Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): Air Pollutants

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.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVi-EMXprnU

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 »

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New Rule Expected to Dramatically Reduce Hazardous Power Plant Emissions

Perhaps next week we’ll all be able to breathe just a little bit easier with the much- anticipated Wednesday, March 16 announcement of a new Air Toxics Rule.

The Environmental Protection Agency will announce a rule that will, for the first time, limit hazardous emissions from our nation’s power plants. These pollutants threaten the health of every American with annual emissions of more than 386,000 tons of dangerous air pollution like mercury, acid gases, heavy metals and even radioactive materials.

Unlike criteria air pollutants – like ozone and particulate matter – there are no current national ambient air quality standards for air toxics. This means that there’s no regulation on the amount of harmful air toxics that can collect in our air, water, or wildlife. Once in the environment, many of these toxic compounds are there forever.

While we have yet to learn all of the implications from harmful exposures to air toxics, we do know that some of the most serious health effects are most severe in infants and young children and include brain damage, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and impaired vision and hearing. We also know that reducing exposures can reduce risk, and that reducing risk is the best and most immediate way to protect human health. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Particulate Matter / Also tagged , , , , , , | Read 2 Responses

A New Paradigm for Managing Air Pollution?

For several years, many within the scientific community have discussed a streamlined approach to regulating the multitude of air pollutants poisoning our air. In 2004, the National Research Council suggested that we “Strive to take an integrated multipollutant approach to address the most significant exposures and risks” and “foster control strategies that accomplish comprehensive reductions in the most cost-effective manner for all priority pollutants.”

As a result of these recommendations, as well as the growing interest from regulators and the regulated community to manage air pollutants more effectively, the Environmental Protection Agency and Health Effects Institute co-hosted a three-day panel discussion this week in Chapel Hill, NC titled: EPA’s Multipollutant Science and Risk Analysis: Addressing Multiple Pollutants in the NAAQS Review Process.

Why was this meeting important?
This workshop marked the first official forum convened to address the scientific challenges associated with developing a multipollutant strategy to reduce criteria air pollutants. Read More »

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Help TCEQ Clean Up Air Pollution Hotspots: Your Comments Needed Before Next Week’s Deadline

In December I commended the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for its proposed guidance on better agency protocols and formal processes to delist polluted areas currently on the Air Pollution Watch List (APWL) in Texas. APWL areas are the hotspot areas of pollution around the state where the concentrations of specific pollutants exceed the state’s own health-based guidelines.  The deadline for the public to comment on the agency proposal is Jan. 24, so I’m encouraging readers again to take that next step in following through on efforts to reduce air toxics in Texas.

Simply follow these steps (also listed on the website):

  • All comments should reference the APWL protocol and be addressed to Ms. Tara Capobianco;
  • Send an email to APWL@tceq.state.tx.us; or
  • Send via mail to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Office of the Chief Engineer, MC-168, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087.
  • [Do you live in an APWL area? Find out if you live in a pollution hotspot by reviewing the most recent table of Air Pollution Watch List areas. More information on air toxics and AMCVs can be found on the TCEQ site.]

As mentioned previously, here are some ideas that you might want to encourage TCEQ to consider:

  • Increase the number of air monitors in hotspot areas. (Monitor coverage in some of these areas can be too sparse, which is a problem in facility-dense areas like the Houston Ship Channel with hundreds of industrial facilities operating in a large area.) Read More »
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Texas vs. The EPA: A Paradox

Over the past several weeks, Texas has done everything in its power to block EPA measures intended to ensure protection from greenhouse gas pollution emitted from large sources in Texas.  With the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. expected to make an imminent decision regarding Texas’ latest challenge to EPA’s protective measures, we thought it would be helpful to identify what is at stake:

  • On April 2, 2007, the Supreme Court found that greenhouse gases are air pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act.   As of January 2, 2011, the Clean Air Act requires that large emitters of greenhouse gas pollution obtain permits applying the best technology available to control their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • EPA gave all states, including Texas, notice that state permitting programs must address significant emissions of greenhouse gases and Texas alone has chosen not to act. Read More »
Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting / Also tagged , , , , , , , | Read 3 Responses

TCEQ Takes Significant Step Toward Toxic Hotspot Reduction

My first blog post in April – 12-Step Program for TCEQ to Clean Up Air Pollutant “Hotspots” in Texas – critiqued the state environmental agency for inadequate protection of our health based on its 2009 Air Pollution Watch List report. The report outlined the history of several areas around the state with air pollution levels exceeding – some for more than a decade – the state’s own screening guidelines. Now, signs of improvement may be on the way with new guidance proposing better agency protocols and formal processes to list and delist polluted areas. While long overdue, this guidance is the result of an internal agency effort to prioritize the remediation of these areas and should be commended. Read More »

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