Air Pollution

Ozone, or smog, is a dangerous pollutant that poses a serious threat to human health. It is not emitted directly into the air, but rather is created through a chemical reaction. Nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combine in the air and are heated by the sun to form ozone.

Sources of NOx and VOCs include: petrochemical refineries, chemical plants, construction equipment, power plants, breweries, restaurants and bakeries, dry cleaners, marine vessels, planes, trains, and automobiles. And yes: trees and plants also emit some of these chemicals.

In Houston, weather conditions are often perfect for the formation of ozone. Ozone is formed on warm, sunny days with little to no wind and no rain. The sea breeze coming from the Gulf of Mexico moves ozone pollution around the Houston region. Early morning winds come from the Northwest carrying pollution from the Houston Ship Channel (where large concentrations of NOx and VOCs have been measured) and push these pollutants out to sea. When the afternoon temperature heats up, the winds switch direction and move clockwise, carrying pollution north of the city. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has measured high ozone levels in areas like Fort Bend County.
Air Alliance Houston – Air Pollution 101

Solutions:

  • Do a feasibility study on prohibiting diesel cars within city limits similar to other international cities
  • Raise the tax on fuel sold within city limits
  • Raise a tax on diesel motors sold within city limits

Texas Constitution
Code – Health and Safety Code
Chapter – 382 Clean Air Act

Texas Tribune – Texas Anti Idling Rules are Due for an Update

Houston Chronicle – City of Houston fights for right to keep enforcing air quality ordinances

Houston Chronicle – Thousands of pounds of toxins released from Pasadena plant

Houston Chronicle – Houston council approves anti-idling law

Houston Press – Does Houston Have the Right to Enforce Clean Air Laws? The Texas Supreme Court Will Decide

Texas Observer – Texas Supreme Court Blocks Houston Air Quality Ordinance

Newsweek – Drivers Exposed to 29 Times More Air Pollution While Stopped at Red Lights, Study Finds

Next City – Could U.S. Cities Gain Control Over Airport Pollution?

Next City – Living Among Warehouses, Community Fights to Breathe

National Institutes of Health – Houston’s Novel Strategy to Control Hazardous Air Pollutants: A Case Study in Policy Innovation and Political Stalemate

San Antonio Business Journal – San Antonio one step closer to being listed in violation of clean air laws

City Lab – Portland’s Answer to Climate Denial? Local Action

City Lab – 6 Big European Cities With Plans to Go Car-Free

NPR – Shell Agrees to Pay Over $115 Million to Settle Clean Air Act Violations in Houston

Texas Public Radio – San Antonio City Council Passes Anti Idling Ordinance

Dallas Observer – Why Dallas Can’t Strengthen Anti Idling Rules

Texas Observer – Report: Lax Enforcement, Loopholes Lead to Few Consequences for Polluters

National Institute for Health – Case study of municipal air pollution policies: Houston’s Air Toxic Control Strategy under the White Administration, 2004-2009

Dallas News – Little-known Texas loophole lets railroads export pollution to other states

Upworthy – Beijing banned cars for 2 weeks and the sky turned perfectly blue. Guess what happened the next day?

The Guardian – Four of world’s biggest cities to ban diesel cars from their centres

The Guardian – Tax new diesel cars up to £5,000 to cut pollution, says report

The Intercept – A Legacy of Environmental Racism