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
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
U.S. EPA Region 6 EJ Workshop, Arkansas LaQuinta Downtown Conference Center, June 16-18, 2015
Environmental justice issues are inextricably linked to broader social justice concerns.
That relationship was clear last month at Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 6’s Environmental Justice Training Workshop, as a discussion on race, class, and environmental health was punctuated by reflections on the tragic massacre at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC.
The training workshop, held in Little Rock, Arkansas, was one in a series in each of the five states in EPA Region 6, designed to bring together affected communities, government officials, environmental advocates, social justice champions, faith leaders, and academic researchers. Speakers shared their powerful stories of challenge and success. Environmental justice issues weren’t discussed in isolation. Rather, they were considered as one aspect of social injustice facing many Americans that must be addressed. Protecting civil rights and reducing the burden of air pollution – it is all part of the mission to safeguard lives and health. As I listened, I was able to reflect on how my own life has instilled a deep commitment to working on issues like toxic air pollution and improving air quality in urban areas. Read More
EPA's new mapping and screening tool will help advance environmental justice.
EPA is getting into the mapping game in a big way.
Just this week, they launched an environmental justice (EJ) mapping and screening tool called EJSCREEN, an online, publicly accessible index of environmental indicators based on location. It will be a tremendously helpful resource for the EJ movement.
In the past, concerned citizens, researchers, and advocates would access national databases individually without the ability to bring multiple sources of information together in one clear and consistent platform. EJSCREEN was created to address that issue. It’s a significant milestone that puts environmental and demographic data at your fingertips and empowers you to learn about your community. Read More
The 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
Several 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