Motiva refinery in Port Arthur, TX
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The status quo, unfortunately, is pollution loopholes for certain refinery processes, outdated pollution control technologies, and an inadequate health impact assessment.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
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
By: Richard Lowerre, Attorney with Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell
Source: StateImpact Texas
Recently, the Texas Center for Policy Studies (TCPS) issued its report examining Texas’ current water planning process. Founded in 1982, TCPS has pursed its theme of "Research for Community Action" by developing policy recommendations for sustainable growth and development in Texas.
Water has been a major topic for this work, and the current drought highlights the need for an effective state water planning process. TCPS’s report, however, finds fault with many aspects of the current planning process.
Overall, the report concludes that the projected need for water in 2060, according to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), is more than twice the amount that should be needed. As a result, the 2012 State Water Plan, developed by TWDB, recommends spending many billions of dollars on new reservoirs and other water projects that can be avoided. Read More
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
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
Well site located in Eagle Ford Shale play
Late last week, the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG) released a report outlining emission projections from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play, the most active drilling area in the country right now. Under the moderate drilling activity scenario, projections of air pollutants are expected to quadruple in the next four years. Even though this seems like a staggering prediction, it is likely an underestimation, given certain emissions are not accounted for in the inventory.
What does the report say?
The report assesses the emissions from oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale play and projects air pollution under three different development scenarios: low, moderate, and aggressive. Projections over the next several years indicate that we can expect substantial increases in smog-forming nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and carbon monoxide. Read More
Source: Dallas Observer
A new study accepted for publication in Environmental Science & Technology takes a close look at the amount of certain air pollutants in the Barnett Shale, a booming oil and gas region in North Texas. Using public monitoring data from 2010-2011, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin compared air pollution levels measured at a monitor surrounded by oil and gas operations to the levels that would be expected based on available emission estimates. The result brings to light that the emissions inventory from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for the Barnett Shale does not add up to the observations.
There are numerous air pollutants that can be emitted by oil and natural gas development. Depending on the local composition of the produced gas, emissions can often include volatile organic compounds (VOC, such as propane, butane, pentane, etc.) that contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone (also known as smog), and toxic air pollutants like benzene and hexane that are directly hazardous to human health. Methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas and a greenhouse gas catching lots of attention these days, is another powerful pollutant associated with these operations. Unlike the pollutants listed above, methane directly affects the health of our climate rather than human health. Fortunately, available technologies designed to capture methane are also effective in reducing these other pollutants. However, methane controls alone may not ensure that local air quality concerns are addressed – these require special attention. Read More
This post was co-authored by Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow.
Source: Texas Tribune
Haze over Dallas Area
Last week, EDF took one more step toward protecting Texans from harmful levels of ozone pollution that have afflicted the state for far too long.
Ozone pollution, better known as “smog,” is one of the most severe and persistent public health problems affecting Texans. Smog causes a range of health issues — including aggravation of asthma and other respiratory illnesses, decreased lung function, increased hospital and emergency room visits for respiratory conditions — and it is associated with premature mortality in urban areas.
According to the American Lung Association (ALA), Dallas-Fort Worth is the eighth most affected area in the country for smog. ALA estimates the city is home to millions of people who are sensitive to ozone-related health problems — including 1.6 million people suffering cardiovascular disease; nearly 1.9 million children; nearly 650,000 elderly residents; and over 520,000 people with asthma. Read More
Source: Angela Keck Law Offices LLC
By: Tomás Carbonell, EDF Attorney, and Brian Korpics, EDF Legal Fellow
This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
As we have highlighted before, EPA’s recent actions regarding storage tank standards is of particular interest to Texas. In 2009 alone, there were 6,120 storage tanks built in Texas large enough to be subject to EPA’s standards. The standards will apply only to new tanks. Since the number of new tanks is related to the number of existing wells, and Texas accounts for approximately 23% of new oil wells and 33% of new gas wells drilled in the U.S. (far greater than any other state), Texas is likely to account for a large share of the country’s new storage tanks. From a health standpoint, this rule preserves important protections for Texans, but much more remains to be done. Many counties in Texas fail to meet health based air quality standards. EPA needs to fortify thoughtful rules that place public health above all else, so that Texans (and many others) can breathe safe, healthy air that is free of ozone and other harmful contaminants.
A new year may be upon us, but – unfortunately – some members of the oil and gas industry would prefer we roll back the clock on common sense, long-overdue emission standards for oil and gas equipment.
Oil and natural gas production continues to expand rapidly in the United States – and with it the potential for emissions of climate-destabilizing pollutants (especially methane), smog-forming compounds and carcinogenic substances, such as benzene. We urgently need rigorous national standards that comprehensively address the full suite of pollutants from oil and gas facilities, protect public health and the environment and conserve needless waste of our nation’s natural resources. Read More