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As New Energy Secretary, Rick Perry Will Inherit Trump’s Assault on American Clean Energy

Rick Perry by Gage SkidmoreThose of us who lived through Rick Perry’s governorship in Texas were concerned he’d take his “pollution-first” mentality to Washington. But the Trump administration’s assault on clean energy started before Perry cleared the first hurdle for becoming Secretary of Energy today, signaling he’ll likely be confirmed by the full Senate.

In two short weeks, President Trump laid out the dismal, dirty, and dangerous energy platform he’ll expect Rick Perry to execute. It’s up to us to protect and defend the jobs clean energy creates, along with its benefits for business, consumers, health, and our natural resources.

Energy efficiency
President Trump’s regulatory freeze halted four rules designed to reduce energy waste and, consequently, energy bills and greenhouse gas pollution. The Washington Post reported, “The freeze would appear to have the effect of sweeping up four very nearly finished Energy Department energy efficiency standards, affecting an array of products, including portable air conditioners and commercial boilers.” Heating and cooling use the most energy in buildings. This rule on commercial air-conditioners was published last year. The amount of C02 reduction and the fact that the Department of Energy negotiated the rule with industry make it a landmark example of how efficiency rules don’t hurt manufacturers while saving utility customers billions of dollars. Closing off this avenue of cooperation between the government and industry stakeholders takes away drive for innovation and allows others (China) to take the lead. Read More »

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Environmental Injustices in the Air We Breathe

air-pollution-smoke-rising-from-plant-towerThis post originally appeared in La Voz de Esperanza.

For years now, San Antonio residents have endured unhealthy levels of ozone in the air we breathe. Yet, the city of San Antonio has narrowly avoided violating the US Environmental Protection Agency’s national ozone standards, designed to protect human health. But San Antonio will soon have to make changes to its approach to air quality.

In October of last year, the EPA, responding to the findings of recent health studies, lowered the maximum allowable ozone level. On April 8 of this year, San Antonio exceeded that threshold, which means our region is not meeting EPA’s ozone air quality standards.

This matters because ground-level ozone can affect our health and often has disproportionate impacts on racial and ethnic minorities. The good news is that there are lots of ways to reduce ozone. Read More »

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Houston gets an extension on meeting air standards, but for what purpose?

houston skyline 4.19.16

EPA’s decision to grant the Houston region a new deadline to meet clean air standards may delay air pollution mitigation measures.

Last year was a troubling one for Houston air quality. Some areas recorded ozone concentrations not seen since the early 2000s. Overall, more than half of the regional monitors recorded smog at levels that exceeded the 2008 national health standard for at least four days. This unhealthy air affects everyone, but vulnerable populations such as the young and the elderly are especially susceptible to health effects of poor air quality, including asthma and lung disease.

This is why EPA’s recent decision to grant the Houston region a one-year extension to meet the federal health standards represents a missed opportunity for clean air action. The original deadline for Houston to meet the 2008 health standard was July 2015. Often, EPA grants extensions to areas that are close to attaining the standard. In this case, Houston’s air quality had been improving but took a significant step in the wrong direction last year with a large number of exceedance days.

Why Does it Matter? Read More »

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Cash for clean air (and new trucks and equipment, too!)

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The DERA program has been particularly cost-effective for improving air quality, but it also provides local economic benefits, too

Looking to advance your green freight and sustainable supply chain initiatives? EPA has announced a call for projects through the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) Clean Diesel Program to provide funding for projects that improve air quality by reducing dirty diesel emissions. This year’s opportunity will provide $26 million for projects nationwide, and EPA expects to make 10 to 40 funding awards. To take advantage of this opportunity, it’s important to act now—the deadline is April 26, 2016.

We’ve written about some of the unique aspects of the DERA program before, and the current opportunity follows the same approach—an “eligible applicant” such as a regional, state, and local agency, port authority, or non-profit focused on air quality can “sponsor” one or many projects in partnership with fleets, technology providers, and other stakeholders that reduce diesel emissions from sources like heavy-duty trucks, nonroad diesel equipment (like those used on construction sites or at marine terminals, for example), locomotives in railyards, and even marine engines. Community partners are important participants for these projects, as well, and EPA encourages applicants to ensure that diverse stakeholders are included in any project. Read More »

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

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rkimpeljr/209687857/in/photolist-jwGTT-sPNXn-b6WTeX-6Rcx6B-32dh5E-328Zf6-9LgCmw-b8zLCz-dCVDGi-aApWyE

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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Researchers Highlight Air Quality Ideas for Ports

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ed/US_Navy_100302-N-2147L-003_Sailors_remove_a_shore_power_cable_aboard_SS_New_York_%28LPD_21%29.jpg

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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