgiven. But Houston’s ozone season officially began on March 1, and it may be time to start thinking about this pernicious air pollutant once again.
First we should remember that 2015’s ozone season begins amid a proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency to lower the federal ozone pollution standard. Comments on that proposal were due this week. Air Alliance Houston, with help from students at the University of Houston Law Center, submitted comments calling for a standard as low as 60 parts per billion. The best science of the day indicates that such a low standard is needed to protect public health.
Meanwhile our Governor Greg Abbot, along with Governors from ten other states, ignored public health needs and asked the EPA not to update the ozone standard again, ever. Governor Abbot et. al. claim that the new ozone standard will cost billions of dollars and 1.4 million jobs nationwide. This claim ignores a recent EPA study of the results of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, which estimates that benefits from implementing the Act exceed costs by a factor of more than 30 to 1.
So there are some hard questions about what the ozone standard will be in the future. But putting those aside for right now, what do you need to know for 2015’s ozone season? Read More
EDFers Marcelo Norsworthy and Chris Wolfe (L) with Rachel Powers, Executive Director of Citizens’ Environmental Coalition (CEC).
The Houston environmental community was strengthened and reinvigorated after last week’s Greater Houston Environmental Summit, an event organized by the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition (CEC). The summit was designed to allow local environmental leaders to share their take on how Houston is addressing key challenges related to growth, transportation, air quality, and infrastructure. A principle message from the summit was how high-paced growth and demographic changes have been altering the face of Houston. What does Houston’s rapidly-growing, multi-ethnic population, in fact, mean for environmental issues?
Houston, the 6th largest metro region, is expected to see its population jump to more than 7 million people by 2020. This rapid growth means that, while there are more pressures on natural resources like air quality, there may also be a new resolve to make significant emissions reductions. As many of the speakers at the summit highlighted, the time is now to move the needle on a number of environmental challenges facing Houston and its diverse population. Read More
Also posted in Air Pollution
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