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Posts Tagged ‘particulate matter’

Fine particles in the air (particularly those smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter) cause a multitude of health problems, ranging from difficulty kid with asthma inhalerbreathing and asthma to heart attacks and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.  The question has been whether or not cleaning the air any further makes a difference.  This type of air pollution has decreased substantially since 1980, but only smaller gains have been made since 2000.

A new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health shows that even the modest gains made in reducing particulate matter between 2000 and 2007 are adding years to people’s lives.  Life expectancies were shown to increase .35 years in 545 US counties.

Not everyone is equally impacted, so some demographics are reaping larger benefits through cleaner air.  The young, the old and those who exercise outdoors are most likely to be negatively impacted by fine particles in the air.

In Texas, our port communities endure especially high concentrations of particulate matter.  Public Citizen is working to force the Port of Houston clean up.  Replacing or retrofitting the old, highly polluting trucks that haul goods from the port to nearby warehouses would do a lot to improve the health of surrounding communities.  The Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) provides funds for just this purpose.  Those investments are saving lives, but are often underutilized by truck owners.

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The dramatic irony of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) decision this morning to grant the NRG Limestone Coal Plant an air permit (and therefore permission to begin construction on a third smokestack) is painful.  At the very moment that leaders from around the world are meeting to come to an international agreement to save the world from catastrophic global warming, at the very moment that residents of developing nations are begging for the continued existence of their land and way of life, Texas gives the green light to build another mercury-spewing, asthma-inducing, planet choking coal plant.

Not exactly what I was hoping to wake up to this morning.

This decision also comes just days after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came out with its engangerment finding, which says that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases represent a significant threat to public health and welfare.  Earlier this year, the EPA also ruled that TCEQ has not been adhering to the Clean Air Act in its issuance of new air permits.  This is the first coal plant permit that TCEQ has issued since that warning (which TCEQ doesn’t seem to have taken to heart).  AND, according to Karen Hadden, executive director of SEED Coalition,

The TCEQ is not following federal law (Maximum Achievable Control Technology or MACT) in issuing this permit and a result, mercury emissions will be higher.

So many hearts to break, so little time. But of course there’s always a silver lining. Next legislative session, the TCEQ (and a whole host of other commissions) will undergo the Sunset Review process — and as Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office mentions, that gives Texas a chance to reform the TCEQ permitting process:

This is just another example of why the Sunset Commission should take a good hard look at how TCEQ rubber stamps permits for coal plants in Texas.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for progress in Copenhagen, and stay tuned at Texas Vox for more information on how you can help fight global warming and a 2nd Texas coal rush.

Full breakdown of the good (NRG has agreed to offset 50% of their emissions, though there’s nothing in their permit to hold them to that), the bad, and the ugly after the jump:

(more…)

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Great news from the Edmunds.com Green Car Blog:

Southern California Port Pollution Drops Dramatically Under Clean-Truck Program

port-of-los-angeles.jpgA clean-trucks program at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California has shown quick progress, with an 80 percent decline in diesel emissions expected by the end of 2010 — a year ahead of schedule.

“This is the most successful effort to clean a port in the world,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “I mean, think about it. Nobody thought it was possible to retrofit 5,000 trucks in a year, and we’re at 5,500 and growing.”

So far, the program has reduced diesel truck emissions at the Los Angeles port (pictured) by 70 percent compared with 2007 levels, Villaraigosa said. Long Beach has seen similar results, according to Mayor Bob Foster.

The program is part of a larger effort to reduce diesel emissions at the port complex, one of the major sources of pollution in Southern California. Increased rates of cancer, asthma and other serious health ailments for area residents have been attributed to port pollution.

Villaraigosa and Foster unveiled the promising figures during a briefing at the Port of Long Beach on Thursday, when U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced $26.5 million in federal grants for clean-air programs throughout Southern California.

This is really great news for our port cities, whose dirty air is tied at least partially to the pollution from the ports.  Diesel emissions also contain black carbon particles, which can have a much greater effect on the climate than CO2, methane, or any of the other greenhouse gases.  Also, as a particulate, it can get lodged in your lungs and cause all sorts of respiratory ailments.  Cutting black carbon should be a major goal, and one which the Ports of LA and Long Beach seem to be tackling very well.

Farbeit from me to advocate that Texas ever in any way should try to be like California, (*smirk*) but this shows that specific programs designed to tackle specific problems can be very effective.

LA and Long Beach Together– Now You Know You’re In Trouble…”

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A federal appeals court yesterday ordered the EPA to reconsider its standards for pollutants, particularly particulate matter (PM).  Fine particulates, such as soot, have been linked to premature death, asthma, lung cancer, and heart disease.  Furthermore, black carbon soot is a major greenhouse player,  as it absorbs and then radiates massive amounts of heat back to earth when it is in the air.

Reports the New York Times,

pm1Researchers have drawn direct and immediate links between ambient levels of fine particulates and hospital admissions and deaths. By some estimates, tens of thousands of Americans die each year from exposure to airborne particulates.

Among other sources, fine particulates come from diesel engines, power plants, certain industrial processes and even fireplaces. Perhaps one-thirtieth the diameter of a human hair, they can make their way deep into the lungs and in some cases even into the bloodstream.

The EPA last approved PM standards in 2006, when scientists from within the agency itself argued that they were too weak.  Scientists argued that acceptable levels should be lowered to 12 to 14 micrograms per cubic meter of air instead of 15, but (surprise, surprise) then-chief administrator Steven Johnson said that not enough evidence linked PM to detrimental health effects.

The article continues,

The case decided on Tuesday also involved coarse particulates, like dust, and particulate contributions to haze… and it said the E.P.A. must act to reduce the role of particulates in haze.

The court’s ruling may mean that cities notorious for smog– such as Houston – will have to start doing even more to clean up the air.  If pollutant standards are fixed at lower levels that will actually protect public health, these cities may find themselves even closer to non-attainment.

Reports the Houston Chronicle,

For Houston, which is already struggling to meet the EPA’s standards for smog-forming ozone, the designation would mean another deadline, another costly pollution-fighting plan and another threat that federal highway dollars will be withheld if the air doesn’t get cleaner.

“This comes at a really good time because there is concern that the state and federal agencies will take their eye off the ball when it comes to fine particulates,” said Matthew Tejada, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. “It will force use to look at this important issue in a timely manner.”

Its pretty nice to have an EPA that is serious about Environmental Protection Again.

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The real question is, will we at Texas Vox run out of holiday references before tomorrow or not?

christmas-future-1

Some scary, scary stuff out there in the past few days we wanted to show you, plus some extra holiday snark for all of you.

  • The EPA also released their list of Sooty Cities (and you thought soot was stuff from only back in the days of Charles Dickens!), and, of course, Houston made the list.  Merry Christmas, Houston!  You got… soot!  Also ending up on the list were my old home towns of Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah.
  • And finally, California is buying our cow gas.  Seriously.  Pacific Gas and Electric plans to buy a methane-based substitute for natural gas created right here in Texas from, of all things, cow manure.  Just shows you that one man’s treasure is another man’s… never mind.

~~Citizen Andy

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