Lawmakers Wrong to Funnel Money for Clean Air to Other Programs

For Immediate Release:

April 18, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas — Lawmakers should reject a proposed Texas House of Representatives measure to divert $40 million from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) and funnel the money into other unrelated programs, Public Citizen said today.

“It is a betrayal of taxpayers to take money that is designated to clean the air and funnel it into an unrelated program,” said Stephanie Thomas, community organizer with Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Taking money away from TERP’s incentive programs would keep many dirty diesel engines on the road, harming women and even their unborn children.”

If anything, effective programs like TERP should be strengthened, Public Citizen maintains. Since its inception in 2001, TERP has reduced the emission of dangerous nitrous oxides—a byproduct of diesel combustion—by replacing or upgrading 17,629 vehicles, which resulted in a reduction in emissions of more than 170,000 tons.

The risks from diesel air pollution are dramatic, particularly for women. New evidence has linked diesel exhaust to increased breast cancer risks, and according to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health, women “exposed to high levels of air pollution while pregnant were up to twice as likely to have a child with autism as women who lived in areas with low pollution.”

“The solution to reducing these risks is quite simple,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Leave TERP’s funding alone. The program was founded to reduce smog in our state. Let’s keep it that way.”

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., with an office in Austin, Texas.

Contact:          Luis Castilla, lcastilla@citizen.org  (512) 924-5597

Toxic Alert Bill

Last Tuesday, a group of folks came with the Healthy Port Communities Coalition to the Capitol in Austin to testify on House Bill 1927, the Toxic Alert Bill. There, they shared their concerns with representatives on the House Environmental Regulations Committee. The Toxic Alert Bill will help communities get out of harm’s way when a toxic emergency strikes by providing for a system of notification for communities across the state.

You can watch the archives of the hearing here:

http://tlchouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=40&clip_id=13223

http://tlchouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=40&clip_id=13235

The hearing is contained on both the first and second link; the testimony on the Toxic Alert Bill (HB 1927) shows up at 59:36 in the first link and finishes up in the second.

Air Alliance Houston Announces New Executive Director Dr. Bakeyah S. Nelson

Air Alliance Houston Announces New Executive Director

HOUSTON, TX – Air Alliance Houston announced today that it has found its new Executive Director, Dr. Bakeyah S. Nelson.  Jonathan Ross, President of the Board of AAH, stated “We are so pleased to have Dr. Nelson to lead us forward in this critical time for air quality and its effect on our health.  While working for Harris County Public Health, Dr. Nelson was an integral partner in Air Alliance Houston’s work with the Galena Par​​k community.  We are thrilled to welcome her home.”

After several years working for healthy outcomes in the region, Dr. Nelson is excited by the opportunities awaiting her at AAH. “It is an honor to continue working on behalf of and in partnership with Houston communities to improve the quality of life for everyone.  We have made progress on improving air quality, but more work is needed. We have communities in our region that are suffering from health inequities that are associated with the inequitable distribution of environmental hazards that compromise air quality in communities of color and low-income.  Air Alliance Houston plays a significant role in efforts to reduce these health inequities and serves as the leading non-profit organization dedicated to working with communities to build our region’s capacity to improve its air quality.”

During the next few years, Dr. Nelson said she intends to work collaboratively with traditional environmental partners and would also like to expand Air Alliance Houston’s reach by strengthening partnerships and integrating environmental health and air quality concerns with local efforts to work across sectors to build healthy communities. “Given the current plans to weaken environmental regulations and impose significant budget cuts to agencies that work to protect clean air and public health more broadly, we will have to work harder to advance our efforts and protect our communities.  A key component of our work will be to help build residents’ capacity to engage in the various public decision-making processes that impact their communities’ health and quality of life.”

Air Alliance Houston has a strong track record of working in partnership with communities to improve public health and quality of life for the Houston region in the areas of research, education and advocacy. The organization is excited that this legacy will continue under Dr. Nelson’s leadership.

 

Contact: Bakeyah Nelson, 713-528-3779bnelson@airalliancehouston.org

Contact: Jonathan Ross, 713-653-7813jross@susmangodfrey.com

Fire at LyondellBasell Refinery

Last Wednesday, March 15, in the early evening, the residents of Pasadena saw a thick black smoke cover the sky. The LyondellBasell Houston Refinery had caught fire.

We learned about the fire at 7:46 pm, when a nearby community member forwarded us the above photo. He told us that there was no message on the CAER line at that point.

As usual, we checked Twitter for the most up-to-date information. By 7:58 pm, KPRC Ch. 2 had this video and story, which attributed the fire to the LyondellBasell Houston refinery and stated that no injuries had occurred:

At 8:21, we saw this video from a nearby tweeter:

LyondellBasell quickly released a statement indicating that a cooling tower had burned and no petrochemical products were involved. Later that evening, LyondellBasell sent the following message to the leader of the Pasadena Citizens Advisory Council.

Dear neighbor,

I am writing you concerning the fire at our Houston Refinery on 12000 Lawndale Street earlier tonight, March 15. The fire occurred at approximately 7 p.m. in a cooling tower. The cooling tower chills down hot water to a lower temperature. Our on-site firefighting team and incident response personnel quickly contained fire and it was extinguished at 9:30 this evening.

There were no injuries and air monitoring conducted throughout the incident by LyondellBasell demonstrated no levels of concern for the community.

A thorough investigation will be conducted as to the cause of the fire. I realize this incident may have been upsetting to you or members of your family and I am sorry for any concern or inconvenience it may have caused. If you have any questions please contact Scott Buchman at Scott.Buchman@LYB.com

 Sincerely,

Jerome Mauvigney

Houston Refinery Site Manager

After the fact, this event seems to have been contained and well handled. It’s disappointing to see accidents of any kind, and LyondellBasell has had some problems in recent months. But no one was injured in this fire, and there doesn’t seem to have been much confusion about what happened or who was at risk. Still, its disappointing that the CAER line was not used as it should have been.

This is another incident where a modern wireless emergency alert system would have helped. HB 1927 would create such a system statewide. We are supporting this bill and we encourage you to call your representatives and ask them to support it as well.