Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): Hotspots

Texas State Environmental Agency Expands Air Toxic Hotspot Area

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 »

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On the Record: Our Comments Submitted to TCEQ

By Matthew Tejada, PhD Executive Director Air Alliance Houston and Elena Craft, PhD Health Scientist

It’s time to wait and see.

If the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality earnestly considers comments we co-submitted this month in response to its draft “Protocol for Notification and Work Group Functions for Evaluating Potential and Active Air Pollution Watch List (APWL) Areas,” it will signal a new era in the agency’s commitment to reducing levels of air toxics around the state. We especially welcome the appointment of a dedicated staff position to manage the APWL program. [See Dec. 2 blog post for more background on the APWL and “toxic hotspots.”]

However, we wanted to go on record here expressing our concern that the program’s ultimate effectiveness could be fundamentally undermined if the agency does not adopt the APWL protocol as rule. Clean air advocates have long maintained that a program as critical as this, designed to protect the health of Texans, calls for a rulemaking. We believe that putting the APWL program in rule will provide the best possible “middle ground” for such a program – short of the rigidity of statute, yet firmer than mere agency program or directive. Read More »

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Help TCEQ Clean Up Air Pollution Hotspots: Your Comments Needed Before Next Week’s Deadline

In December I commended the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for its proposed guidance on better agency protocols and formal processes to delist polluted areas currently on the Air Pollution Watch List (APWL) in Texas. APWL areas are the hotspot areas of pollution around the state where the concentrations of specific pollutants exceed the state’s own health-based guidelines.  The deadline for the public to comment on the agency proposal is Jan. 24, so I’m encouraging readers again to take that next step in following through on efforts to reduce air toxics in Texas.

Simply follow these steps (also listed on the website):

  • All comments should reference the APWL protocol and be addressed to Ms. Tara Capobianco;
  • Send an email to APWL@tceq.state.tx.us; or
  • Send via mail to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Office of the Chief Engineer, MC-168, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087.
  • [Do you live in an APWL area? Find out if you live in a pollution hotspot by reviewing the most recent table of Air Pollution Watch List areas. More information on air toxics and AMCVs can be found on the TCEQ site.]

As mentioned previously, here are some ideas that you might want to encourage TCEQ to consider:

  • Increase the number of air monitors in hotspot areas. (Monitor coverage in some of these areas can be too sparse, which is a problem in facility-dense areas like the Houston Ship Channel with hundreds of industrial facilities operating in a large area.) Read More »
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TCEQ Takes Significant Step Toward Toxic Hotspot Reduction

My first blog post in April – 12-Step Program for TCEQ to Clean Up Air Pollutant “Hotspots” in Texas – critiqued the state environmental agency for inadequate protection of our health based on its 2009 Air Pollution Watch List report. The report outlined the history of several areas around the state with air pollution levels exceeding – some for more than a decade – the state’s own screening guidelines. Now, signs of improvement may be on the way with new guidance proposing better agency protocols and formal processes to list and delist polluted areas. While long overdue, this guidance is the result of an internal agency effort to prioritize the remediation of these areas and should be commended. Read More »

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