Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): Air Pollution

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 »

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New Funds Bring New Hope for Cleaner Houston Air

Photo by Dan Kamminga. Some tugboats slated to receive new engines are more than 30 years old.

We are pleased to hear the news about possible new funds coming to Houston to help improve air quality.

Under the National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program, Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency recently recommended two Houston-based grant proposals for full funding:

  1. With a grant proposal titled “Clean Vessels for Texas Waters Part 1: Mostly Main Engines,” the Houston-Galveston Area Council asked for replacement of six main engines and one generator engine for local tug/tow boats.
  2. The Port of Houston proposal requested funds for fuel switching, which involves oceangoing vessels switching to cleaner, low sulfur fuels.

While the proposals have yet to be finalized, the EPA recommendations for full funding represent an important step toward an actual offer.

How Reducing Diesel Engine Emissions Helps
Public health is the number one reason we continually seek ways to reduce diesel engine emissions. According to the EPA, air pollution is linked to a number of health problems including: Read More »

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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 , , , | Read 1 Response

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.

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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 »

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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 »

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