Tag Archives: smog

Sierra Club Urges Advisory Board to Recommend Strong Standard to Cut Smog Science-Based Guidelines Needed to Protect Children’s Health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
March 26, 2014

Contact: Anna Oman, (202) 650-6061

Washington, D.C. – Today the Sierra Club urged the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee to recommend a strong, science-based standard to protect Americans from smog. The Committee provides independent advice to the Environmental Protection Agency as it seeks to update the country’s smog pollution limits according to the Clean Air Act.

“Our children have waited long enough for strong protections from dangerous smog,” said Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign Director Mary Anne Hitt. “We know that smog triggers asthma, sending tens of thousands of children to the emergency room every year. Asthma is the number one health reason that American children miss school, and it costs taxpayers tens of billions of dollars each year in missed work, medical care, and even premature deaths. With the technology readily available to dramatically reduce smog, it would be unconscionable not to act. It’s time to clean up our air and protect our families.”

Smog (also called ground-level ozone) is a widespread air pollutant that, when inhaled, harms the delicate lining of our lungs, and has been likened to getting a sunburn on your lungs. Smog pollution is particularly harmful to children, seniors, and persons with asthma, whose lungs are especially sensitive. Research has shown that exposure to smog causes respiratory problems including asthma, may even affect the nervous and cardiovascular systems, and can lead to premature death.

“Six years ago, the Bush Administration sided with big polluters and set standards that were weaker than what EPA and independent medical experts knew were needed to protect our children’s health,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. “President Obama promised to strengthen this standard, and the American people should not have to wait any longer for action to clean up dangerous smog pollution.”

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Sierra Club comments to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Council on the smog standard can be viewed here.

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Haze, Haze, Go Away!!

Have you ever stepped outside and felt like it was hard to breathe? Or as you entered the city, have noticed a blanket of “fog” covering it? Well what you are feeling and seeing is haze. Haze is caused when sunlight encounters tiny pollution particles in the air. Some light is absorbed by particles. Other light is scattered away before it reaches an observer. More pollutants means more absorption and scattering of light, which reduce the clarity and color of what we see. Haze occurs everywhere but surprisingly, lately the amount of haze has increased particularly at our National Parks such as Big Bend National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains.

Haze causes health problems and degrades visibility in American cities and parks. The majority of Haze comes from coal plants and refineries. These power plants emit huge quantities of pollution into the air creating Haze.

The Clean Air Act requires the State of Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce and eliminate this haze. The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a rule, however Texas’s oldest and dirtiest power plants would be exempted from installing readily available, modern pollution controls under the proposed rule. The EPA’s proposed rule would not only jeopardize the Regional Haze Rule, but it will also continue to put our national parks such as Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains and the health of all Texas at risk of suffering from Haze.

The EPA’s proposed rule is currently on hold and is being reviewed. The Sierra Club’s campaign to “Save Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains” has been putting friendly pressure on the EPA. As part of the campaign the Sierra Club has sent a record number of 7,400 comments to the EPA about this issue. The EPA has said that it will announce its decision on the haze rule in November.

In the meanwhile, the Sierra Club is having a retreat to Big Bend National Park on May 11-13, 2012.  At the retreat, people will be able to see the beauty and treasure of the park while also learning some useful grassroots skills and meeting some other environmental enthusiasts. Everyone is welcome to come! If you are interested or simply have further questions you can email Stephanie Cole at stephanie.cole@sierraclub.org or call (512) 477-1729.

Haze has become a serious issue. With your help we can make sure our health, livelihood, and national parks are protected.

Like the song goes, “Haze, Haze, go away. Please don’t come back another day”

–Lauren Fedele, Sierra Club Intern

Houstonians speak up against White Stallion coal plant and for clean air!

Last Tuesday, October 18th Houstonians sent a message to Mayor Parker and city council: we want clean air!  Sixteen clean air supporters showed up at the city council meeting to deliver hundreds of petitions to Mayor Parker and the council against the White Stallion coal-fired power plant, proposed just 20 miles outside of a region with some of the worst air pollution problems in the country, including Houston. 

Roughly half of those present spoke to the council about their concern over the possibility of this coal plant being built so close to Houston where thousands of people already suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases.  Houston leads the state in asthma rates and many must look out for “bad air days” which often determines whether or not they  will spend time outdoors.   It is evident that the last thing Houston needs is another major ource of smog that will emit the equivalent pollution of 1.7 million cars.

It was a great day at city hall and below are accounts from some of the folks who came out and stood up for air quality.  Stay tuned for updates on whether Mayor Parker takes action against this proposed coal plant.

I thought our being at the council meeting and the talks we delivered made an
impact on the council members.  My best moment was when one of the council members starting asking questions about White Stallion Power Plant after one of our speakers, showing that he had paid attention and now wanted more information!  That’s how it starts to change.  One by one.”
– Don

“Highlight of the city council visit was seeing the concern on the Council regarding the White Stallion plant, especially Councilman Ed Gonzalez.” – Bette

“I signed up to be a last minute speaker. Having not planned on speaking, I had nothing prepared. (Scary!)  While waiting for my turn to speak, I flipped through the notes packet the team prepared for the Council Members and found some key points that I realized I could use to help deliver “my story” to the Council. Worked out GREAT! So my lasting memory from this event will be a lesson – ‘even when it appears the odds of proving useful may be remote, don’t refrain, you may well end up being a big help’” – Joe

Gasping for Air: White Stallion’s Threat to Houston’s Health

Study Predicts More Unhealthy Air for Houstonians if Proposed Coal Plant Built

 New air quality modeling analysis of the potential White Stallion coal plant predicts dangerous levels of smog for Houston residents

Yesterday, Houston’s Vice Mayor Pro Tem, City Council Member Ed Gonzalez gathered with health and environmental advocates in front of an eighteen-foot inhaler at the reflection pool outside Houston City Hall to release Sierra Club’s new study showing the potential risks to Houston residents of increased ozone smog from the proposed White Stallion coal plant.

We must do everything in our power to ensure clean air for our families, neighbors and friends,” said Houston Vice Mayor Pro Tem, City Council Member Ed Gonzalez.  “The proposed White Stallion Energy Center, if built, would be located just 20 miles outside the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria non-attainment region.  I’m concerned that it would put the City of Houston at greater risk for additional bad air days and affect the quality of life for our citizens.”

Sierra Club’s new report, White Stallion’s Potential Impact on Houston Air Quality, prepared by Dr. Tammy M. Thompson with MIT’s Joint Program for the Science and Policy of Global Change finds:

  • Ground level ozone concentrations, or smog, measured at air quality monitors in the Houston area and averaged over eight hours, are often above the 84 parts per billion (ppb) limit, a National Ambient Air Quality Standard set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1997.  The Houston area therefore has been designated a “non-attainment” area for ozone and the City will struggle to meet attainment of the 84 ppb ozone standard by the year 2018.  The US EPA will announce in mid-2011, a new, health-based standard that will be a value between 60 and 70 ppb.
  • White Stallion proposes to release emissions of 4,048 tons/year of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), 288 tons/year of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and 5780 tons/ year of Carbon Monoxide (CO) from two stacks that would be located near Bay City in Matagorda County about 75 miles to the Southwest of Houston.
  • For the Houston area monitors, the maximum increases in daily peak ozone concentrations averaged over 8 hours and averaged across all days of the episode when ozone values were greater than 70 ppb, 65 ppb, and 60 ppb was 0.03 ppb, 0.04 ppb, and 0.04 ppb respectively.

The potential threat of additional pollution in the Houston area from the proposed White Stallion plant is cause for concern from Houston parents of children and Dr. Stuart L. Abramson. 

Dr. Abramson, a member of the Leadership Council for the American Lung Association of the Plains-Gulf Region and a Houston area, board-certified allergist/immunologist and asthma specialist warned of threats to public health from the proposed White Stallion coal plant saying —“There are already substantial health effects seen in sensitive individuals at current levels of ozone air pollution in the Greater Houston area.  When our Houston air quality intermittently exceeds the health-based standards, the pollution levels trigger yellow, orange, and red alert status.  The additional pollution from projected emissions from the White Stallion power plant, though proposed for 75 miles southwest of Houston, could only exacerbate ozone levels in the Greater Houston area and make it more difficult for sensitive individuals, particularly those with respiratory and cardiovascular disorders.”

Lydia Avila, Conservation Organizer with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, “The last thing Houston needs is another source of pollution that’s going to put our community in even greater risk of health problems. It’s time for the City of Houston to take a real stand against the proposed White Stallion coal plant and be an even bigger advocate for clean energy.”

 Background Information – White Stallion Facing Obstacles

Although the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality gave White Stallion a permit, the permit was remanded after a legal challenge showed that White Stallion filed multiple and conflicting plot plans to different governmental agencies.

The proposed White Stallion coal plant faces obstacles and may not be built:

  1. Air permit remanded back to TCEQ
  2. 404 Permit from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  3. Waste Water Permit from TCEQ
  4. Water contract from LCRA
  5. Other economic obstacles

Posted by Donna Hoffman, Communications Coordinator, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.  Thanks Jared Pesseto, Sean, and Ben for inflating that humongous inhaler hand in front of Houston City Hall.

Check out the photo album on the Texas Sierra Club page on Facebook!

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Perry’s TCEQ Commissioners Fail Yet Again to Protect Public Health

Governor Rick Perry's TCEQ Loves Coal Plants. Ignores Pleas of People for Healthy Clean Air.

Despite the wisdom of the Matagorda County medical community’s pleas in a letter signed by 30 doctors, despite its own Administrative Law Judges’ recommendations, despite the wishes of the residents of Matagorda County in the No Coal Coalition, Governor Perry’s Commissioners at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) today granted the White Stallion coal plant permit to pollute.   

This morning,  while citizens from Matagorda County including a class of  school children watched, Chairman Shaw and Commissioners Garcia and Rubio, criticized the recommendations from the state’s administrative law judges and decided to grant the permit with special conditions.  Sierra Club once again calls on the state legislature to reform the TCEQ so that it cannot continue to ignore federal and state air quality standards during the permitting process.  

Air polution from Coal Plants is Linked to Asthma, other Respiratory Ailments, Heart Disease, Neurological Disorders, and Early Mortality.

 “Once again, the Commissioners are doing the work for the applicant and using this failed system to avoid public input.”  said Jen Powis Senior Regional Representative for Sierra Club.  “Today’s decision is another pitiful example of how Governor Perry and his political cronies ignore federal and state law and reward companies to pollute in Texas.”  

The Cronies — Perry’s TCEQ Commissioners Shaw, Garcia, and Rubinstein

  

“TCEQ is a failed agency and has failed the citizens of Texas again.”  said Allison Sliva with the No Coal Coalition of Matagorda County.   “The administrative law judges didn’t like this permit, elected officials in Matagorda County and Houston have raised serious questions about it, and the citizens don’t like it.  But rather than consider these criticisms, the Commissioners ignored these concerns and simply granted it.”    
Read more about what happenedMourn…then, organize!