Category Archives: MATS

Why Doesn’t Texas Want Clean Air?

Source: EPA

Source: EPA

Para un breve resumen de la crítica de Texas contra CSAPR en español, haga clic aquí.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments over two critically important clean air protections – the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Standards for Mercury and Air Toxics. Texas has fought tooth and nail against both of these major pollution protections – protections that together have been estimated to prevent up to 45,000 deaths, 19,700 heart attacks and 530,000 asthma attacks.

Why are These Rules Important to Texas?

Air pollution from Texas' coal plants is, like many things in Texas, giant sized. Texas power plants collectively are the nation’s largest emitter of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and the second largest emitter of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Both pollutants are components of smog and are harmful to human health.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR), which applies to the eastern U.S, is of particular interest to Texas, not only because it helps control emissions within the state, but also because it helps protect the state from air pollution blowing in from neighboring states. CSAPR provides for upwind states to be good neighbors and protect downwind communities from harmful particulate matter and smog-forming pollution discharged from power plant smokestacks. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, En Español, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, TCEQ| Tagged , , | Comments closed

The State of Texas And TCEQ Fight Against Cleaner Air For Texans

The State of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) are once again fighting against clean air rules that will save Texans’ lives. This time, it is the first-ever standards limiting the amount of mercury and other toxics power plants can emit. The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) will ensure that 90 percent of the mercury content in coal burned by power plants is not released into our air. Given that power plants are responsible for half of all mercury emissions in the U.S., these reductions will be a substantial protection in keeping our air, waterways, and fish from toxic mercury pollution.

TCEQ, the Texas attorney general, and others are challenging the standards in court, saying that the toxic pollutants covered by the mercury standards do not "pose public health hazards.” The reality is that power plants in the U.S. are a major source of many toxics such as mercury (50 percent), arsenic (62 percent), chromium (22 percent), acid gas (77 percent), and nickel (28 percent). These pollutants are linked to cancer, neurological and development impairments, and many other harmful health and environmental impacts. Other sectors have cleaned up their toxic pollution and now it is time for power plants to do the same.

A report EDF released last year demonstrated that Texas had an oversized share of the top mercury emitting coal plants in the U.S. in 2009. Contaminated water bodies and, subsequently, food fish sources, as shown below, illustrate the legacy of mercury pollution in and around Texas.

Leaders in Texas and TCEQ are misguided in their attempt to upend these life-saving standards, which will prevent up to 11,000 deaths each year. Up to 1,200 of the deaths prevented will be in Texas, and Texas stands to benefit the most in terms of avoided premature deaths among all the states. The monetized value of the health benefits from these regulations is estimated at between four and ten billion every year beginning in 2016.

Public health interests, some power companies, and, and other stakeholders support MATS and have intervened in support of it in the Courts. Among them is Texas’ own Austin Energy. The Lower Colorado River Authority has also indicated it is “well-positioned” to comply. We need TCEQ and the state of Texas to stand up to harmful pollution instead of standing in the way of public health protections.

Also posted in Air Pollution, TCEQ| Comments closed

Proposed Soot Standards Long Overdue

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed health-based air quality standards for microscopic particulate pollution, one of the deadliest and most dangerous forms of air pollution. Inhalation of these tiny particles results in severe health impacts, including premature mortality, aggravation of respiratory and cardiovascular disease, changes in lung function and increased respiratory symptoms. If finalized, these proposed health protections will provide a long-term framework for securing cost-effective emission reductions in these health-harming pollutants from the largest source sectors.

Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) comes from highway dust, diesel exhaust, power plant emissions, wood burning and other air pollution sources, and consists of dirt, soot, aerosols, metals, acids and other microscopic particles.

EPA proposes reducing the current annual PM2.5 limits of 15 micrograms per cubic meter to levels within a range of 13 to 12 micrograms per cubic meter.

As I told the Houston Chronicle, this proposal is a “huge deal” and long overdue. The data on PM2.5 is even more compelling than the data for ozone. Simply stated, it’s one of the worst air pollutants endangering public health.

Background
Unfortunately, it took court action to prompt release of these proposed standards. The Clean Air Act requires EPA to review its particle pollution standards every five years to determine whether revisions are necessary, demanding that the agency issue standards protecting public health “with an adequate margin of safety.” However, because the EPA did not meet its five-year legal deadline for standards review, a federal court ordered the agency to sign the proposed particle pollution standards by June 14, 2012.

EDF has worked with the American Lung Association, Earthjustice, and National Parks Conservation Association to strongly advocate for last week’s proposed action. In 2006, EPA rejected the recommendations of its own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee on the level of protection necessary to safeguard Americans from particulate pollution in accordance with science and the law. The resulting standards were successfully challenged in the federal court of appeals for the D.C. Circuit by the American Lung Association, Earthjustice, Environmental Defense Fund, and the National Parks Conservation Association. The court instructed EPA to take corrective action in light of the extensive scientific evidence of human health harms.|

Now that the proposed PM2.5 standards have been announced, EPA will accept public comment for 63 days after the standards are published in the Federal Register. EPA will hold two public hearings (Sacramento, CA and Philadelphia, PA) in July with issuance of the final standards by December 14 this year.

The science is clear and the health implications clearer. If finalized, the new standards will prevent 35,700 premature deaths, 2,350 heart attacks, 23,290 visits to the hospital and emergency room, 1.4 million cases of aggravate asthma and 2.7 million days of missed work or school due to air pollution-caused ailments.

Although long overdue, we look forward to implementation of the final PM2.5 standards, strengthening public health, enabling us all to breathe just a bit more deeply.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate Matter| Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed
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