The Environmental Protection Agency held a hearing today regarding their propose to downgrade Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth and San Antonio's air quality designation. Our Clean Air and Water Advocate Michael Lewis delivered the following testimony:
"Thank you, for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Michael Lewis, I am the Clean Air and Water Advocate for Environment Texas, a non-partisan non-profit organization that advocates for clean air and water, parks and wildlife, and a livable climate.
For me, this topic hits home. A close member of my family moved her husband and children to Houston over a decade ago to take advantage of the city’s economy and culture. They loved living there. They took their son to NASA for field trips, they were close enough to Galveston for beach days, and they enjoyed everything else that one of the world’s major metro centers had to offer. A few years after they moved, their son developed fairly severe respiratory issues. His already existing asthma had worsened to the point where he was missing school regularly. He had constant appointments with doctors to find relief, costing her and her husband time and money as well as more time away from school for him. Eventually, the doctors suggested that Houston’s air may have been responsible for my nephew’s failing health. Unlike so many residents, they were privileged enough to move out of the greater Houston area for their son’s health. Since they relocated, his health issues haven’t completely cleared, but he is much healthier. She says that while she still misses the city, but couldn’t move back.
While this is anecdotal, the impacts of higher ozone levels are well documented. As the EPA points out, ground-level ozone causes a host of respiratory consequences, ranging from coughing, wheezing and throat irritation to asthma, increased risk of infection, and permanent damage to lung tissue. Studies also consistently report associations between short-term ozone exposures and mortality rates. The effects disproportionately hurt our most vulnerable citizens; children, the elderly, and lower income families.
Environment Texas supports the EPA proposal to redesignate the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria areas ozone nonattainment designations from marginal to severe and San Antonio’s nonattainment designation from marginal to moderate without delay. We also believe that EPA should reject Texas’ request for a one year extension.
These actions would trigger more stringent pollution controls for over five million citizens. By adjusting their nonattainment statuses, these areas would have to increase emission controls for stationary and mobile sources, something the state of Texas has been fighting against for years. We believe that this hearing represents an important first step taken by the EPA in holding the state accountable for the air that our citizens breathe.
Given the damaging effects of air pollution in our three largest cities, EPA must take swift and decisive action to require the state of Texas to clean up our air. Specifically, Environment Texas believes that in the Houston and San Antonio areas, the EPA should require additional pollution controls on the W.A. Parish and J.K Spruce Power Plants respectively. Large polluters outside of non-attainment areas such as the Martin Lake Steam Station, which is by any standards one of the most polluting in the nation and affects the Dallas area, must also have additional regulation. The EPA should also ensure pollution controls on Houston’s refineries adopt similar emission controls. Finally, all three areas would benefit greatly from improved transit planning, and a move towards electric vehicles for city fleets and county operations.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide these comments, and I look forward to the EPA’s action to further protect Texans."