Texas Clean Air Matters

Texas Air Quality Has Improved in Spite of State’s Flawed Approach to Environmental Protection

Source: www.nwf.org

Source: www.nwf.org

Last month, Texas Governor Rick Perry penned an open letter to President Barack Obama criticizing the administration’s energy policy and urging the federal government to adopt the “Texas approach” to energy and environmental regulations. The letter stoked its fair share of controversy, prompting Politifact Texas to weigh in on Perry’s claims about Texas air pollution. Unsurprisingly, they found that Perry’s words were only a half-truth, masking the true state of air quality in Texas. With this post, I’ll unpack Perry’s claims, discuss the true state of the air in Texas, and suggest where the state should go from here.

In his letter, Perry claimed that, since 2000, Texas has reduced “harmful pollutants in the air like nitrogen oxide by 62.5 percent, and ozone by 23 percent—a reduction that is 12 percent greater than the national average.” Politifact deemed this statement more spin than substance for good reason; while Texas air quality has improved in recent years, Texas cities ranked among the worst in the nation for ozone and particulate matter in the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report. Both ozone and particulate matter pose a risk to human health, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, especially in children and the elderly. And because ozone forms more readily on hot, sunny days, Texas ozone season lasts for several months, increasing health risks for Texans exposed to pollution.  While Texas air quality has improved, we still fair worse than most of the nation—it’s far too early for Rick Perry to claim victory over air pollution. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Environment, Houston, Natural gas, Oil | Tagged | Comments closed

Texas Wind Energy Continues to Blow Us Away

Source: katsrcool/Flickr

Source: katsrcool/Flickr

We have a lot to celebrate this Global Wind Day (June 15). Across the nation, wind energy accounted for almost one-third of new power capacity over the past five years and the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) estimates that wind energy has the potential to double over the next few years.

Nowhere is the growth in wind energy more evident than in Texas, the nation’s top wind producing state. Texas' wind energy generation grew by 13% in 2013 and more than 60% of all wind projects under construction in the first part of the year were in Texas.

This success has been aided by the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (PTC), a modest tax credit for new facilities good for ten years after the wind farm’s start date. Like those received by the oil, gas, and nuclear industries, tax incentives help ignite growth in the market. EDF has strongly advocated for this incentive over the past few years.

Unfortunately, the breaks that oil and gas have received over the last 100 years are often (conveniently) ignored by those wanting to maintain the status quo, making the PTC a point of debate among politicians. Read More »

Posted in ERCOT, Legislation, Renewable Energy, Wind | Tagged | Comments closed

Power Plant Rule a Tipping Point for Clean Energy Economy

powerplantrule

By: Cheryl Roberto, Associate Vice President, Clean Energy

For those of us (and all of you) who’ve been urging the government to implement meaningful climate policy, the release yesterday of a plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants has been a long time coming. But it finally came.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed carbon pollution rule for existing fossil-fueled power plants – also known as the Clean Power Plan – are a huge win for our climate.

We also think it could go down in history as the tipping point in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy. Here’s why:

Old, dirty power plants will be retired

The nation’s fleet of coal-fired power plants is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. Placing carbon regulations on this source of electricity for the first time in history will transform our energy system. Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Coal, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Comments closed

Environmental Justice “Encuentro” Highlights Optimism and Creative Solutions

Source: Ecopolitology

Source: Ecopolitology

Growth at the Port of Houston. Aftermath of the BP oil spill. Resiliency in the era of climate change. These are but three of the critical environmental justice issues facing communities in Texas and the South. Thriving in light of these challenges will require innovative partnerships and creative solutions – all of which were showcased at last week’s “Encuentro.” We first highlighted this influential event last week and a few members of EDF’s Texas office had the opportunity to attend. Organized by the Houston Peace and Justice Center and hosted by Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Encuentro brought together community leaders, environmental advocates, and energy and sustainability experts with a goal of advancing the environmental justice movement in the region.

In the face of grave challenges, there was a tremendous spirit of optimism as a panel of TSU graduate students kicked off the day with their insights on sustainable communities and the power of participatory research. Renowned experts, such as Dr. Robert Bullard and Dr. Al Armendariz, deepened the resolve of Encuentro participants with their eye-opening analysis of some of society’s most entrenched and complex challenges. For example, a zip code is still the most accurate predictor of health. Where you grew up and where you live are closely associated with environmental quality and health outcomes. This means that fence-line communities, like Manchester, TX which neighbors a large rail yard, major highways, chemical plants, manufacturing facilities, and a car crushing facility, are in a precarious and often dire situation. This stark reality is what drives Encuentro and all of the efforts to improve environmental and public health.   Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Natural gas, Oil | Tagged , | Comments closed

Central Texas Poised To Become Regional Clean Energy Leader

Source: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hill-country

Source: http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/hill-country

With the recent release of the National Climate Assessment, the threat of climate change has never been clearer. Addressing this will require a fundamental transition away from fossil-fuel sources of energy in favor of renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power. Electric utilities vary in their progress towards delivering a future powered by clean energy. Notably, Central Texas, with its combination of energy know-how, creative thinking, and technology entrepreneurship, is home to many utilities leading the way in clean energy resources and smart grid technology.

Austin & San Antonio are leading the pack

Although Texas has a deregulated, competitive electricity market where most energy companies compete for customers, the San Antonio-Austin-Hill Country corridor is mainly comprised of public electric utilities, like municipals and cooperatives that are community-owned. For years, Austin and San Antonio’s municipal utilities have benefited from an engaged customer base that cares about the transition to a clean energy economy. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Green Jobs, Renewable Energy, San Antonio, Smart Grid, Solar | Tagged , | Comments closed

Soot Pollution Limits Unanimously Upheld in Court, Continuing Clean Air Victory Streak

rp_air-pollution-source-NRDC-300x187.jpgLast week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) particulate matter (soot) pollution standard, ruling that EPA’s decision to strengthen the standard in 2012 was firmly grounded in science and the law. The ruling also upheld EPA’s new requirement that states install air quality monitors near heavy traffic roads, where soot pollution levels can spike. The court’s decision is the latest in a string of legal victories for critical health protections on air pollution.

When fossil fuels are burned in an automobile or power plant, they release soot pollution, very fine, ashy particles less than one tenth the width of a human hair. These particles are so small that the air can carry them for long distances. When inhaled, soot particles penetrate deep into the lungs, where they can cross into the bloodstream via the path normally taken by inhaled oxygen. Exposure to soot pollution can inflame and alter our blood vessels, cutting off the oxygen supply to our heart and brain, leading to a heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiac event. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate Matter | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Houston’s Environmental Justice “Encuentro” to Chart Path Forward for Communities

This post was co-authored by Dr. Denae King, research associate professor at the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, and Juan Parras, founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.

Source: Houston Peace and Justice Center

Source: Houston Peace and Justice Center

Encuentro in Spanish means meeting, awareness, or encounter, but in this instance it is the title of an environmental justice event. Environmental Justice (EJ) is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. The goals for this event are to bring conservation groups and residents most affected by severe environmental health risks together to foster a dialog around the EJ movement. Encuentro also seeks to enlighten Houstonians with an understanding that environmental injustices suffered by "fence-line" communities affect all Houstonians. Through this discussion, Houstonians can identify and pool the resources needed to help improve environmental quality, public health, and the well-being of local families and neighbors.

Next Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17, community leaders, environmental advocates, and energy and sustainability experts will convene at Texas Southern University’s Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs for the “2014 Encuentro.” The ideas and strategies to be presented at this year’s Encuentro build upon a rich history of the Environmental Justice movement in the Houston region. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Houston | Tagged , , | Comments closed

One Year Later: Texas Environmental Agency Fails to Address Public Comments on Pollution in Texas City

This post was co-authored by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director. 

rp_Estimated-Distribution-of-Benzene-Annual-Concentration-Based-on-Retrieved-Primary-Source-Location-and-Wind-Direction-Frequency-300x179.jpg

Estimated Distribution of Benzene Annual Concentration, Based on Retrieved Primary Source Location and Wind Direction Frequency

One year ago this week, EDF, along with Air Alliance Houston (AAH), submitted comments to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regarding its proposal to remove Texas City from the state’s Air Pollutant Watch List (APWL). We believe the agency’s proposal to remove Texas City from the Watch List for benzene and hydrogen sulfide, two lethal air pollutants, was premature.

To date, the TCEQ has not addressed our public comments on the Texas City proposal, though it has found time to analyze and recommend two other areas for removal from the APWL. We believe that this reflects TCEQ’s misplaced priorities. The agency seems to prefer removing areas from the APWL — thereby lifting a burden on industry— rather than ensuring adequate protection for public health. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Particulate Matter, TCEQ, Texas Permitting | Tagged , , | Comments closed

Desalination can Help Solve our Water Woes, but not without Clean Energy

Source: Prodes Project

Source: Prodes Project

As drought continues to grip Texas and many other Western states, one of the solutions often discussed (and pursued) to overcome water scarcity is desalination. Simply put, desalination, or desal as it is most commonly called, is a process that removes salt and other minerals from salty (brackish) or seawater to produce freshwater for drinking and agriculture. This technology seems like a no-brainer option for addressing the state’s water woes, but the problem is that desalination uses a lot of electricity and the majority of Texas’ electricity comes from coal and gas power plants, which require copious amounts of water to generate that electricity. It doesn’t make much sense to use water to make water, especially when there’s an alternative in Texas’ abundant renewable energy resources.

Texas is the national leader in wind energy and has the greatest solar energy potential in the U.S., yet neither of these resources are being widely deployed for desal plants despite recent studies pointing to vast opportunities. Not only do these energy resources produce negligible carbon emissions, but they also consume little to no water, unlike fossil-fueled power plants. Furthermore, if we look at where brackish water sources are located compared to where the wind and solar energy potential is in this state, the overlap is pretty clear. This synergy should not be ignored.  Read More »

Posted in Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Renewable Energy, Solar, Wind | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

How will Texas Fare in the New Climate Future?

This post was co-authored by Elena Craft, Ph.D., Senior Health Scientist, and Kate Zerrenner, Clean Energy Project Manager. 

Source: Austin American Statesman

Source: Austin American Statesman

Early this week, the White House released the third National Climate Assessment (NCA). What’s the main take away? That Americans are already feeling the effects of climate change.

The NCA, authored by 300 experts and guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee, analyzes the best available data in the U.S. on the observed and future impacts of climate change, and organizes its findings for specific sectors and regions. Texas falls under the Great Plains region and the state’s bustling economy includes many industries that will be affected by a changing climate, such as agriculture and energy.  Our water, ecosystems, transportation, and more will also be affected. It is clear from this report that heat and drought will intensify in Texas, putting energy, agriculture, and human health at increased risk. State leaders need to enact policies now to protect us and our livelihoods.  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Coal, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, Extreme Weather, Legislation, Renewable Energy | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed
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