Texas Clean Air Matters

Amid COVID-19, the Trump administration sets dangerous air pollution standards. What is at stake for Houstonians?

Ananya Roy, Senior Health Scientist; Rachel Fullmer, Senior Attorney; Jeremy Proville, Director; Grace Tee Lewis, Health Scientist

Fine particle pollution affects the health of nearly all Houstonians.

The Trump administration’s disregard for science has been clear in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not the only health threat they’re making worse by ignoring overwhelming scientific evidence. For three years the administration has systematically sought to weaken clean air safeguards, endangering all Americans.

We know air pollution causes heart disease, diabetes and lung disease — and that the people suffering from these conditions are at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Independent of the ongoing pandemic, air pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths across America year after year. This underscores the vital importance of pollution protections to protect human health both during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Unfortunately, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has proposed to retain an outdated and inadequate standard for fine particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution despite strong scientific evidence that it must be strengthened to adequately protect human health. Read More »

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As Houston unveils EV roadmap, Texas cities and fleet owners should take a closer look at electric buses

Last month, the city of Houston announced the formation of EVolve Houston, a partnership focused on accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles, slashing transportation-related emissions and delivering cleaner air for the region. Considering Houston has some of the highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions in the country and nearly half of these emissions come from transportation, this strategy is a critical component for meeting ambitious climate goals and improving quality of life.

As the Energy Capital of the World goes electric with the goal of 30% of new car sales being EVs by 2030, cities, transit agencies and fleet owners across the state should also consider how investing in electric buses presents an opportunity to cut pollution, deliver on climate goals and generate economic benefits.

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Houston teens take their fight for clean air to Washington, D.C.

Houston-area students from EDF’s Environmental Youth Council visited Washington, D.C., to learn about the ways that the policies that affect them and their families are negotiated.

A trip from Houston to Washington, D.C., was the exclamation point at the end of the first year of EDF’s Environmental Youth Council program.

Through the program, students attending Pasadena Memorial High School, Galena Park High School and Raul Yzaguirre School for Success — all located on the east side of Houston near the heavy industry located up and down the busy Houston Ship Channel — have committed to learning about environmental health, air quality and public policy and advocacy.

EDF was excited to take this first cohort of students to the nation’s capital to explore the city, learn more about organizations working on environmental issues and gain a better understanding of how legislative representatives create the policies that impact their lives.

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Houston high school students create videos to tell air pollution stories

Galena Park High School student Evelyn Garcia’s video won first place in the 2019 “Houston Teens Care About Clean Air” Video Contest.

Evelyn Garcia has had asthma for as long as she can remember. And she has always been aware of the effect the problematic air quality near her Pasadena, Texas, home has on her and others who have grown up in the area.

The March 2019 fires at Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) in Deer Park caused her school, Galena Park High School, to close for three days. So when Evelyn, 17 and a junior, saw the poster for the third annual “Houston Teens Care About Clean Air” Video Contest at her school, she knew she had to participate.

“Ever since I was young, I have cared about having clean air in my community,” Evelyn said. “The level of contamination affected me health-wise, and I think I had the credibility to talk about it in my video.”

EDF challenged students participating in its Environmental Youth Council program to create three-minute videos using their personal stories to educate others about air pollution and its impact on the body. Out of 23 submissions, Evelyn’s video, “Inhaling Hope,” won first place.

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Here’s how a Houston neighborhood is taking action after decades of environment injustice

Environmental Defense Fund has launched a project with Houston-based nonprofit Achieving Community Tasks Successfully (ACTS) and Texas Southern University to bring community-led air monitoring to a neighborhood surrounded by several pollution sources.

Pleasantville, located on Houston’s east side, was established in 1948 as the first planned community for African-Americans in the city. Today, however, the Houston Ship Channel and one of the busiest stretches of Interstate 610, as well as a sprawling brewery, warehouses, metal recyclers and salvage yards, push hard against the neighborhood, producing significant concerns about environmental justice and human health.

Despite these concerns, Texas regulators have not placed an air monitor in Pleasantville to document the impacts of the pollution sources. In fact, the state’s closest monitor is about two miles away, meaning that the community’s residents are unaware of which pollutants are in the air they are breathing. As we know from our work in Oakland, a monitor this far away may miss important local pollution sources – and likely does not accurately reflect their exposures to harmful chemicals. Read More »

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Houston neighborhood maps decades-old pollution problem, paving way for communities nationwide

Bridgette Murray, a retired nurse, lives in a predominantly black neighborhood on Houston’s east side, where small houses grace tree-shaded streets, all built around two schools and a city park.

Its name is Pleasantville, a postwar version of the American dream. But the reality is something different.

Warehouses, metal recyclers, salvage yards, Anheuser-Busch’s Houston brewery and an interstate push hard against the neighborhood, proof and product of the city’s light-on-regulations approach to land use. Trains and trucks rumble through the area day and night. It can be difficult to breathe.

“Playing victim has never been one of my personality traits,” said Murray, whose family moved to Pleasantville in 1957, years before industry’s arrival. “I am here to work with the residents for solutions.”

As founder of the nonprofit Achieving Community Tasks Successfully, or ACTS, Murray is working with Environmental Defense Fund to fully understand Pleasantville’s air pollution and its associated harmful health effects. She wants to map a fair, just and sustainable path forward for her community. Read More »

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