Do you have ideas to help federal decision makers ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately represented in new rules?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a technical guidance document in May to assist its staff with tools and information to include environmental justice (EJ) issues in the agency’s rulemaking process. This document, titled “Draft Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis,” is open for public comment until Sept 6, 2013. Time is running out to have your voice heard!
What is Environmental Justice?
EPA defines Environmental Justice as 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. EPA launched its EJ movement in the early 1980s to provide an open forum for citizens and communities particularly impacted by environmental and pollution hazards. For instance, communities disproportionately impacted by pollution around the Houston Ship Channel or near the Port of Houston would be considered EJ areas. Read More
I’ve written extensively about the potentially grave health effects of ground-level ozone (smog) and the need for stronger standards to address ozone pollution. In 2008, the EPA set a national standard for ozone at 75 parts per billion—despite the fact that the nation’s leading medical societies and the EPA’s own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) warned that the standard was not stringent enough to protect Americans from adverse health effects. A number of U.S. cities and counties petitioned the EPA to amend the standards to sufficient levels. EDF joined the call for common-sense ozone standards, partnering with the National Resources Defense Council, American Lung Association, National Parks Conservation Association, Appalachian Mountain Club and Earthjustice to press for a more protective standard.
Last week, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected petitions for a more protective air quality standard for ground-level ozone. The decision is deeply disappointing and in direct contradiction of ample scientific evidence showing the health hazards of ozone pollution at levels below the current standards.
Reasonable ozone standards are of particular importance to Texans. Ozone tends to form from vehicle tailpipe emissions on hot sunny days—so it’s no surprise that a typical Texas summer day is a perfect incubator for ozone gas. Texas has some of the highest ozone levels in the nation. The American Lung association identified a number of Texas cities and counties as ozone danger areas—including Houston and Dallas, two of the largest cities in the United States. Read More
On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed lawsuits filed by Attorney General Greg Abbott and a group of power companies that could have undermined the Clean Air Act and hurt efforts to reduce climate pollution.
The Clean Air Act requires that large sources of pollution, including greenhouse gases (GHGs), obtain permits when they are constructing or making a major change to their facility. These permits require facilities to use modern emission control technologies to cost-effectively reduce their pollution.
Some states, including Texas, didn’t have the authority to issue these clean air permits for greenhouse gases under their state laws, so the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took the limited actions challenged here to ensure that sources in these states could get the permits they needed to begin construction. Every state – except Texas – worked with EPA to make sure sources could get the permits they needed (either under state or federal authority).
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has been quoted as saying, “What I really do for fun is I go into the office, [and] I sue the Obama administration,” took the EPA to court over the agency’s efforts to ensure sources in Texas could get the permits they needed to construct. All of this despite the fact that most facilities in Texas were already working to reduce their emissions and comply with the new federal standards. On Friday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that the Clean Air Act unambiguously requires large GHG sources, like coal-fired power plants, to obtain permits. As a result, the court dismissed Texas’ lawsuit, finding that EPA’s actions didn’t cause Texas any injury. Much to the contrary, they were necessary to ensure GHG sources could obtain permits that they otherwise could not obtain at all. Read More
Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Coal, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Renewable Energy, Texas Permitting Also tagged Clean Air Act, GHGs, Greg Abbott
Yesterday, Luminant filed a motion in the DC circuit court to fight vital clean air rules that other utilities in Texas have been able to meet. Instead of working with EPA on a path toward cleaner air, Luminant abandoned recent talks with EPA and issued a press release that recused itself of responsibility, threatened possible plant closures and blamed EPA for potential job losses. Luminant's recent statement highlights a simple fact: closing plants is a business decision, plain and simple. Luminant isn’t closing these plants because of EPA regulations – that’s just their cover story. They’re closing the plants because they did not begin to make reductions to meet the rule that anyone could see was coming. The EPA just gives them a convenient way to shift blame. Moreover, Luminant is ignoring other viable alternatives to plant closures just to save some money in the short-term. If anyone loses their job, they can blame Luminant’s management team for failing to plan accordingly to abide by the law. We feel very bad for the workers whose company let them down. Read More
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, Elena Craft, NAAQs, Ozone, 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, Elena Craft, NAAQs, Ozone, Texas, Texas EDF