Selected tags: TCEQ

Shelley: EPA Mandate Would Benefit the Lives of all Houstonians

This post was written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle on February 22, 2014.

Adrian Shelly, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

Adrian Shelly, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

We know that ozone pollution is a public health threat in Houston. Now a study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests that threat is greater than previously thought. As a result, the ozone standard is likely to be lowered by the end of the year. Houston has never met an ozone standard, but it is time for us to get serious about protecting our health.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been considering lowering the standard since 2008, when President George W. Bush's EPA revised it to 75 parts per billion. That revision defied an EPA recommendation for a standard as low as 70 parts per billion. Now the agency recommends that 60 parts per billion may be needed to protect public health.

Ozone, unlike other air pollutants, isn't restricted to certain parts of Houston. It's found everywhere, and it causes asthma attacks, heart disease and even early death. In the Houston region, 6 million people are at risk.

It is the responsibility of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to bring ozone down to healthy levels. In reacting to the EPA's new findings, the TCEQ focuses not on the need to protect public health, but on the regulatory burden of reducing air pollution. The TCEQ is already attacking the science behind the new study. TCEQ Chief Toxicologist Michael Honeycutt has questioned even the concept of an eight-hour ozone standard, suggesting in a Houston Chronicle story that it might be "more appropriate" to return to a one-hour standard, as the EPA had in the 1970s.  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone| 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

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 »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, TCEQ| Also tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments closed

No Coal Coalition Weighs in on White Stallion Court Decision

Allison Sliva is board chair of the No Coal Coalition/Matagorda County.

When I heard the news that EDF’s Motion to Remand was recently granted by Travis County Court Judge Lora Livingston, I was pleased on several fronts.

First, the decision halts, even if temporarily, a process of approving building facility plans that has tried to circumvent air quality laws designed to protect public health. Building this coal plant would bring with it serious air quality impacts for people in and around Matagorda County, not to mention the greater Houston area. Projected emissions from the plant will include 10 million tons of carbon dioxide, nearly 5,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, more than 4,000 tons of nitrogen oxide, nearly 1,800 tons of particulate matter and nearly 100 pounds of mercury.

This pause in the process should make everyone involved – especially the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality – think twice about the air impacts to present and future generations.

Second, the decision exposes a White Stallion action that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. TCEQ granted White Stallion an air permit after reviewing air dispersion modeling and testimony based on a site plan that White Stallion changed six days after the permit was issued. As EDF’s Jim Marston said, White Stallion “should be upfront with regulators about their intentions.”

Third, the decision renews public confidence in our legal system. As Judge Livingston wrote in her decision letter, “Without remand, meaningful public participation in the permit approval process would be effectively eliminated.”

Myself and members of the No Coal Coalition of Matagorda County thank you EDF for your due diligence in helping to set the record straight.  Our call to action now is to help gather the evidence needed to prove that the air pollution coming from White Stallion would violate the law as well as harm human health.

WHITE STALLION TIMELINE

Here is a timeline of the community efforts that Matagorda County residents and others have undertaken over the years to prevent a poorly planned, poorly placed and poorly designed coal-fired power plant from coming online. – Elena Craft

September 2008 – White Stallion files for an air quality permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It proposes a 1,320 megawatt coal and petroleum coke-fired power plant to be located along the Colorado River eight miles south of Bay City in Matagorda County, in an ecologically sensitive area known as the Columbia Bottomlands. The proposed location is also 20 miles southwest of the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria region.

November 13, 2009 – In a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wetlands Section Chief Sharon Fancy Parrish recommended that an Environmental Impact Statement be conducted “for the proposed project to better access the substantial change to the human environment.” Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, GHGs, Particulate Matter, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Also tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

TCEQ Study Suggests that Flare Emissions Could be Larger Than Reported

EDITOR'S NOTE: The final draft report was released May 24. Download the PDF here.

A soon-to-be released key flare emissions report could help answer the question of why Texas air toxics concentrations are higher than those reported through industrial emission inventories.

Footage of flare emissions captured by advanced monitoring technology at facility in Texas. The video was presented by TCEQ at the Hot Air Topics Conference on Jan 13, 2011 in Houston, TX. Flare is described as being oversteamed, resulting in reduced destruction efficiency and increased emissions.


Across the state, there are 1,500 flares registered with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The “flaring” or burning of excess gases using these flares has been accepted industrial practice for combusting routine waste gases as well as for combusting large volumes of gases that may result from plant emergencies, such as those that could lead to a facility explosion. Air quality experts have long held that an increase in flare pollution has been a significant contributing factor in escalating smog levels and toxic “hot spots,” particularly in fenceline communities. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Flare emissions, TCEQ| Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Protect Our School Communities from Environmental hazards

Monday is National Healthy Schools Day, which emphasizes a healthy indoor air quality and environment in our public schools. This guest post by Cyndi O’Rourke, an Austin mother of three, includes information Cyndi recently sent in a letter to the Texas PTA for the May newsletter.

As the mother of three children, I shared concerns with other parents in our school district when we learned in 2006 that our school board had acquired and planned to convert a former chemical research and development facility into a new elementary school.

The decision to purchase this site was made largely without community input, and the purchase and construction of the property was conducted before testing of the grounds for environmental contamination was complete.  Parents contacted the Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to assist in a thorough environmental assessment of the site. TCEQ performed a “Pre-Cerclis” screening (site assessment of previous ownership, geologic makeup, production history and field test samples) and the site ranked a “Moderate to High Potential Hazard.”

After vocal parent involvement and the guidance of federal, state, and local agencies, the school district responded with protective measures and remediation of contamination was conducted. Read More »

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

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

Snow Day for Emissions? Rolling Blackouts Lead to Free Emissions Pass

This week Texas experienced rolling blackouts after extremely frigid temperatures blanketed the state, catching power generators off guard. While the details of the blackouts have not been disclosed fully, and there is discussion that some companies may have profited greatly from the event, at the very least, the outages angered some and created a hardship for others. There’s also another negative impact to consider: higher emissions from industrial facilities.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a statement reminding citizens that power generating facilities have “authorized maximum emission limits” during these high demand periods. The agency states that it will “exercise enforcement discretion for exceedances of these limits.”

Enforcement discretion can be loosely interpreted to mean that power generating facilities get a “free pass” during these times. It also means facilities that go down during these blackouts are not likely to be held accountable for any emissions that occur as a result of the outages.

This post is in no way intended to minimize the need for increased power during below-freezing weather, and is not meant to suggest that facilities should be held liable for emission events that they can’t control, but it is one more reason for all of us to be conscious of our energy consumption, and one more thing to be aware of as we continue our efforts to improve air quality in Texas.

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Texas Permitting| Also tagged , | 4 Responses, comments now closed

Texan Health Still Jeopardized While $500 Million of Clean Air Funding Still Sits Unappropriated

It just seems anti-Texan. You wouldn’t expect a state that prides itself on individual rights and fiscal responsibility to collect taxes from citizens for air quality programs that it doesn’t fully fund. But that’s exactly what has been happening year after year in Texas, while some areas of the state suffer from worsening air quality (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency just downgraded Dallas and Fort Worth air quality from moderate to serious).

In a recent post, “Budget Reductions Could Stymie Efforts for Cleaner Air,” former TCEQ Commissioner Larry Soward writes about the possibility of funds being dramatically cut from the state’s diesel emission reduction program, known as TERP (Texas Emissions Reduction Plan). He worries that the Texas legislature will use clean air funding to cover losses from other programs.

Given that Texas continues to have significant air quality challenges across the state, and that TERP was created as part of a legal, binding agreement with the EPA, it is hard to understand why the state would take actions that increase our legal liability, threaten human health, and send us backward in our efforts toward improving air quality.

Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ| Also tagged , , , , , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed
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