Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): asthma

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 »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Ozone, Uncategorized / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

EPA Revises Ozone Standard – Texans Ready for Healthier Air

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EPA's revised ozone standard is an improvement, but it falls short of adequately protecting public health.

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took a modest but important step forward in improving air quality by revising the standard for ground-level ozone or smog. EPA today finalized a standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) — at the least protective end of the range recommended by the EPA’s independent scientific advisors and the nation’s leading health and medical societies.

Texans, and particularly those most vulnerable to air pollution such as children and the elderly, face challenges associated with harmful air quality and now is the time to come together as a state and implement solutions that will reduce this pollution. The Houston region has made strides in reducing emissions while continuing to grow and demonstrated that we have effective tools to improve air quality across Texas.

Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Houston / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

Ozone—A Problem San Antonio Can No Longer Afford to Ignore

EagleFordFlareLate August provided a vivid reminder of San Antonio’s decade long challenge with air quality and a timely preview of an issue the entire region will be talking about next month:  ground level ozone (a.k.a. smog).

The last week of August, San Antonio air monitors registered some of the highest smog readings of the year. In fact, the city’s smog levels were higher than any other city in Texas on August 27.

Put simply, if you have asthma, or other breathing difficulties, you probably had a pretty tough time that week. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Natural gas, Oil, Ozone, San Antonio / Also tagged , , , | Comments are closed

This is No April Fool’s: Today Marks Beginning of Serious Season

Today kicks off the official ozone season, when higher ozone concentrations can make air unhealthy to breathe. The season of “smog” begins April 1 and lingers until October.

Last year many Texas counties got an “F” for high ozone levels by the American Lung Association: Dallas, Denton, El Paso, Galveston, Harris, Hood, Montgomery, Orange, Parker, Tarrant, Travis and more. Houston was ranked the 7th most ozone-polluted city in the country, with Dallas-Fort Worth not far behind, ranked at 13th.

What’s different this year? In Texas, there are more people, more cars, and more industry. Mixed with hot summer days, this may mean higher ozone concentrations, which can translate to more asthma, more bronchitis, more emphysema and more complications from cardiovascular disease.

In other words, we need to be more vigilant than ever about keeping ozone levels low. Along those lines, here are some simple steps that we can all take to do our part:

  • Make it a routine to look at the air quality index (AQI) before you plan your activities for the day.
  • Understand what the colors on the AQI mean when you hear them on the news and restrict outdoor activities accordingly: orange (unhealthy for sensitive populations); red (unhealthy for the general population); and purple (very unhealthy for the general population). Read More »
Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Ports / Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments are closed

Texas Officials Spreading Cow Pies

Today Texas Congressmen Joe Barton and John Carter along with a number of members of the Texas Legislature, Chairman Bryan Shaw (TCEQ) and others stood up for pollution. They announced their intent to prevent actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from enforcing the Clean Air Act to protect public health.  They relied on tired arguments and misrepresented statistics to paint a picture of doom for Texas industry.

Congressmen John Carter went as far to say that those who question the quality of Texas air “don’t think much of Texas.”  Well I resent that remark, I was born and baptized in Ft. Worth, attended Texas Christian University and have lived in Texas for 33 consecutive years.  Real Texans care about our state’s future and wouldn’t try to gut protections that save lives and create jobs in clean energy.

We have a multi-billion dollar state budget shortfall and have yet to pass a federal budget for a fiscal year we are already in, yet two Congressmen, multiple members of the Texas Legislature as well as two state agency commissioners feel it necessary to waste time debating the merits of a regulation that most Texas companies are already willing to follow.

The EPA warned the State of Texas that the Flexible Permit Program implemented by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) did not meet federal standards for almost a decade.  After a lot of grandstanding and political posturing last year, 71 of the 74 companies holding flexible permits in the State of Texas have agreed to meet EPA regulations. It seems that industry is ahead of the politicians.  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ, Texas Permitting / Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed

Environmental Protections are Health, Not Political Issues

Last month I wrote about a series of public teleconferences on additional charge questions from the Environmental Protection Agency, as it continues to reconsider the 2008 ozone standard. The evidence from more than 1,700 peer-reviewed scientific reports is clear (and continues to be reinforced with new science) in demonstrating that our current ozone standard is not protective enough of human health, and we at EDF continue to advocate for a strengthening of the standard. Just this week, during the second public teleconference in this series, I reinforced our position with formal comments.

Here are highlights from my testimony, with a few additions:

The Science is Sound
We appreciate the continued dedication of the CASAC (Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee) during the course of the 2008 ozone review through the present. To this day, as it continues to answer additional charge questions, the committee has not waivered in its opinion regarding the standard. CASAC remains strong, and has issued multiple statements indicating that the current ozone standard is unacceptable with regard to protecting human health. New research, including recent reports demonstrating significant increase in pulmonary inflammation in healthy individuals exposed to 60 ppb ozone, and clear evidence linking respiratory mortality with ozone exposure in a single pollutant model, serve to confirm this opinion and highlights the immediate need for a more health-protective standard. In other words, the science is sound. Read More »

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