Selected tags: Ozone

D.C. Circuit Court Rejects More Protective Ozone Standards

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 »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Clean Car Standards, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency | Also tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Transportation Research Board Leads The Way In New Research To Inform Freight and Marine Decision Making

Recent years have seen significant changes in the global freight and supply chain system. An expanded Panama Canal, significant population growth in the South and Southeast, and new infrastructure and system resiliency demands pose a challenge to our aging freight transportation system. It is crucial for researchers, policy makers and practitioners to work together and prioritize research to overcome these new challenges. Fortunately, the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board (TRB) is working with stakeholders, including EDF, to advance critical research efforts that will help modernize the global transportation system.

Earlier this month, TRB reviewed ongoing research for marine and freight transportation. In doing so, TRB also established priorities for future studies, with an overarching goal to “promote innovation and progress in transportation.” EDF will partner with TRB to champion innovative research and facilitate a transition to cleaner and more efficient marine and freight transportation choices going forward.

Texas faces many pressing transportation issues of its own. Record traffic growth, rapid expansion at the Port of Houston, booming population growth across the state, and a flurry of oil and gas drilling activity all pose unique infrastructure and air quality challenges to the Lone Star State.

A key transportation challenge faced by Texas is congestion at its U.S.-Mexico border crossings. Emissions from idling trucks at crowded border crossings have brought air pollution concerns in border cities such as El Paso and Laredo.  The Texas Department of Transportation is collaborating with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute to develop a tool to help streamline border crossings. The Border Crossing Information System provides drivers, carriers and other stakeholders with real-time and historical information about border crossing wait-times and delays. The data make it easy for truck drivers to understand congestion patterns, thereby reducing vehicle idling and harmful air emissions. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Goods Movement, Houston, Ports, Transportation | Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

TCEQ Doesn't Let Science Get in the Way of Political Rhetoric

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.  

Truth #1

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 , , , , , , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Environmental Groups Re-assert Legal Efforts to Protect Clean Air

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 , , , , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

While Texas Fares Better in Air Report, More Work Still Ahead

State of the Air ReportTexas air quality improved slightly last year, but more than half of the nation still suffers pollution levels that are often dangerous to breathe, according to the Annual State of the Air Report released today from the American Lung Association. The report reviewed levels of ozone and particle pollution found in monitoring sites across the United States in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

Key National Findings:

  • More than 154 million people (over half the nation) suffer from pollution levels that exceed health-based federal standards.
  • Each of the 25 cities with the most ozone pollution improved their air quality over the past year’s report, however people living there still breathe air that reaches dangerous levels.
  • Particle pollution declined due to coal-fired power plant emission reductions and a transition to cleaner diesel fuels and engines.

Texas Findings:

  • Houston moved down from 7th to 8th place among the most ozone-polluted cities in the country, while Dallas-Fort Worth moved up from 13th to 12th place. (Note: There appears to be a correlation between rising ozone levels in DFW and increased levels of natural gas drilling. A Fort Worth report looking at gas drilling environmental impacts is due for release in June.)
  • 14 of the 38 Texas counties studied in the report received an F for having too many high ozone days (compared to 21 Texas counties receiving an F last year).
  • Harris County, with more than four million people, topped the Texas county list with 66 orange ozone days (unhealthy for sensitive populations), and 10 red ozone days (unhealthy for the general population). Tarrant County, with 1.7 million people, came in second with 59 orange ozone days, 4 red ozone days and one purple ozone day (very unhealthy for the general population). Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Particulate Matter | Also tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now 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 closed

Texas Flex Permitting Lies and Myths

In 1867 Mark Twain wrote, "The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers, if a man only tells them with all his might."

Sadly, Texans have been getting fed some real whoppers when it comes to greenhouse gas regulations, and that’s exactly what I said today at a field hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

The topic of today’s Houston hearing was “EPA’s Greenhouse Gas and Clean Air Act Regulations: A Focus on Texas’ Economy, Energy Prices and Jobs.”

Already, this Committee has passed legislation that would strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, this legislation provides no alternatives for reducing harmful climate-disrupting pollution and is based entirely on misconceptions about EPA's role in regulating these deleterious pollutants.

Bottom line? When it comes to the flexible permitting system and the regulation of greenhouse gases the problem isn't EPA – it's Texas.

It would be a real shame if Congress guts clean air protections based on the myths and lies coming out of Texas. Speaking of myths and lies, here are highlights of my testimony today, attempting to set the record straight [Stay tuned to this blog for a recap of today’s hearing with specific responses to Committee questioning.] . . .

Myth No. 1: The only reason why EPA has objected to the Texas “flexible permits” is because President Obama is “punitive” against “big, red” Texas.

The Facts: EPA has raised concerns about the illegality of the Texas flexible permitting programs since 1994. The Bush Administration in 2006 and 2008 wrote letters saying that the Texas program did not meet the legal standard of the Clean Air Act. This is not a new complaint by EPA and it is not political.  The only people playing politics are Texas officials who are misrepresenting the facts. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, TCEQ, Texas Permitting | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now 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 »

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

To Strengthen or Not To Strengthen: There Should Be No Question

Results of a bipartisan poll released just this week showed strong public support for clean air, with 69 percent of voters in support of updating Clean Air Act standards with stricter limits on air pollution. These results are significant given that during a public teleconference tomorrow, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to get an earful from industry, which has rounded up a powerful posse to dissuade the agency from establishing stronger, health-based standards on ozone.

All of the usual suspects are scheduled for comment: American Petroleum Institute, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, BP America Production Company, ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences, Inc., National Association of Manufacturers, and even our own state environmental agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Reading through the comments already submitted, it is clear that these groups are NOT supportive of more health-protective standards. Yet, a timely poll shows majority voter support for strong standards. Not only that, the science supports stronger standards as well. Then there are the legal mandates protecting human health, Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, TCEQ | Also tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

New Video Helps Drive Message to Port Truckers

Last May I wrote about efforts to clean up air pollution at our nation’s ports, starting with trucks doing business in and around the Port of Houston. Given that the Houston truck program offers the best incentives of any clean truck program around the country, we wanted to highlight the program and share some of the success stories with the help of a video.

This program, administered by the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), leverages state grant money from the Texas Emission Reduction Program with federal money to offer incentives for truckers to get into newer, cleaner trucks. While the program is targeted to truckers who operate at the port, any driver who operates the majority of time within the Houston area may be eligible. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ | Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed
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