For immediate releaseWednesday, January 26, 2022
Media contact: Riikka Pohjankoski, 713-589-7079, [email protected]
HOUSTON, TX — Air Alliance Houston, community members, and our partners have been working tirelessly to raise concerns about the cumulative impact of air pollution in Houston and surrounding communities. Today, we applaud the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) announcement of a renewed commitment to protecting overburdened communities, the use of the best available science, and to hold enforcement agencies and industry accountable for harms to public health and safety.
In particular, we want to formally endorse the EPA’s decision to reject the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) less protective risk value for Ethylene Oxide (EtO). Air Alliance Houston has been calling on EPA to act on its duty to protect and inform residents about the harms of EtO since the release of the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) in 2018, which identified the communities with the most severe estimated cancer risk of EtO – several of which are located in the Houston area. By announcing their commitment to uphold and defend the peer-reviewed work of the EPA’s public health and environmental science professionals responsible for the IRIS risk assessment for EtO, the EPA has removed a significant obstacle to reducing emissions of this dangerous chemical into at-risk communities, and we applaud their courage in doing so despite the concerted efforts of industrial special interest groups and captive state regulatory officials to undermine their findings. Moving forward, the EPA should follow through on its commitment and take swift action to address the risk of EtO pollution. These efforts should include meaningful public outreach and engagement, educational campaigns in impacted communities, localized ambient air monitoring programs to accurately assess actualized risk of EtO, and strong rulemaking that results in immediate EtO emissions reduction standards across all relevant industrial sectors.
We also want to recognize the EPA’s priority on Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens, communities that are historically overburdened with air pollution and health inequities, and overlooked in the decision-making process. This includes a review of a proposed Union Pacific Railroad permit renewal and corrective actions that govern cleanup of contamination at the Houston Wood Preserving Works site. We want to acknowledge that the residents of Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens have known about the environmental risks in their neighborhoods for years and have been fighting to be heard. Today’s announcement is first and foremost a testament to their relentless pursuit of justice and equity for their community.
Fenceline communities deserve the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process. Air Alliance Houston is prepared to work with the EPA and stakeholders to implement these newly announced changes and continue to give voice to those disproportionately affected by environmental harm.
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Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit advocacy organization working to reduce the public health impacts from air pollution and advance environmental justice through applied research, education, and advocacy. For more information and resources, please visit www.airalliancehouston.org.