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Posts Tagged ‘ozone’

In the greater Houston area, ozone season lasts from March to November. In 2018, we’ve already had 12 ozone action days. According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, ozone action days are designated on warm, sunny days that are favorable to the formation of ozone, a compound that forms at near the ground in the atmosphere through complex reactions between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. While a lot of people think bad air quality occurs only in areas near the industry along the Houston Ship Channel, on some days readings at the ozone monitor near the Woodlands can be higher than at monitors along the Ship Channel. Public Citizen, along with Corey Williams from Air Alliance Houston, and a small group of Woodlands residents sat down with UH Professor Jimmy Flynn to learn more.

The Jones State Forest Air Monitor

University of Houston operates the Jones State Forest Air Monitor. The monitor is not part of TCEQ’s network of regulatory air monitors. It collects data on ozone, carbon monoxide, and meteorology. The monitor is attached to a tower and collects readings above the tree tops to help ensure that it is measuring ambient air quality.

Stagnant Air = Bad Ozone

Ozone is a harmful byproduct of a reaction between nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). NOx and VOCs are emitted from transportation, industrial processes, and some natural processes. Ozone can cause serious problems especially for people who are already vulnerable, like children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions.

One of the biggest risk factors for ozone formation, according to Dr. Flynn, is stagnant air. Stagnant air occurs when an air mass remains over a region for an extended period of time. There are no heavy breezes or precipitation to clear pollutants out of the atmosphere. Dr. Flynn also mentioned that for ozone in particular, rainfall events will not do much to clear ozone out of the air due to its lack of solubility. Ozone needs air movement to clear it out.

Do you know what to do on an ozone action day?

Learn how to protect yourself and your family when ozone action days occur. You can sign up for alerts through the TCEQ here. Dr. Flynn told us that staying inside on high ozone days is a great way to protect your health because ozone concentrations tend to be much lower inside. Stay safe!

 

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The Texas Senate Committee on Natural Resources held its hearing at Houston’s City Hall.

The Texas Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development held a hearing in Houston Thursday, February 1st on two interim charges, the first being on hotel occupancy taxes and the second on regulatory barriers.

The second interim charge reviewed at the hearing states: Identify options to maintain our state’s competitive advantage and make recommendations to remove or reduce administrative or regulatory barriers hindering economic growth, including permitting or registration requirements and fees.

Public Citizen’s Houston-based organizer, Stephanie Thomas, was one of six people to provide invited testimony. Others included representatives from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Texas Chemical Council, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the National Energy Association.

Our role at the hearing was to comment on specific aspects of regulation, including the issue of expedited permitting. Public Citizen recommended sufficient funding to the regulatory agencies like TCEQ to thoroughly and effectively review permits. Public Citizen also brought forth issues in reducing public participation that may come from the expedition of permits.

Public Citizen also provided comment on Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s use of exceptional events for determining National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) designation, i.e. whether a location is in attainment or nonattainment for levels criteria pollutants. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, exceptional events “are unusual or naturally occurring events that can affect air quality but are not reasonably controllable using techniques that tribal, state or local air agencies may implement in order to attain and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Exceptional events include wildfires, stratospheric ozone intrusions and volcanic and seismic activities.”

Public Citizen argued that the TCEQ should not use exceptional events to make it seem as though an area is in attainment of an air quality standard when it is not. This practice of using exceptional events to avoid nonattainment status is particularly dangerous because people still have to breath air pollution regardless of whether it comes from a refinery or it comes from agricultural fires in Mexico.

Many of what seems like regulations to industry are public safeguards, with tangible benefits to human health and quality of life.

To read Public Citizen’s written testimony, click here: Regulatory Barriers hearing comments – Public Citizen.docx.

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Map of air monitoring sites in Austin. Light blue sites monitor for ozone.

On June 12, Governor Greg Abbott signed a $217 billion budget for Texas into law. Abbott also exercised line-item vetoes to eliminate $120 million from the budget. Among those cuts were $87 million for the Low-Income Vehicle Repair Assistance Program, a voluntary program that helps low-income Texans replace their old, polluting vehicles with newer ones.

Continuing the assault on clean air, Abbott also cut $6 million for air quality planning in certain areas of the state (see pdf p. 5). The governor’s comment on this funding cut is worth quoting in full, beginning with the item vetoed and then the comment in italics:

  1. Air Quality Planning. Amounts appropriated above include $6,000,500 for the biennium out of the Clean Air Account No. 151 in Strategy A.1.1, Air Quality Assessment and Planning, for air quality planning activities to reduce ozone in areas not designated as nonattainment areas during the 2016 17 biennium and as approved by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). These areas may include Waco, El Paso, Beaumont, Austin, Corpus Christi, Granbury, Killeen Temple, Longview Tyler Marshall, San Antonio, and Victoria. These activities may be carried out through interlocal agreements and may include: identifying, inventorying, and monitoring of pollution levels; modeling pollution levels; and the identification, quantification, implementation of appropriate locally enforceable pollution reduction controls; and the submission of work plans to be submitted to the TCEQ. The TCEQ shall allocate $350,000 to each area and the remaining funds to each area based on population in excess of 350,000. The grant recipients shall channel the funds to those projects most useful for the State Implementation Plan (SIP).

This program funds, among other items, bicycle use programs, carpooling awareness, environmental awareness campaigns, and locally enforceable pollution reduction programs in near non-attainment areas, which can be funded at the local government level. Resources in the Clean Air Account should be prioritized to directly address problems in our non-attainment areas of the state so that we are better positioned to combat the business-stifling regulations imposed on these areas by the Environmental Protection Agency. I therefore object to and disapprove of this appropriation.

This is an unfortunate description of air quality planning activities and of the purpose of the Clean Air Account itself. So what are “air quality planning activities to reduce ozone in areas not designated as nonattainment areas”?

Ozone is a harmful pollutant that is linked to everything from asthma attacks and difficulty breathing to heart attacks, stroke, and premature death. Ozone is formed in the atmosphere through the mixing of other pollutants that are emitted by vehicles and industrial sources such as refineries. There are two areas of the state—Houston, and Dallas—that do not meet the federal air pollution standards for ozone. These are our “nonattainment” areas. There are many other areas in the state—including San Antonio and Austin—that do meet the federal ozone standard but still have numerous bad ozone days throughout the year. These areas, especially San Antonio, risk worsening air quality and an eventual “nonattainment designation” by the Environmental Protection Agency. Such a designation would subject the area to decades of regulation and costs that could reach the billions.

All of us have seen the ozone action day announcements.  Those alert at-risk citizens (like children, the elderly and those who have certain health risks) to curtail their outside exposure to mitigate the negative health impacts.  Local air quality monitors are what alert us to those dangers.

In order to keep the “near-nonattainment” areas clean and healthy (and to avoid the federal designation), Texas appropriates several million dollars for air quality planning activities. This money enables these areas to participate in programs like the ozone Early Action Compact. So far, these programs have been successful, though San Antonio may inevitably face a nonattainment designation as it grows.

Surely Governor Abbott understands the importance and success of these air quality planning activities. Describing the program as consisting of “bicycle use programs, carpooling awareness, environmental awareness campaigns, and locally enforceable pollution reduction programs” is an obvious straw man. Bicycle and carpooling programs—while important in their own right—are not all that goes into air quality planning.

Air quality planners in Houston demonstrate how that city’s air monitors operate.

In Austin, for example, the city maintains eight ozone monitors in addition to the two maintained by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). These additional monitors help with air quality forecasting. They also help us to better understand large-scale impacts on air quality to our region by sources such as the Fayette power plant to the southeast, or Dallas to the north.

San Antonio just announced that it will shut down six ozone air monitors and lay off four staff members in response to the governor’s cuts. This is truly unfortunate for the people affected and for air quality monitoring and pollution prevention. If data is never collected, the ability to paint long-term pictures and identify trends in air pollution is lost for that time period. San Antonio may one day refund its program, but its former employees will have moved on, and the data will have been lost forever.

On the same day, San Antonio made this announcement, the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition in Austin held an emergency meeting to discuss how it would respond to the proposed funding cuts. The Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) has asked its member counties and cities to consider an additional financial contribution to support ongoing air quality planning activities in Austin. CAPCOG proposed tiered levels of funding that would alternatively fund more or less the region’s activities.

At the meeting, CAPCOG members seemed to understand the importance of a funding level that would keep all staff in place and all air monitors active. Cuts will definitely have to be made (to, for example, the regular maintenance schedule for those monitors) but if CAPCOG’s members do approve the appropriate tier of funding, then air quality planning programs in Austin will remain largely intact.

We hope that Austin is able to continue its important work by keeping Austinites safe from dangerous ozone pollution. Governor Greg Abbott may not recognize the importance of this work right now, but we hope that he does some day and that these shortsighted cuts do not continue.

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Dallas sitting in smogThe Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public hearing in Arlington today on the proposed update on ground-level ozone regulation. It is important for EPA to hear from every person, since the proposed updates will affect everyone, especially children, the elderly, and those affected by asthma.

While environmentalists and public health activists alike are hopeful for the Clean Air Act, there has been heavy criticism on the high prices needed for the new regulation and a fear that the restrictions will cost Americans their jobs.

However, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy promises that the Clean Air Act’s benefits outweigh its costs. Furthermore, scientific findings prove that the Clean Air Act will all around counteract health and environmental hazards. According to the American Lung Association, the effect of ground-level ozone is similar to having sunburns on the lungs. Smog could lead to lung diseases, asthma attacks, interference with reproduction and development, and overall, increased hospitalizations and premature deaths.

“Special-interest critics will try to convince you that pollution standards chase away local jobs and businesses”, McCarthy says, “but, in fact, healthy communities attract new businesses, new investment, and new jobs.”

The Clean Air Act will help decrease financial issues caused by health ones, such as missed work days and medical costs, proving that the Act’s expenses will be overshadowed by its numerous benefits.

Those that live in Dallas and Arlington have had to breathe hazardous air, leading to a plethora of groups at risk including a number of 670,217 children under 18 and 224,990 adults 65 and over. EPA will thus be holding a public hearing today in Arlington, which has earned an “F” in ozone pollution according to American Lung Association.

Back in 2009, the ozone was a part per billion lower than it is today. The Clean Air Act can prevent the running average for ozone from increasing from strengthening the ozone pollution limit. So help protect the public health of not only the 2,453,843 people at risk in the Dallas area, but also the public health of children, the elderly, and adults all around the world. Help by attending the EPA hearing today at:

Arlington City Hall 
101 W. Abram Street
Arlington, Texas, 76010

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EPA Ozone Hearing in Arlington, TX

Tom “Smitty” Smith (left), Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office testifies at EPA hearing in Arlington, Jan 25, 2015.

Ozone pollution, known as smog, harms our communities, because when we breathe smog, we get more asthma attacks, more heart failure, more chronic bronchitis, more respiratory infections, more hospital visits, and more missed school days.

There’s good news, though. The U.S. EPA recently proposed national standards for smog that would help protect public health. We have a chance to show support for this health protective standard by attending and speaking at an upcoming public hearing on the smog standard in Arlington, Texas.

Will you consider joining us to speak up about why clean air matters to you?

Who: Texas moms, dads, families, aunts, uncles, grandparents, children and supporters.

What: Speak briefly (5 minutes or less) to EPA staff members about why clean air matters to you. We will support you every step of the way to let you know exactly what to expect, and to help you prepare for the day.

Where: Arlington, Texas
Arlington City Hall
101 W. Abram Street
Arlington, Texas, 76010

When: Jan. 29: Arlington, Texas. Each hearing will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 7:30 p.m. local time . If you decide to join us, you will be assigned a specific time of your choice to come speak and could leave directly after you deliver your comments.

Why: EPA needs to hear from families, not just polluters, about the importance of protecting our children’s lungs. Your voice matters. Your comments will be entered into the official docket for the smog standard, and will be taken into consideration as EPA finalizes the standard.

If you’d like to get more involved in helping make sure Texans can breathe easier, please fill in the form below:
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Instead of taking action to clean Texas air, as requested by the Dallas County Medical Society, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Bryan Shaw and Commissioner Toby Baker voted today to deny the petition for rulemaking and further postpone needed air quality improvements for East Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas.

The DFW area has struggled with unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone pollution – caused emissions from vehicles and power plants mixing in the sunlight – for decades.  While improvements in air quality have been made, they have lagged behind tightening air quality standards set by EPA to protect public health.  Asthma rates – particularly among children – have continued to rise, as well as hospitalizations due to asthma.

Martin_Lake

In addition to contributing to ozone problems in East Texas & the DFW area, Luminant’s Martin Lake coal plant emits more toxic mercury than any other power plant in the nation, ranks 5th in carbon dioxide emissions & is responsible for $328,565,000 in health impacts from fine particle emissions.

Meanwhile, Luminant continues to operate three coal-fired power plants with a total of eight generating units in East Texas that were build in the 1970’s.  These outdated facilities emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) – which is one of the two ingredients in ozone creation – at twice the rate of new coal plants in Texas.  The rule changes recommended by the Dallas County Medical Society would have required those old coal plants to meet the same standards as new coal plants by 2018 – giving the plant owners more than ample time to make the upgrades or arrange to retire the facilities.

Instead of focusing on whether or not reducing NOx emissions from those old coal plants in East Texas would lead to reductions in ground-level ozone in the DFW area, the Commissioners persisted in questioning the science that shows that exposure to ground-level ozone results in increased and worsened incidents of asthma.  Never mind that the research has been vetted by the EPA and reaffirmed by health organizations including the American Lung Association.  The mindset at TCEQ, as at many of our agencies and with far too many of our elected officials, is that Texas knows best and industry must be protected at all costs.

We appreciate the more than 1,400 Public Citizen supporters who signed our petition in support of reducing emissions and protecting public health.  All of those comments were submitted into the record and I read a few of them allowed at today’s hearing.

We will continue to fight for healthy air as TCEQ moves forward with developing a updated State Implementation Plan (SIP) to bring the DFW area into attainment with ground-level ozone air quality standards.  That process will be ongoing in 2014, so stay tuned.

 

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In the 2011 ozone season, North Texas pushed ahead of Houston in the battle for the worst air quality in the state. Both metro areas have significant pollution problems, and both continue to exceed federal ozone limits.

Dallas-Fort Worth now has the distinction of beating the Bayou City as the former longtime state champ, and one that has been contending for years for the worst smog problem in the country.

The release of the 2011 ozone season stats has been met with little concern by those in positions of power.

The Texas leadership keeps telling Texans that the feds are out to get us with their onerous and unnecessary environmental rules and regulations. But as the ozone readings reveal, the state isn’t troubling itself with meeting even basic standards.

North Texas and Houston are still exceeding the now-outdated ozone limit of 85 parts per billion and are nowhere near complying with the new standard of 75 ppb.  We all pay for failing to meet this bar with public health consequences — more respiratory illnesses, hospital visits, lost work days and premature deaths.

Texas is under federal mandate to reduce ozone levels. The state is required to submit and to abide by plans to improve air quality — but too many deadlines have been missed, and too many plans have been little more than Band-Aids.

The story the numbers tell is, not enough has been done to bring North Texas into compliance. The metropolitan area needs a more aggressive clean-air plan, but it also needs state environmental officials to lead the way to reduce pollution from sources outside the cities’ purview – like coal-fired power plants – that blow into these urban areas making it even more difficult to meet air quality standards.

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Video footage of a public meeting back in March for the Dallas, TX region. EPA has proposed a new NOx attainment standard, and this meeting was held during the comment period. Though an official EPA meeting had been held in Houston, there was no official meeting for Dallas (where Region 6 offices of EPA are located) so a number of environmental groups got together to host and sponsor this event. The last video is of some folks who didn’t speak at the event itself but who wanted to submit video comments to the EPA. The event was sponsored by Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Downwinders at Risk, and other individuals and environmental organizations. Rep. Lon Burnam presided over the entire meeting and was joined throughout by Mayor Cluck of Arlington, TX and other representatives and officials, including one from the TCEQ.

Press Conference

[vimeo 11089828]

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[vimeo 10526826]

On March 16, 2010 Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Downwinders At Risk, Texas Campaign for the Environment and other concerned environmental organizations and individuals held a public meeting to submit comments to the EPA regarding their newly proposed ozone standard. State representatives and staff from Region 6 of the EPA were there to hear comments. These are the video comments that were recorded by those who did not get an opportunity to speak in front of the panel. These video comments were submitted to the EPA.

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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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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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Anybody catch this article last week in the Houston Chronicle? An important issue to think about: how coal plants will not only affect the surrounding air quality, but that of communities down wind. If the White Stallion coal plant is allowed to be built: Houston, we will have an even worse smog problem. Look for Ryan’s quote to close it out!

City’s smog concerns may choke power plant

Pollution near Matagorda could drift to Houston

By MATTHEW TRESAUGUE

HOUSTON CHRONICLE

A proposed coal-fired power plant in mostly rural Matagorda County, 90 miles from the traffic-choked freeways and smokestacks of Houston, has moved to the center of the debate over the big city’s air.

Some federal regulators, Houston lawmakers, and environmentalists say the proposed White Stallion Energy Center would only exacerbate the city’s stubborn smog problem as tougher nationwide limits for the widespread pollutant come into play.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for one, wants Texas regulators to prove that pollution from the coal plant would not make Houston’s smog worse before issuing permits. Critics also want the state to require the power company to consider new technology that might slash emissions of smog-forming pollution.

The push comes amid a review of the proposal by the State Office of Administrative Hearings, which will soon recommend whether the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should grant the plant’s air permit.

The plant would be built less than 20 miles from the boundary of the eight-county Houston region that was long in violation of federal limits for smog or ozone. Rules on industrial pollution — in particular, new sources — are tighter inside such areas than outside, even though smog ignores county lines. (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.”

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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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Earlier this week the Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing on a newly proposed rule to strengthen federal ozone standards. A coalition of environmental and public health advocates called Clean Air Texas rallied in support of the new rule, which would improve air quality across the state and make our communities healthier.  Over a hundred citizens presented their comments to the EPA in support of the new, stronger rule — more than the EPA has seen at a public hearing in years.  Public Citizen was on hand to give comments and capture the stories of concerned citizens that came to the hearing, check out the videos below to hear what folks had to say!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfiNk_19tgk]

Also check out this video of the press conference to hear what matters most about the ozone rule from activists with Kids for Clean Air, Public Citizen, the American Lung Association, Health Professionals for Clean Air, Sierra Club,  and the Galveston-Houston Alliance for Smog Prevention. The lead image is acting a little funny, but the video will still show up, I promise

[vimeo 9206598]

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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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Check out the video and op-ed below by some of our Clean Air Texas coalition partners about the hearing in Houston tomorrow on the EPA’s new proposed rule to strengthen ozone standards. I’ll be at the hearing tomorrow, along with Ryan Rittenhouse, to represent Public Citizen and interview folks from around the state who’ve come to speak up for clean air.  If you plan on attending the rally, look for us and tell us your stories!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iCUHsJA4as]

It’s Time to Weigh in on Smog Limits

Imagine this conversation between a mother and child:

“Mommy, can we go outside and play?”

“Not today, dear, it’s just not safe.”

Most of us growing up in Texas didn’t wait for our parents to check an air quality report before venturing outside in the summer. But things have changed. Today, we know that rising temperatures bring rising ozone levels and as summer arrives we’re forced to restrict outdoor activities to limit harmful exposure.

Still, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t hide from poor air quality. We’ve got to clean it up.

That’s why we are encouraged that the Environmental Protection Agency is proposing new limits on ozone “smog” pollution to protect human health. On Tuesday, the EPA hosts an all-day public hearing at the Houston Hobby Hilton to get your feedback on these proposed stronger standards.

Why should you care about ozone? Ground-level ozone triggers asthma attacks, sends children to the emergency room and can even kill. It’s a serious health threat — especially in states with warmer climates like Texas. When our abundant sunlight and heat “cook” our equally abundant emissions from traffic and refineries, it forms — you guessed it — too much ozone. (more…)

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Great editorial in the Dallas Morning News this weekend. We couldn’t agree more 🙂

Editorial: Texas, a state of denial on pollution rules

To the surprise of no one, the Environmental Protection Agency announced tougher ozone limits this week. The move to tighten pollution standards had long been anticipated as evidence mounted to illustrate the serious health risks associated with smog exposure.

In Texas, a state with notoriously dirty air, the appropriate response from leaders would be to get to work. Significant changes must be made to comply with federal rules – not to mention, to protect the people who live here.

But instead of getting started, too many state leaders just got angry. They seemed shocked – shocked! – that the EPA would dare abide by the science showing significant consequences of allowing a less stringent standard.

Gov. Rick Perry stuck with his three-pronged approach to environmental regulations: deny, deflect, pout.

In his statement, the governor denied the need for tougher ozone limits, somehow conflating smog rules with carbon dioxide regulations and suggesting that flawed science spurred this week’s announcement.

In fact, scientists have found that ozone exposure damages our lungs and is linked to heart and respiratory illnesses. Smog can be deadly. By lumping ozone standards in with climate change legislation, Perry only confuses the issue.

The governor also deflected suggestions that the state has less than pristine air. He focused on Texas’ modest anti-pollution efforts, ignoring the fact that our skies are still dangerously dirty.

And Perry pouted, arguing that the EPA has made Texas workers and taxpayers a target. Some of Perry’s allies have echoed that idea, asserting that the new administration has been hostile to the state.

The EPA is not picking on Texas.

The same pollution standards will apply to every state. Inhaling smog-choked air is a dicey proposition, no matter where folks live.

Admittedly, complying with the new rules will be tougher for Texas than many other states. That’s because years of plugging our ears, closing our eyes and pretending that new pollution rules weren’t looming did not leave Texas in a state of preparedness.

Implementing the lower ozone limits will come at a cost. But, the EPA notes, the new rules should yield comparable savings by reducing illnesses, emergency room visits and lost work days resulting from ozone-related symptoms.

The state now must get started on a serious ozone reduction strategy. Deny, deflect, pout doesn’t seem to be working.

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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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