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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 »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone, TCEQ| Tagged , , | 2 Responses

Researchers Highlight Air Quality Ideas for Ports

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Shore power is a promising alternative allows ships to plug into the local electricity grid and reduce harmful emissions.

For ports that commit to reduce emissions and improve air quality, figuring out the best way forward can be challenging – the sheer volume of information on the subject may be overwhelming if you don’t know where to get started.

Fortunately, research facilitated by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) can help ports and terminals get up to speed on the latest breakthroughs in emissions technologies and clean air strategies.

Two weeks ago, TRB held its Annual Meeting in Washington, DC and welcomed more than 13,000 of the world’s top transportation researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders. The conference highlighted some of the top trends in transportation, and shared leading research on topics including air quality modeling, emissions control technologies, and environmental policy reviews. Texas ports can learn much from the air quality ideas presented at TRB – whether from the peer-reviewed research or insights from experienced panelists.

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 »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, TCEQ| Tagged | Read 1 Response

The Greener Side of Freight Transportation

Port Freeport Operations Manager, Jesse Hibbetts, provides a tour of Berth 7 at the Velasco Terminal.

Port Freeport Operations Manager, Jesse Hibbetts, provides a tour of Berth 7 at the Velasco Terminal.

This post first appeared on the EDF Climate Corps Blog.

This summer I had the opportunity to work with Port Freeport, a deep-water seaport in Freeport, Texas, on developing a new supply chain strategy from scratch. Currently, empty containers are trucked from Houston to Freeport for loading. Then, the filled containers are driven back to Houston completing the round-trip cycle. This long-haul covers 162.2 miles. Port Freeport’s new approach, which would reduce truck trips, emissions and costs, would issue a permit for overweight vehicles to move goods from industry to Port property. Once on site, these containers would be loaded onto a barge and shuttled to Houston. This process is more commonly referred to as short sea shipping or container-on-barge. Read More »

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Updated EPA Refinery Standards – Clean Air Benefits for Communities

New EPA Refinery Standards Will Provide Clean Air Benefits for Communities

New EPA Refinery Standards Will Provide Clean Air Benefits for Communities

This guest post is an abridged version of an Air Alliance Houston blog:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a new rule that will protect communities near oil refineries. The rule will put in place new controls that will reduce toxic air pollution from refineries and, for the first time ever, require air monitoring at refinery fencelines. It’s a step in the right direction for people living near refineries. For too long, poor and minority communities have suffered from toxic air pollution that damages their health and shortens their lives.

The rule is the result of a lawsuit filed in 2012 by Air Alliance Houston and others, including Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Community In-Power and Development Association, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, California Communities Against Toxics, Del Amo Action Committee, and Coalition For A Safe Environment. These groups were represented by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project. Together, these groups have been working for years to ensure that EPA would set stronger standards to protect public health. Read More »

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Strong Fuel Efficiency and Clean Air Standards Welcome in Texas

Strong fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards will cut both costs and pollution.

Strong fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards will save money and cut pollution.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are proposing new fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy-duty vehicles, and that should be welcome news for all of Texas.

Applying to everything from delivery vans to waste and recycling trucks to utility trucks and all the way up to tractor-trailers, these rules could drive efficiency improvements that save money for both businesses and consumers, all while cutting harmful air pollution. According to EPA and NHTSA estimates, the rules would cut climate emissions by one billion metric tons and save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program. And a study by Environmental Defense Fund and CERES found strong fuel-efficiency standards for trucks could lower total per-mile cost of truck ownership by 21 cents-per-mile by 2025. Read More »

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