Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): Houston

Part III: Flawed Logic at Texas Environmental Agency Results in Costly Lawsuits and Poor Public Health Policy

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There is robust agreement on the dangers of ozone pollution in the medical health community.

Part I of our series on ozone described how 2015 was a bad year for Houston ozone. Part II reviewed recent research from leading Houston scientists that explains why more ozone pollution is harmful to our health. Part III explains how faulty logic and erroneous assumptions had led to costly lawsuits and poor public health policy across the state. Part IV will identify some solutions to Houston’s ozone problem and suggest measures to protect the health of Houston area residents.

There has been quite a bit of activity related to the proposed U.S. ozone regulations in the past year. As part of a four part series on ozone in 2015, we’d like to take the time to rebuke some of the scientifically-flawed testimony provided by state environmental officials, including Dr. Michael Honeycutt, toxicologist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state environmental agency. We feel that the agency has presented health information in a way that is misleading and contradicts the robust opinion of the medical health community on the issue.

First, a little context is important. We at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have participated in the public process involving the ozone standard and provided testimony to Congress on the health effects of ozone exposure. TCEQ has challenged the health-based standards in an aggressive way, and their efforts have been fodder for expensive and frivolous lawsuits filed by the state. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Justice, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone, TCEQ, Uncategorized / Also tagged , | Read 2 Responses

Part I: Why Are Houston’s 2015 Ozone Levels Cause for Concern?

This is Part I of our four-part series on Houston ozone and how it affects your health.

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Ozone pollution affects everyone, no matter where they live.

Though the region has made progress on air quality in recent years, Houston suffered a setback in 2015 with a significant spike in its ozone levels. Ozone, also known as smog, is harmful to health and can result in respiratory symptoms such as cough and chest tightness. And with considerable industrial and population growth expected in the next few years, experts are understandably worried about public health risks.

To protect public health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets national standards for ozone concentrations, or limits on the amount of harmful ozone pollution in the air. In 2008, EPA strengthened the standard to 75 parts per billion (ppb), and this year the agency set a more protective standard of 70ppb. A lower number means there is less smog – and less smog means cleaner, healthier air. (In order to evaluate the public’s exposure to ozone, scientists and health officials look at regional monitoring data to determine when ozone levels exceed those federal health-based standards. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Ozone / Also tagged | Read 1 Response

Chinese Reverse Trade Delegation Visits Houston

A couple of weeks ago, the China Green Ports Technology Reverse Trade Mission brought Chinese transportation officials to Houston to introduce them to U.S. technologies and the trade industry’s best practices to reduce ports’ environmental impact. Green port technologies are of particular interest in China, because seven of the ten largest ports in the world are located in China. The Chinese government and private sector are making efforts to modernize and strengthen China’s maritime management, while reducing its environmental footprint.

The purpose of the mission was to introduce the delegates to innovative technologies and service provider firms associated with green ports. As I spoke with the delegation, the conversation focused on many of the same efforts we are pursuing in the U.S. and right here in Texas, including:

  • Reducing the environmental impact of our nation’s seaports;
  • Improving the health of communities affected by port activities;
  • Increasing the efficiency and sustainability of ports;
  • Highlighting best management practices currently deployed at leading ports.

As we move forward with developing a port recognition system to highlight green port efforts across the nation, we know that our partners to the East are thinking likewise. We look forward to continued conversations such as these with new partners on novel technologies, continually improving port environmental impacts.

Posted in Environment, Goods Movement, Houston, Ports, Transportation / Also tagged , , , , , | Comments are closed

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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Despite Industry Protest Recent Court Ruling Will Bring Cleaner Air To Houston

Today, the DC Circuit Court rejected an industry argument to abolish clean air fees.

EDF played an integral role in this case as a declarant, helping to demonstrate that the misdirected guidance issued by EPA had resulted in a threat to public health.

Here’s a summary from the recent ruling:

 “TATEL, Circuit Judge: Yet again we face a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulation of ozone under the Clean Air Act. At issue this time is an EPA “guidance document” addressing obligations of regions still in nonattainment of a now-revoked ozone air quality standard. Petitioner argues that the Guidance amounts to a legislative rule issued in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act’s notice and comment requirement and that its substantive content is contrary to law. Firing nearly all the arrows in its jurisdictional quiver, EPA argues that petitioner lacks standing, that the Guidance does not qualify as final agency action, and that petitioner’s claims are unripe for judicial review. As we explain in this opinion, all three arrows miss their target. On the merits, we conclude that the Guidance qualifies as a legislative rule that EPA was required to issue through notice and comment rulemaking and that one of its features—the so-called attainment alternative—violates the Clean Air Act’s plain language. We therefore grant the petition for review and vacate the Guidance.” 

 Check out this post from Adrian Martinez of NRDC for more information.

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

Guest Author Says Education Key to Solving Air Quality Issues

Deiedre Wright volunteers for Environmental Community Advocates of Galena Park to improve air quality for its residents.

There are more than 10,000 people living in Galena Park, an area on the north bank of the Houston Ship Channel, just east of the Houston City limits. Having lived there for 30 years, I have seen and personally experienced some of the worst air pollution in our state.

Yes, we live in an area known for its toxic industrial emissions and no, many do not have the luxury of moving, even though we are exposed daily to air that may be harmful to our health (Note: The median household income is around $31,000 per year.).

I’m not an air quality expert, but have learned over time that more could be done to improve the air we breathe in our community. My thoughts include:

  • More monitoring: In our area, there is a great need more air testing sites directly across from the ship channel. The closest monitoring site to Galena Park is more than a mile away from offending chemical plants and 18-wheeler traffic. I’ve never really understood the logic for this. If there is a need to know about Galena Park air quality, shouldn’t the monitors be in Galena Park?
  • More city action: Our city needs to do more to deter industry from harming citizens. Perhaps 18-wheeler traffic could be re-routed from the main street going through Galena Park. The trucks use that street as an entry point to the Port of Houston. Particulate matter could be reduced significantly should they be diverted onto a different road within the Port of Houston.
  • More industry action: Many of us believe that the most-profitable petrochemical companies do the least to truly help the communities they occupy. Whatever happened to giving back to your community?
  • More soil testing: Another concern is for those who plant vegetable gardens in their backyards or elsewhere within the community. The soil is not being tested for contaminants prior to planting and the result could be a non-healthy solution to what people may think is a healthy alternative.

Finally, more education is needed to raise awareness of these air quality issues. When communities are more informed, they come together to help find and demand solutions.

Posted in Air Pollution, Ports / Also tagged , , , | Read 1 Response