Several weeks ago, I attended an ozone workshop sponsored by the toxicology division at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and facilitated by Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA). Ozone, a component of smog, is a harmful air pollutant that is associated with adverse health effects including asthma attacks, decreased lung function, and premature death.
EPA has proposed new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) within the range of 65-70 parts per billion (ppb), and, according to TCEQ, this workshop was "designed to provide an independent evaluation and synthesis of key considerations for approaching the difficult ozone NAAQS decision."
Given the importance of this pollutant to public health, it is unfortunate a state environmental agency – that has plenty of other higher priority issues – chose to spend taxpayer money on a workshop designed to mislead the public and present a one-sided perspective on the issue.
What were the problems with TCEQ’s workshop? 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
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 air quality, Border, Emissions, ports, Texas, Transportation, Transportation Research Board
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, EPA, NAAQs, 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, EPA, NAAQs, Texas, Texas EDF
Texas 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.
- 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