Posts Tagged ‘Environmental Protection Agency’

UPDATE:  The EPA has extended the public comment period for this rule.  You can now submit your comments by an August 23rd deadline:

Last week, I, Stephanie Thomas, Houston Organizer for Public Citizen, joined members of community and environmental groups testifying in opposition to Polluting Pruitt’s proposed rollbacks of the 2017 Chemical Disaster Rule.

The Chemical Disaster Rule helps better protect workers, first responders, and fenceline communities. So what exactly is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gutting?…

Almost all of the disaster prevention measures in the Chemical Disaster Rule.

What’s Being Lost

The repeals mean that industry will no longer be required to invest in third party audits when accidents happen nor will facilities need to conduct a root cause analysis as part of incident investigations following incidents with a catastrophic release or a near miss.

The EPA is merely putting out fires, not working to prevent the fires, explosions, and deaths from happening in the first place.

Safer technologies? The EPA proposal rescinds requirements for certain facilities to complete safer technology and alternatives analyses to minimize the amount of hazardous substances used. Also, they are rolling back demands to use less hazardous substances, incorporate safer designs, and minimize the impact of releases. This seems like a a no-brainer, but unfortunately, these rollbacks toss safer technology out the window.

Even first responders will be losing out. The proposed changes remove a requirement to provide, upon request, information to the public on chemical hazards, including substance names, safety data sheets, accident history, emergency response program information, and LEPC contact information (Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) must develop an emergency response plan, review the plan at least annually, and provide information about chemicals in the community to citizens).

Let us remember Hurricane Harvey and its devastating chemical impacts along the Gulf Coast – most notably the explosion at the Arkema facility in Crosby, Texas. Floodwaters caused the backup generator to fail, leading to explosions of unstable organic peroxides and the release of a slew of toxic chemicals, including an unpermitted release of cancer-causing ethylbenzene. Had the 2017 chemical disaster rule been in place, first responders and community members would have had access to safety data sheets providing information for protecting themselves against the harmful chemicals released into the air and water; and would not have had to file lawsuits such as the one filed in Harris County by first responders alleging Arkema failed to take adequate safety steps to secure dangerous chemicals ahead of Hurricane Harvey.

Known Impact to Communities

By the EPA’s own account, more than 150 chemical incidents occur each year. And the agency knows that repealing these rules will hurt minority, low-income communities the most. 

Who benefits? The chemical industry – and all for a measly $88 million per year, a drop in the bucket for these big corporations.  

The EPA only provided one opportunity to testify on the rollbacks to the Chemical Disaster Rule. While I was glad to be able to testify there, that’s not good enough. Because this proposal knowingly harms communities, impacted communities need a seat at the table.

While the EPA leaves out environmental justice communities, industry interests are well-represented within the agency. Several administrators and counselors for the EPA have served as lobbyists and litigators for industry. Just yesterday, the US Senate held a confirmation hearing for DowDupont lawyer Peter Wright, who will likely be leading the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, which oversees the Risk Management Program.

It’s no accident that these rollbacks are being proposed at a time when industry’s foxes have taken over the henhouse. The EPA should be supporting the health and wellbeing of Texas communities, not padding the profits of corporate polluters.

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The Environmental Protection Agency will host a community meeting, tentatively scheduled for Thursday, January 30th, to discuss plans to deal with pollution from the San Jacinto River waste pits. During this meeting residents can voice their concerns, and the EPA will be discussing planned construction to repair the temporary cap. It is imperative that the EPA hear from the community and acknowledge our desire for the toxic chemicals to be removed permanently.

For decades, two waste pits located along the San Jacinto River have been leaking some of the most toxic chemicals known to man into the river. PCBs, Mercury, even cancer causing dioxin compounds such as Agent Orange have contaminated the River and its fish, seriously endangering the thousands of East Harris County residents who swim, boat, and fish there.

Please join and make your voice heard.  Click here to see the facebook invitation.

Thursday, January 30 at 6:00pm

Highlands Community Center Park

604 E Wallisville Rd

Highlands, TX 77562

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As promised, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published its proposed standards to limit toxic carbon pollution from new power plants in the Federal Register.  Today, January 8, 2013, starts the 60-day period for public comment period.  Click here to read the proposed standards.

Power plants are responsible for much of our country’s air pollution. In fact, coal- and gas-fired plants emit more than 2.3 billion metric tons of carbon emissions, approximately 40 percent of U.S. energy-related carbon pollution. These dangerous emissions make their way into our air, food, and bodies, threatening the health of our children and communities. As if that weren’t bad enough, carbon pollution is also the main contributor to climate disruption.

Strong carbon pollution protections, will help us clean up and modernize the way we power our country — a move that will make for healthier kids, families, and workers, while creating badly needed jobs, fighting climate disruption, and keeping America competitive in the global economy. Several states and foreign countries already have limits on carbon pollution from new power plants, including Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Illinois, Maine, Australia, and the European Union. It’s time for the first-ever national standards for coal-fired plants to be set in place.

The proposed carbon pollution standards will be a powerful tool to keep our air clean, but they could be even better. Now it’s your turn to take action. The fossil fuel industry and its political allies are doing everything they can to block the EPA’s efforts, but you can push back and make your opinion count.

The official public comment period starts today and won’t last long. Make your voice heard by submitting a comment here to the EPA in support of strong standards for reducing dangerous carbon pollution. Your voice matters!

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The newly formed Re-Energize San Antonio Coalition put its opposition to CPS’s proposed rate hike on the record during a Sept. 9 citizen’s input meeting. Coalition representatives presented the utility with a plan of action that they want addressed before an increase goes into effect. Here’s the petition.


Submitted to CPS Energy during the CPS Rate Case Input Session, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013.

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Newly Confirmed EPA head, Gina McCarthy

Newly Confirmed EPA head, Gina McCarthy

The Senate approved Gina McCarthy to be the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency on a 59-40 vote Thursday, ending a lengthy battle over the post.

President Obama nominated Ms. McCarthy, a longtime top official of the EPA, to replace Lisa Jackson, who served in the post in the president’s first term. Republicans have complained both about the agency’s policies under Ms. Jackson and the transparency with which she deal with Congress.

Ms. McCarthy was the latest nominee of President Obama to be approved following a deal earlier this week to curb GOP filibusters of executive branch nominees.

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According to an MSNBC article, even short-term exposure to air pollution — just a day or a week in some cases — may kick off a heart attack or stroke according to two new studies.  The studies reveal that the risk of heart attack or stroke can jump after high-pollution days, especially for people who already have predisposing health problems.

In a new analysis published in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, up to a week of exposure to most major types of air pollution may be enough to trigger a heart attack.

  • Heart attack risk went up by almost 5 percent with high carbon monoxide levels over as little as seven days
  • Heart attack risk increased almost 3 percent with higher levels of air particles for up to seven days.

The risk of stroke jumped 34 percent after 24 hours of exposure to moderate air pollution, according to a study published in the latest issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

No one knows exactly how much pollution will trigger a heart attack or stroke, but experts suggest that vulnerable people protect themselves by minimizing time spent breathing air contaminated with a heavy dose of fine particles.  As exposure increases, both in terms of time and intensity, so does the risk of a heart attack and stroke.

The best recourse for those with cardiovascular disease may be to keep a close eye on local pollution levels, experts say. And government agencies are making that easier and easier. The Environmental Protection Agency, for example, has a downloadable app that provides information on local air quality. You can download the air quality app from the AIRNow app from the EPA’s website. The app works on both Apple and Android phones and allows users to get pollutant and ozone levels for more than 400 cities across the nation.

The culprit in both studies is particulate matter, tiny bits of material and droplets, known as PM2.5s. The particles come from a variety of sources, including power plants, factories, trucks and cars.

If you live in an area that is in non-attainment for federal air quality standards such as DFW or Houston, this should cause you some concern as the Texas leadership does everything they can to block the EPA’s efforts to enforce the Clean Air Act.  While they express concern about EPA regulations on the financial health of the energy industry, touting the imaginary loss of jobs, they rarely express concerns about the actual health of Texans who would be protected by the increased regulation.

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The U.S. Senate is set to take a vote to stop the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rules affecting downwind communities.  This single vote – tomorrow at noon – will be an up or down vote in the U.S. Senate and will dramatically affect the EPA’s work on clean air issues from stationary sources like coal plants.

S.J. Res. 27, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), would block the EPA from moving forward with the regulation called the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR).  Your call or email can make a difference in the air quality of your community.

Need contact information for your U.S. Senator?  Click here to find out who represents you, call or email your Senators and ask them to vote against Sen. Rand Paul’s S.J. Res. 27.

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Election season is imminent and advocates for environmental welfare and public health need not look very far for the hyper-political red tape and drawbacks to pollution legislation. Like many of her colleagues in the Democratic Party, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has been campaigning nationwide for the regulation of toxins such as mercury from coal burners which, in effect, could prevent thousands of related deaths and stimulate the job market. Just two weeks ago, Jackson even made an appearance on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” encouraging viewers to exercise vigilance in the fight against toxic emissions and to demand personal protections for clean air and water.

Her sentiments were met with grand applause due to their pertinence in 2011 where it is estimated that 72% of all toxic mercury air pollution in the United States is attributable to coal plants in violation of the Clean Air Act. Just to add some perspective to this statistic, such a figure indicates that 386,000 tons of hazardous compounds are being emitted into the atmosphere per year at an unprecedented rate.

Jackson’s apparent support for tightened environmental regulations was short-lived however, when just one week following her Comedy Central interview the EPA halted essential protections for controlling exposure to air-borne mercury, arsenic, lead, and a plethora of acid gases. The basis for these laws were established in 1990 when President H.W. Bush signed Clean Air Act amendments into law thus making it the EPA’s responsibility to establish emission standards for industrial facilities. Originally, these plans operated on a permit system designed to pinpoint power plants, factories, and additional sources of ground level ozone that had exceeded allowable limits for what was deemed “requisite to protect the public welfare.”

One of these statutes created under H.W. Bush’s administration, called Boiler MACT, monitored emission caps from boilers that produced power sources specifically like those found in large to small coal plants. As of February 2011, under a court issued order, the EPA was also charged with the task of enforcing this body of legislative action. And now, a mere two years after the Obama administration vowed to protect the interests of public health and respect the law, this regulation is one of many that Jackson’s post at the EPA has indefinitely delayed.

Historically, the EPA has acted as an outspoken critic of the industrial “Powers that be” and their habits of ignoring Clean Air Act restrictions with economic impunity. In fact it was the EPA’s records that first indicated that more than 4,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 1,600 cases of acute bronchitis and an excess of 313,000 missed work and school days could be avoided if these laws were enacted properly- and this doesn’t even account for the upwards of 6,600 toxic related deaths. But the EPA strayed its course due to the fast-approaching 2012 elections. They managed to place re-election aspirations above environmental necessities on the hierarchy of political agendas, caved to industry pressures, and watered down many of their contingencies to begin with.

In lieu of this regressive blow to mandatory emission guidelines, Lisa Jackson and the EPA as a whole have endangered countless vulnerable Americans by casting a blind eye to the Boiler MACT legislation. Not only are these steps in reverse potentially (almost certainly) disastrous, people living near industrial giants and coal-fired power plants are now at serious odds with their own health and well-being.

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The much anticipated hearing between the Environmental Protection Agency and Texas regarding the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions will occur this morning in Dallas, Texas.  The hearing is set to begin at 10:00 AM and is expected to continue through 7:00 PM this evening.  The hearing will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in the Market Center and will assemble both the public and concerned citizens of Texas for dissent and opinion on the issue.  Many members of the community will be in attendance, as well as other battlemen fighting for justice, including the Sierra Club and of course, Public Citizen, represented by our very own pirate coal activist Ryan Rittenhouse! We will be making our voice heard this morning in Dallas in hopes of changing the current regulations concerning emission standards.  Businessweek has quoted Neil Carman of Sierra Club on the issue, who has assessed that the new rules of the EPA will not in fact be costly to implement whatsoever.

The latest controversy involves the decision made late last year that the EPA would in fact be taking over the permitting process regarding emission regulation in Texas.   In response, Texas is now currently suing the EPA to try and halt their implementation plan which would essentially call for more rigid regulation standards in either new or existing power plant and/or oil facilities.

Old Cowboy western shootout picture

EPA vs. Texas: Emissions Shootout

Texas claims that the EPA is overstepping the state’s authority with respect to emission setting standards.  The EPA’s justification for taking over the permitting process is related to Texas rejecting to comply with the EPA’s new greenhouse gas rules issued earlier this year.  The EPA claims that Texas has left them no other choice but to take over, not only because of the hot-headed letter we sent to EPA refusing to comply with the Clean Air Act, but also since Texas is also the leading nation in greenhouse gas emissions as well as industrial pollution.   By holding this hearing, the EPA is allowing both environmental advocacy groups as well as the public to voice their opinion before the final decision is rendered concerning emission standards.

Will the outcome of this battle prove to be victorious? Tune in next time to find out!

Related Articles:




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Halliburton offices on Bellaire Boulevard in W...

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, Halliburton unveiled a new website that offers some details about the mix of chemicals used in a natural gas drilling technique following the Environmental Protection Agency‘s (EPA) decision last week to subpoena Halliburton to force the company to turn over information about the chemicals it produces for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Halliburton has said the website is not a response to EPA’s actions or meant to satisfy the agency’s demands, but it does appear to be an attempt on the company’s part to allay public concerns about the impact of the practice on drinking water. (more…)

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TCEQ is broken. It’s not working in the public’s interest, and there are direct costs that all of us in the state of Texas are paying as a result.  But there is an opportunity for us to fix some of the problems with this broken state agency by participating in the Texas Sunset process.

The Alliance for a Clean Texas kicked off a series of town hall meetings across the state on the sunset review of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on September 15 th.  Last night in Corpus Christi, residents criticized the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, saying it holds too much power and ignores public concerns in the interest of business. (more…)

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Yesterday the TCEQ remanded the air permit for the proposed Las Brisas petroleum-coke plant back to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. What they didn’t do is require the facility to do what’s called a case-by-case analysis of MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) for Hazardous Air Pollutants. In effect, TCEQ (the agency tasked with protecting people and the environment from pollution) is not going to require Las Brisas to do a proper analysis of their pollution control!

This is outrageous. A permit which should have been denied outright, or at the least sent back to the beginning of the process, is instead being temporarily remanded on a number of less significant issues. Below is the proceeding in its entirety. The first video covers the first part of the process when the applicant and the opposition’s representation were allowed time to make comments to the commissioners. The second video shows the commissioners’ decision which is then followed by a press conference which includes responses from local residents in Corpus Christi who would be directly affected by the pollution TCEQ is failing to properly address.

For more information contact Public Citizen’s office at 512-477-1155.

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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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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

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It was a bit surprising that the EPA finally has taken a stand against the TCEQ’s practices of giving “flexible permits.” Prominent Texas politicians including the governor criticized the action taken by the EPA and once again, Gov Perry used a very important local issue to launch his attacks on the Federal government as part of his re-election campaign. “I don’t understand the federal response of coming in to the state that should be the poster child, should be the model for this country,” Perry said last week at a news conference. He was also quoted by the Houston Press saying, “Last week, the federal government sent the very clear message that it seeks to destroy Texas’s successful clean air program and threaten tens of thousands of good Texas jobs in the process.”  Perry’s claims that our air permitting program is successful is equally as dubious as his claims that we are the poster child for clean air.

Perry’s comments came at the same Texas Congress-members criticized Obama’s decision to issue a moratorium on deep-water drilling for a period that can take longer than six months. Some Congress members, who rank among the highest contribution receivers from the oil and energy industry in general, mentioned that jobs will be affected if such regulation was to take place, “”It’s exactly the wrong decision,” said Joe Barton, a Republican from Arlington, “It’s going to raise unemployment, and it’s going to raise oil prices.”

One must question the sincerity of such comments and whether they truly are accurate or not. The Dallas Morning News in an articled called “Texans in Congress say drilling support not tied to campaign donations” showed records that were obtained from Center for Responsive Politics that show how many contributions were received by Texas Congressmen:


SOURCE: Center for Responsive Politics

A look at oil industry donations to members of Congress from Texas:
Member Oil/gas industry donations Rank*
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison $2.1 million 1
Sen. John Cornyn $1.6 million 3
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington $1.4 million 1
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland $651,718 1
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas $642,864 2
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth $612,807 1
Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall $529,468 3
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands $445,697 1
Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock $440,772 1
Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston $423,561 1
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco $409,698 9
Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano $393,700 3
Rep. Lamar Smith , R-San Antonio $391,147 2
Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston $374,113 5
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon $351,480 1
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler $257,063 3
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas $232,650 10
Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi $220,432 2
Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land $216,300 1
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble $208,450 3
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin $207,734 6
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville $195,246 3
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson $178,632 17
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston $173,525 6
Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock $164,150 5
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo $157,350 4
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio $143,500 7
Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell $139,750 1
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes $98,084 9
Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio $96,500 13
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso $83,350 12
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin $51,730 n/a
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas $32,875 n/a
Rep. Al Green, D-Houston $26,400 13
NOTE: Tally includes donations from political action committees and individuals starting in 1989, for the lawmaker’s first year in office if later than 1989.
* Rank indicates where the oil industry ranked among the top industries to donate to a lawmaker. N/A means the oil industry wasn’t among the top 20 givers to that lawmaker.


These numbers are staggering and if you want to bet that those massive contributions don’t alter or affect the decisions of those politicians, I have some beachfront property in Arizona I’d like to sell you. (more…)

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Federal environmental regulators set new limits on sulfur dioxide emissions for the first time in 40 years.  A move that could prevent thousands of asthma attacks and premature deaths while reducing health care costs..

The new rules, which take effect under court order, will prohibit short-term spikes of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is primarily emitted from coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities.  Texas has 17 coal plants, with another dozen under construction or in the permitting phase across the state.

The EPA estimates nationally the cost of retrofitting power plants to comply with the new rules will be $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.  The savings in health benefits could be as much as $13 billion to $33 billion a year.

The previous standard called for concentrations of no more than 140 parts per billion, averaged over 24 hours. Under the new rules, the allowable level of SO2 would drop to 75 parts per billion in one hour to guard against short-term spikes, and is seen by the EPA as the most efficient and effective way to protect against SO2 pollution in the air we breathe.

Although the final standard is a bit less strict than the American Lung Association had urged, it is well within the range recommended by EPA’s independent science advisers.

At this writing it is anticipated that Jefferson County is the only area in Texas that would fail the tougher standard, but EPA is requiring additional monitors in some areas of the state that are borderline.


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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