Every two years, the Texas Legislature convenes for a 140-day regular legislative session. During each legislative session, we
advocate for policies that reduce air pollution and their related health inequities, and
defend against bills that threaten to roll back the progress achieved to date.
In the interim period, Senate and House committees are assigned to study and hold public hearings on specific topics, referred to as interim charges. During this time, we continue to work with elected officials, allies and community members to inform the upcoming legislative agenda.
Building Healthy Communities
Concrete Batch Plant Buffer Zones and Permitting
Harris County houses over 150 concrete batch plants (CBPs), more than any county in Texas. Air pollution, including particulate matter, from CBPs pose health risks to people residing in nearby neighborhoods. These plants also create significant noise pollution and are currently permitted to work 24-hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. A number of Houston neighborhoods have multiple facilities in close proximity to residents. With the number of CBPs projected to increase as Houston grows, we must work to protect our communities from the health threats, especially vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.
Sustainable and Equitable Transportation
Texas Emissions Reduction Plan
Since its inception, the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) has funded thousands of projects that have significantly improved air quality across the state. TERP provides funding for individuals, businesses, and local governments to reduce emissions and pollution by upgrading vehicles and equipment. In addition, TERP supports programs to encourage the use of alternative fuels. Since 2001, TERP programs have replaced, repowered, or retrofitted more than 10,000 heavy-duty on-road vehicles, and more than 10,000 heavy-duty pieces of non-road equipment in Texas nonattainment and affected areas. TERP programs are accepted by the EPA as emissions reductions actions, which is key as the TCEQ estimates 50 to 80% of NOX emissions are due to mobile sources in nonattainment zones.
Sustainable and Equitable Transportation
Health in All Policies
Public health is given too little consideration in the planning of major highway construction projects. Proximity to busy roadways is associated with many health issues. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful impacts of air pollution. Eighty thousand Houston-area children attend schools in traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) zones and are at increased risk of asthma and heart and lung problems as adults. Transportation planning organizations often overlook the effects increased traffic capacity will have on communities bordering new or expanded highways.
Above-ground Chemical Storage Tanks
The design and operation of above-ground storage tanks used for housing petroleum products are currently poorly regulated. Recent disasters, such as Hurricane Harvey, have revealed the vulnerability of above-ground tanks to failure during storms and flooding, leading to large spills and emissions events. More recently, the Houston-area ITC and KMCO fires highlighted yet again the lack of adequate performance standards.
Environmental Justice is, according to the EPA, “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” A 1994 Presidential Executive Order directs federal agencies to take steps to identify and address disproportionate environmental or health impacts on minority and low-income populations. However, at the federal, state, and local level there is no clear definition of what an environmental justice community is, which weakens potential implementation of the executive order. Meanwhile, a large body of literature and data show that race is the best predictor of how close you live to air pollution, including research based in Houston by Dr. Robert Bullard.