Selected category: Ozone

Part III: Flawed Logic at Texas Environmental Agency Results in Costly Lawsuits and Poor Public Health Policy

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There is robust agreement on the dangers of ozone pollution in the medical health community.

Part I of our series on ozone described how 2015 was a bad year for Houston ozone. Part II reviewed recent research from leading Houston scientists that explains why more ozone pollution is harmful to our health. Part III explains how faulty logic and erroneous assumptions had led to costly lawsuits and poor public health policy across the state. Part IV will identify some solutions to Houston’s ozone problem and suggest measures to protect the health of Houston area residents.

There has been quite a bit of activity related to the proposed U.S. ozone regulations in the past year. As part of a four part series on ozone in 2015, we’d like to take the time to rebuke some of the scientifically-flawed testimony provided by state environmental officials, including Dr. Michael Honeycutt, toxicologist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state environmental agency. We feel that the agency has presented health information in a way that is misleading and contradicts the robust opinion of the medical health community on the issue.

First, a little context is important. We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have participated in the public process involving the ozone standard and provided testimony to Congress on the health effects of ozone exposure. TCEQ has challenged the health-based standards in an aggressive way, and their efforts have been fodder for expensive and frivolous lawsuits filed by the state. Read More »

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Part II: Studies Show Health Risks Associated with More Ozone Pollution

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High ozone days, particularly in sequence, increase the risk of an asthma attack requiring EMS intervention.

In Part I of our series on ozone, we described how 2015 was a bad year for Houston ozone. Why does this matter? In Part II, we’re reviewing recent research from leading Houston scientists that explains why more ozone pollution is harmful to our health.

Scientists have known for a long time that ground-level ozone, or smog, is harmful to human health. Smog is associated with adverse health effects like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and lung disease. Children, the elderly, and individuals that spend lots of active time outdoors are even more susceptible to high ozone levels and thus considered sensitive populations.

Fortunately, recent research on exposure to lower levels of ozone prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this year to strengthen the national health-based standard to 70 parts per billion (ppb). The new standard means cleaner air and healthier lungs in Houston, where studies from area scientists have demonstrated local, negative health implications of high ozone levels. Read More »

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Part I: Why Are Houston’s 2015 Ozone Levels Cause for Concern?

This is Part I of our four-part series on Houston ozone and how it affects your health.

ozone image 2 1.20.16

Ozone pollution affects everyone, no matter where they live.

Though the region has made progress on air quality in recent years, Houston suffered a setback in 2015 with a significant spike in its ozone levels. Ozone, also known as smog, is harmful to health and can result in respiratory symptoms such as cough and chest tightness. And with considerable industrial and population growth expected in the next few years, experts are understandably worried about public health risks.

To protect public health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets national standards for ozone concentrations, or limits on the amount of harmful ozone pollution in the air. In 2008, EPA strengthened the standard to 75 parts per billion (ppb), and this year the agency set a more protective standard of 70ppb. A lower number means there is less smog – and less smog means cleaner, healthier air. (In order to evaluate the public’s exposure to ozone, scientists and health officials look at regional monitoring data to determine when ozone levels exceed those federal health-based standards. Read More »

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Texas Takes Backseat Controlling Its Massive Methane Problem

3829465133_78b173bff0_bA new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, finds that methane emissions from oil and gas facilities in North Texas’ Barnett Shale are likely as much as 90 percent higher than previous estimates based on data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

This is no small matter. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas rapidly accelerating the rate of climate change. But it’s also emitted with other harmful pollutants, like Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) that contribute to smog levels, as well as the cancer causing compound benzene. One study estimates that oil and gas production in the Barnett Shale Region in Texas contributes 19,888 tons of VOCs per year while estimates for the Eagle Ford Shale region just south of San Antonio project oil and gas operations could produce up to 1,248 tons per day VOC by 2018. Both the DFW area and San Antonio are struggling with high smog levels.

And based on the findings of the new methane study, we now know that there are instances where the magnitude of oil and gas emissions is even higher than previously thought. That is especially troubling for the more than 6 million people living in the DFW area who are at risk of developing or exacerbating respiratory and other health problems as a result of this unnecessary air pollution. Unnecessary because recent analysis concludes that emissions can be drastically reduced by implementing cost-effective and “off the shelf” pollution reduction technologies and practices – begging the question: why has Texas, the leading oil and gas producing state, not been a leader on reducing this harmful pollution?

Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Barnett Shale, Clean Car Standards, Methane, Natural gas, TCEQ| Read 1 Response

Is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality an Honest Broker for San Antonio’s Air Quality?

By Krystal Henagan, Moms Clean Air Force Texas Field Organizer

san_antonio_sign1Facing climbing ozone levels and non-attainment, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) deployed their top officials to host an “air quality” open house in the Alamo City, Texas, Monday. As a mother of an asthmatic son, I was looking forward to hearing the agency’s plans to improve our region’s poor air quality not only for him, but for the thousands of San Antonio children suffering from dirty air.

Those of us expecting a comprehensive overview of how the state agency was planning to work with local and federal agencies to provide regional solutions to clean up our air were deeply disappointed. Rather, the open house was a very bizarre orchestration of an oil and gas industry PR blitz held by TCEQ’s commissioners and toxicologist. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Natural gas, Oil, San Antonio, TCEQ| Read 1 Response

In San Antonio, Cleaner Air May Be on the Horizon

For many years, San Antonio’s air quality has been at a tipping point. With smog levels that just narrowly hovered beneath national limits for ozone pollution, the city is currently in competition for having some of the worst smog levels in Texas.

Ground-level ozone can cause asthma attacks and other illnesses—which means the state of San Antonio’s air quality is putting public health at risk.  That’s about to change thanks to new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards that set stronger limits on ozone levels—pushing smog-challenged cities like San Antonio to take action and clean up the air.   Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environment, San Antonio| Read 2 Responses
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