Today, Feb. 5, 2014, Dr. Elena Craft testified to the US House of Representatives about the poor quality of air in Texas. Her testimony included standards based on current peer-reviewed published research about the unhealthy presence of ozone, mercury and other air toxics and greenhouse gases. Craft is a scientist, adjunct professor, and Environmental Defense Fund health scientist. She points to research that asserts that currently over half of all Texans (57%), almost 15 million people, breathe air that does not meet current federal health based air quality standards for ozone that were set in 2008. This puts Texans at risk for a variety of severe health issues – asthma attacks, cardiac arrests, lung damage, and death. Read the full testimony.
Craft reported that “Texas was home to six of the top ten highest emitting coal plants for mercury and mercury compounds in the United States in 2012 and mercury emissions from Texas electric utilities have remained relatively consistent since 2001, even though seventeen other states have taken measures to reduce mercury from their power plants. Maryland, for example, passed the Healthy Air Act back in 2007, curbing mercury pollution by 80%.”
At apparent odds with the testimony is the reported decrease in ozone levels reported by the Texas commission on environmental quality which states that ozone levels have decreased 23 percent between 2000 and 2012. This decrease may be related to Federal changes in gas and auto standards. Texas does have a written plan to decrease air pollution, but it does not seem to address coal burning.
Craft reports that “Texas officials have continuously resisted clean air protections proposed by EPA, leaving Texans with unhealthy levels of air pollution and more carbon emissions than any other state in the nation. EDF believes Texas officials should work with EPA to implement the Clean Air Act and provide the vital clean air protections that Texans need.”
Since Texas is the biggest state in the union, one might expect that they would have more emissions than smaller states, but that does not explain the poor air quality as Texas ranks 26th in the nation in population density.