Texas Clean Air Matters

Three Ways Texas’ Latino Communities can Fight Climate Change and Protect Health

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Daily Ozone Air Quality Index in Texas for August 28, 2015 via AIRNow. Orange indicates that air quality was unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Daily Ozone Air Quality Index in Texas for August 28, 2015 via AIRNow. Orange indicates that air quality was unhealthy for sensitive groups.

Growing up in the heat of South Texas, praying for rain was a daily ritual. Droughts are common there, and climate change is making them more intense and thus more devastating. Yet Texans are surrounded by inaccurate political messages that cast doubt on evidence that humans are causing climate change. This kind of rhetoric is physically and economically harmful, especially to the 40 percent of Texans who are Hispanic or Latino, because these populations are disproportionately impacted by climate change.

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has partnered with League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) to raise awareness and action on environmental issues that impact our health. LULAC is the largest and oldest nationwide Hispanic civil rights organization in the U.S.  Recently, I had the honor of speaking with the Greater Houston LULAC Council at their monthly breakfast about how climate change impacts Latinos in Texas. Juan Parras, Founder and Director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), joined me at the event and drove the point home by discussing how climate change and industrial pollution is affecting Latinos in Houston. Together, we sought to inform our audience of the role they can play to stop damaging rhetoric and get involved to support climate change solutions and public health protections. Read More »

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Air Quality Poses Challenges and Opportunities for San Antonio’s New Mayor

SONY DSCTexans don’t always associate clean air with major urban areas, and for good reason. The heavy industrial activity, electric power plants, and vehicular traffic in big cities all combine to create ground level ozone, commonly known as smog. Increased ozone and smog has known negative impacts on human health, including causing asthma  attacks and other respiratory problems. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates ozone and sets guidelines for when a city is in compliance with air quality standards. Currently, San Antonio is technically in compliance with EPA ozone standards, but only by a quirk in how the agency’s compliance timelines work. A closer look actually shows the city has the second worst air quality of any urban area in Texas – second only to Dallas/Fort Worth.

The correlation between ozone and public health has spurred EPA to revise and strengthen its national ozone standards. If San Antonio continues with business as usual, it’s clear local air quality and public health will continue to suffer, and San Antonio will be officially designated as non-compliant with EPA standards. Read More »

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Reducing Drilling Pollution—Wyoming Did It, No Big Deal. Will Texas?

ozonegraphThe technological advances that led to the “shale revolution” have undoubtedly had a large economic impact on the Texas economy – something state leaders and the oil and gas industry are never shy about pointing out. But the impact drilling has on air quality and public health, that’s something energy-friendly Texas has not been so quick to recognize.

When not managed responsibly, drilling operations can contribute to the formation of ozone, also commonly known as smog. At certain concentrations, this pollution can trigger asthma attacks and cause other severe respiratory illnesses.

San Antonio is one place that’s seeing the clear connection between drilling and lower air quality, thanks to increased drilling just south of the city from the Eagle Ford Shale region. Before 2008, ozone levels in San Antonio had been steadily dropping, but when the shale revolution hit and drilling increased, regional ozone readings started going up.  In fact, based on air quality monitor readings from the last three years, San Antonio’s air quality is the 2nd worst in the state.  This correlation between drilling and ozone levels has been documented by The University of Texas and the Alamo Area Council of Governments, both of which concluded oil and gas activity in the Eagle Ford Shale is materially impacting ozone levels in San Antonio. Read More »

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TCEQ-Sponsored Workshop Undermines Public Health Benefits of Ozone Standard

ozone workshop smokestack 6.1.15Several weeks ago, I attended an ozone workshop sponsored by the toxicology division at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and facilitated by Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA). Ozone, a component of smog, is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects including asthma attacks, decreased lung function, and premature death.

EPA has proposed new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) within the range of 65-70 parts per billion (ppb), and, according to TCEQ, this workshop was “designed to provide an independent evaluation and synthesis of key considerations for approaching the difficult ozone NAAQS decision.”

Given the importance of this pollutant to public health, it is unfortunate a state environmental agency – that has plenty of other higher priority issues – chose to spend taxpayer money on a workshop designed to mislead the public and present a one-sided perspective on the issue.

What were the problems with TCEQ’s workshop? Read More »

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Tee-Off for Clean Air in Texas

By: Sarah Holland, Director, CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas

Tee-Off with logoOzone season is now upon us, which means citizens and cities need to be aware of daily ozone levels and how they impact daily life. Ozone, also known as smog, is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects, including asthma attacks, decreased lung function and premature death. Children, older Americans, and those with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially at risk. Poor air quality not only affects public health, but is bad for the Texas economy as well. Currently our region is on the cusp of nonattainment, meaning several cities in Texas do not meet federal health-based air quality standards. Designation could mean a requirement for new emission reduction control measures. In addition, a non-attainment designation has several consequences, including diminished attractiveness for talent recruitment, new businesses, and families. Read More »

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Ozone Season Returns to Houston

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 Abbott, along with Governors from ten other states, ignored public health needs and asked the EPA not to update the ozone standard again, ever. Governor Abbott 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 »

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