What was even more disappointing than the press release from the White House last week on the national ambient air quality standard for ozone was the statement issued from TCEQ on the matter. The statement was riddled with false assertions and incorrect information and appeared to be another example of the agency’s politically motivated campaign against the EPA. While others have blogged on the madness of this recent policy decision, I felt compelled to call out our own state environmental agency, the TCEQ, on the egregious manner in which they attempt to trample science. A few of the falsehoods are debunked here:
TCEQ Myth #1
TCEQ claims that there is no compelling scientific reason to revise the ozone standard.
The truth is that independent scientists convened on the Ozone Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) have said for years that the current ozone standard fails to protect human health, and have unanimously recommended that the standard be set within the range of 0.060–0.070 ppm. Letters from CASAC on March 26, 2007, April 7, 2008 and March 30, 2011 unambiguously call for a standard within the range of 0.060–0.070 ppm.
In addition, in a letter to the President, 14 major health groups pleaded for a standard that was protective of human health and cautioned of the harms resulting from the interposing delays in issuance of the ozone national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS).
Even EPA Administrator has stated publicly that the current standard is “scientifically indefensible.” Read More
Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, TCEQ Also tagged Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Clean Air, cleanair, EPA, NAAQs, Ozone, TCEQ, Texas, Texas EDF
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently issued a public comment period and public meeting regarding the Galena Park Air Pollutant Watch List (APWL) area for benzene. The purpose of the APWL is to reduce air toxic emissions in areas of Texas where ambient air monitoring indicates a potential health concern.
Galena Park is listed on the APWL due to elevated annual average concentrations of benzene. Benzene is a known human carcinogen – both the National Toxicology Program (NTP) and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have found sufficient evidence that high benzene exposure causes acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Why the change?
Between 1998 and 2007, annual average benzene concentrations in Galena Park exceeded the long-term, health-based Air Monitoring Comparison Values (AMCV) of 1.4 parts per billion by volume (ppbv). In 2009, annual average benzene concentration at the Pasadena North monitoring site equaled the long-term AMCV of 1.4 ppbv.
TCEQ recently conducted a reevaluation of Galena Park and identified significant man-made benzene sources located outside of the current APWL boundary that are likely contributing to annual average benzene concentrations at the Galena Park and Pasadena North monitoring sites. As such, TCEQ is proposing to expand the Galena Park APWL boundary to include these sources of benzene. Read More
Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, TCEQ Also tagged Air Pollutants, Air Pollution, Air Pollution Watch List, cancer, Clean Air, Hotspots, Houston, TCEQ, Texas, Texas EDF
Following a series of delays in release of the ozone standard, several environmental groups have filed a motion with the DC Circuit Court to compel action from EPA. On August 8, 2011 the American Lung Association, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, National Parks Conservation, and Appalachian Mountain Club filed the motion, requesting that the court establish a deadline for EPA to complete its reconsideration of the 2008 ozone standards. The motion claims that EPA’s national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone do not comply with the Clean Air Act’s mandate that standards be strong enough to protect public health. Furthermore, the motion asserts that the Agency’s excessive and inexcusable delay in reconsidering such standards frustrates the Court’s prior orders.
Why did the groups take this action?
EPA’s national ambient air quality standards for ozone do not comply with the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act mandates that NAAQS standards be strong enough to protect public health with a substantial margin of safety to protect against adverse affects on public welfare. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the organization charged by the Act with advising EPA in setting NAAQS, has repeatedly stated that the ozone standard must be stronger than the .075 parts per million level adopted in 2008. The CASAC unanimously recommended that the standard be strengthened within the range of 0.06 to 0.07 ppm. EPA received this recommendation multiple times but has not moved to enact it. By disregarding CASAC’s council, EPA fails to ensure that NAAQS standards are protective enough to safeguard public health, thus, not complying with the Clean Air Act. Read More
Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone Also tagged Air Pollution, Clean Air, Clean Air Act, cleanair, EPA, NAAQs, Ozone, Texas, Texas EDF
Another year has gone by, and air pollution is still making big news. The following stories represent just a smattering of the news that we’ve read over the year regarding air pollution and its impact on human health. Air pollution continues to be a serious, ongoing problem – not only in Texas, but also around the world. If you don’t have time to read all of the stories individually, just skim the headlines – you’ll get the gist. And revisit this blog in January, when I suggest solutions in the form of resolutions.
1. In China, Pollution Worsens Despite New Efforts [New York Times, registration required]. Rapid industrial growth has resulted in increased air pollution. One of the worst offenders is particulate matter, or fine dust, which when inhaled, tends to lodge deeply in the lungs, making them vulnerable to respiratory problems and others diseases like cancer. According to this story, the “average concentration of particulates in [Bejing’s] air violated the World Health Organization’s standards more than 80 percent of the time during the last quarter of 2008.” In addition, acid rain has become a problem in nearly half of the cities monitored. As if this weren’t bad enough news, a related article last week cites how pollution harms the economy as well: Hong Kong’s 2010 Pollution Level Is Worst on Record, Hurting City’s Image. Read More
Remember when you were a little kid and you’d ask your mom for something – like to spend the night at a friend’s house? And when she said no, you might ask your dad because you thought that he’d be easier to manipulate, I mean more agreeable? You knew for sure that when your dad said no, that it really wasn’t a good idea.
Well, this is exactly what has happened in Texas today. The U.S. Court of Appeals, 5th Circuit (5th Circuit) denied the State of Texas’ motion to stay the Greenhouse Gas State Implementation Plan Call Rule (GHG SIP Call), concluding–as did the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit (D.C. Circuit)–that Texas did not make the showing necessary to justify a stay.
This was Texas’ latest (and hopefully last) attempt to forestall the implementation of the EPA’s stationary source GHG rules and to re-litigate issues Texas had already lost before the D.C. Circuit. (EPA’s motion to dismiss the case or transfer it to the D.C. Circuit is still pending before the panel).
With a looming deficit projected to be billions of dollars (even more than California’s!), why is Texas throwing away money that we don’t have? How many schools and nursing homes are suffering – operating on shoestrings right now – because of the state’s unwillingness to follow the same laws that every other state in the nation has to follow?
Let’s stop fighting the agency that is trying to protect us from ourselves.
This month the Houston area Park Place air monitor crossed a significant threshold – concentrations of ozone were so high that the monitor violated the 3-year average for the national 1 hour ozone standard. Even though the EPA revoked the 1hr standard several years ago, opting to rely on a more stringent 8 hr standard alone to protect public health, the Houston area is still required to meet the 1hr standard (it’s part of an anti-backsliding rule, which means that even though a standard has been revoked, you must still meet the standard). Read More
One of my friends and colleagues recently moved back to the Dallas/Fort Worth area from Austin and was somewhat distressed as a runner knowing that she was facing higher outdoor air pollution levels.
Cruising iPhone apps (applications) one day, she stumbled upon more than one related to air pollution and air quality and wanted me to pass the information along to our Texas readers. One in particular, “MyAirQuality,” is a great, quick reference tool especially for those with asthma or other respiratory illnesses. Read More
Port facilities are critical hubs of international trade. In the U.S., over 2 billion tons of cargo pass through our ports each year. These facilities can also be significant sources of harmful emissions that affect human health and warm our climate. These emissions are particularly worrisome, given that over 87 million Americans live near port areas that are not meeting federal health-oriented air quality standards.
Many solutions exist to clean up our ports while maintaining their ability to move vast volumes of goods. For example, the Coalition for Responsible Transportation (CRT) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) recently announced a joint "Clean Trucks Initiative" to develop clean truck programs at ports throughout the United States, beginning with those in the Southeast.
For the next call in the Environmental Defense Fund series exploring opportunities to cut greenhouse gas emissions from freight and fleets, we will explore the challenges and opportunities for reducing pollution in our ports. Leading this discussion will be Dr. Elena Craft, who leads EDF’s efforts to clean up ports along the Gulf and East Coasts.
The call is on July 26th at 12pm ET. To join, call:
* Phone number: +1 (213) 289-0500
* Code: 267-6815
We look forward to having you join us in this conversation.
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We all know that Texas is a special place and that things operate differently here than in any other place in the country. One thing that isn’t different, however, is the way toxic pollutants impact our health. Texans aren’t any more immune to the health impacts of air pollutants than other Americans, no matter how big and bad we think we are.
So we’d like to give a big shout out to EPA for forcing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), our state environmental agency, to make sure that every Texan receives the same protections from toxic air pollution as every other American.
Here are some facts about emissions of air toxics across the state
- Facilities in Texas released almost 90 million pounds of hazardous air pollutants in 2008, according to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory.
- Facilities in Texas released almost 30 million pounds of toxics considered to be cancer-causing by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in 2008.
- Approximately 80 percent of all benzene and 1,3-butadiene emissions in the country in 2008 were in the state of Texas. Read More
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a press release this week announcing that Houston is in attainment for fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5, extremely small pollution particles that easily enter the lungs. While the release gave a “good news” story about Houston area industries working together to solve the related environmental and public health issues, it didn’t mention that in April, EPA released its first draft policy assessment on PM2.5 recommending consideration of even stronger standards. These stronger standards will most certainly put Houston out of attainment once again.
Why is EPA considering changes to the national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for PM2.5?
Mounting scientific evidence warns of the health threats derived from both long- and short-term exposures to these fine particles floating in the air.
PM2.5 exposure is known to result in a variety of very serious health problems, including:
- Pre-mature mortality
- Increased risk of hospital and emergency room visits for those with heart or lung diseases
- Development of lung diseases like chronic bronchitis
- Aggravation of lung diseases, such as asthma and bronchitis
- Aggravation of heart diseases, such as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease
- Respiratory symptoms including coughing, phlegm, chest discomfort, wheezing and shortness of breath
- Increased susceptibility to respiratory infections Read More