Posts Tagged ‘al armendariz’

Support the EPA’s proposal for a stricter ozone pollution standard

Join us for an important public hearing at Arlington City Hall, 101 W. Abram St, Arlington, TX. For more info check out http://www.cleanairtexas.org

Texas has the potential to be at the forefront of the green economy and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed new ozone pollution standard would clean up our air, protect our health and improve our quality of life. A stricter ozone standard would put Texas on the path to a cleaner, greener future.

The final decision by the EPA will affect the quality of the air we breathe for decades to come and it is a decision that depends on your input and your support. Your voice can influence the outcome. (more…)

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Public Citizen and Area Legislators Urge State to Deny Air Pollution Permit

HOUSTON – Area legislators joined Public Citizen this week in urging environmental agencies to deny the White Stallion coal plant its air permit because if built, the facility would degrade air quality in Houston.  The emissions from this proposed power plant would exacerbate the problem of smog in the Houston-Galveston-Beaumont region, which already is in violation, or “non-attainment,” of federal ozone standards and may soon have to meet higher standards as the result of a new proposal to strengthen the federal ozone rule

“The proposed White Stallion coal plant would harm the health of the people of Matagorda County, degrade the environment, and stifle economic development and tourism throughout the region,” said Ryan Rittenhouse, coal energy analyst with Public Citizen’s Texas office. “We are pleased to see Texas legislators step up to protect our citizens, the environment and Texas’ economic future.”

White Stallion’s air permit hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings begins today and will last through Feb. 19. That office will make a recommendation to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

The air pollution permit is the first step; the project still will need a wastewater permit from the TCEQ and an additional permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

If granted an air permit, White Stallion will increase emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), the principle component of ozone, by more than a third in Matagorda County, where the plant will be located. That translates to more than 4,000 tons per year of NOx that would blow into the Houston area, dramatically increasing ozone levels in the non-attainment region.

“The proposed White Stallion coal plant will be less than 17 miles from the Houston/Galveston non-attainment region. Coal plants such as this one are one of the largest, individual sources of smog-forming pollutants,” said State Rep. Ana E. Hernandez (D-Houston). “Particularly in light of new EPA ozone standards, why should we allow a coal plant to be built on our doorstep? It will only make it that much harder for us to clean up Houston’s air pollution.”

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that the TCEQ has not been adhering to the Clean Air Act in its issuance of new air permits, but the TCEQ has failed to change its permitting process.

For this reason, Texas legislators, including Reps. Hernandez, Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) and Kristi Thibaut (D-Houston), sent appeal letters this week to Dr. Al Armendariz, regional administrator of the EPA, urging the agency to step in and provide much needed guidance and oversight to the TCEQ. Their letters asked that the White Stallion power plant not be given an air permit to begin construction until the EPA ensures that constituents will receive the full public health protections of the federal Clean Air Act.

“I urge TCEQ and the EPA to deny the permit authorizing the White Stallion coal plant to be built in Matagorda County. Texas’ air quality must be improved for the good health of every Texan. The goal of clean air and clean water can be obtained by a commitment to reducing air contaminants,” Farrar said.

Despite the fact that a new coal plant could hinder Houston’s ability to meet federal regulations, the TCEQ refuses to predict or consider air impacts that are outside the non-attainment region. In fact, the TCEQ executive director filed legal briefs arguing that evidence showing White Stallion would contribute to ozone problems in the Houston area is irrelevant to the decision of whether to grant the White Stallion air permit. The TCEQ similarly refuses to consider cumulative impacts when granting an air permit, such as the fact that the 30-year-old Parish coal plant is only 50 miles northeast of the White Stallion site and also within the Houston/Galveston non-attainment region.

White Stallion would also pull 36,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River every year. Increased activity from the two barges required to deliver coal every day would contaminate the water with toxic runoff and erode the embankments.

The proposed plant would be located along a 100-year floodplain and would store coal ash waste on site. In the event of extreme weather, that toxic waste could easily wash into public waterways.

“The proposed White Stallion coal plant would dump thousands of tons of toxic pollutants into our air and water every year, when this region is already in non-attainment for clean air,” Thibaut said. “Furthermore, construction of this plant would remove 36,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Colorado River, which serves many drought-stricken areas of our state. As the elected representative for thousands of my constituents who would be affected, and as the mother of a small child, I cannot stand by as our air and water quality are further eroded.”

If the project is granted its air permit, advocates still have a chance to challenge the permit in state court and to reform the TCEQ through the sunset review process.

“The TCEQ is one of a number of state agencies that are about to undergo sunset review at the Texas Legislature. The sunset commission has the power to reform this agency and insist that any permits issued in the future adhere to the Clean Air Act,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “With this process, Texas has the opportunity to ensure that the health of Texans and their environment are protected more than the profits of energy corporations.”


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Environmental Groups Applaud EPA Choice

New Regional Administrator could signal change in direction for polluted state

DALLAS – Environmental advocates across several states are applauding the Obama Administration’s choice of Dr. Al Armendariz to lead Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Armendariz, an engineering professor at Southern Methodist University, has worked with diverse constituencies ranging from corporations to citizens groups and has published dozens of studies on myriad environmental issues throughout his career. His appointment garnered high praise from the environmental community.

“Our region has typically provided a haven for some of the worst polluters in the country, and has paid a steep price,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas Director for Public Citizen. “I believe the appointment of Dr. Al Armendariz signifies a new direction for Region 6.”

In an effort to make sure EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the White House chose a strong environmental leader for Region 6, about twenty prominent advocates signed on to a list of principles that they hoped would guide the appointment. Dr. Armendariz was one of two candidates the groups endorsed for the position. Their list of qualities for an ideal administrator included a commitment to environmental justice and science-based policy, minimal ties to industries regulated by EPA and a strict adherence to the President’s Executive Order on Ethics, which was intended to prevent conflicts of interest between lobbyists and government agencies.

“Al Armendariz demonstrates the kind of vision, integrity and grassroots approach to enforcing environmental law this region needs if we’re truly going to clean up our act,” said Jeffrey Jacoby, Program Director at the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE). “He embodies the ‘Principles for Environmental Leadership and Real Change’ we believed should guide this appointment.”

Indeed, many within the environmental community see appointment of Armendariz as indicative of a new approach for the regional EPA.

“We are thrilled with Dr. Armendariz’s appointment,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “After eight years of the Bush EPA, it’s a new day for Texas’ environment. Move over polluter lobbyists, science and human health are in charge now.”

In addition to environmentalists, some within the business community were also pleased with Obama’s choice. Former Austin City Councilmember Brigid Shea, now principal and co-founder of an environmental consulting firm, stated, “As a businessperson who’s concerned about the environment, it’s time this region got someone who understands that we can have both a healthy environment and a strong economy, that the two are not at odds.”

Dr. Armendariz will take over for Acting Region 6 Administrator Larry Starfield. During his tenure, he will face a number of pressing environmental challenges, including potentially overseeing the implementation of federal climate change legislation, bringing metropolitan areas in Texas into compliance with the Clean Air Act and working to clean up toxic “hot spots” along the Gulf Coast.

“Texas needs a tough air enforcement chief at EPA 6 Dallas like Dr. Armendariz who’s willing to tackle head on the state’s serious air quality challenges with large urban areas like Dallas and Houston failing to meet new ozone standards, and who is willing to require Texas to clean up its large dirty coal plants and refineries,” stated Dr. Neil Carman of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter.

Environmental justice activists from communities across the state are also hopeful that the appointment of Dr. Armendariz will benefit Texans living directly adjacent to polluting facilities

“The Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice is a document that looks good on paper, but in the real world EPA’s office of Environmental Justice has at times sided with industry over our communities; and pollution problems in poor communities have gotten worse, not better,” said Suzie Canales, Executive Director of Corpus Christi-based Citizens for Environmental Justice. “Now under Armendariz, we have real hope that environmental justice issues will be a serious priority to the agency.”

Many environmental justice groups endorsed Armendariz from the beginning of the Regional Administrator selection process, citing his commitment to science, his understanding of the issues and his dedication to enforcing the spirit of environmental laws such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

“Dr. Armendariz is exactly the kind of person you’d want to have this job, but seemingly never gets it,” said Jim Schermbeck, long-time Field Organizer with Downwinders at Risk. “Because of what’s at stake and the fact that Texas is the belly of the polluter beast, this may be one of the most important, far-reaching appointments the Obama Administration makes. Downwinders at Risk is proud to have been the group that first utilized Dr. Armendariz’s expertise for our cause of cleaning up the Midlothian cement kilns back in 2005. That work lead directly to his becoming the premier ‘citizen’s scientist’ in Texas on air pollution, and paved the way for his much larger influence on the state scene. Congratulations to both Dr. Armendariz and the EPA.”

As enthusiastic as environmentalists are about the appointment, they also promised to hold Dr. Armendariz accountable to the people affected by pollution issues in the five-state region. “As outstanding as Dr. Armendariz has been on paper and in interviews, we’ll be watching to make sure he walks the walk,” says Jacoby, who works in TCE’s Dallas office, “Remember, Al, my office is right down the street.”

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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