Air Quality

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Texas is suing Exxon Mobil for alleged environmental violations following a fire that broke out last week at one of the company's Houston-area plants.

Residents Fret About Chemical Plant Fire, Despite Assurances

Mar 22, 2019
The Deer Park Fire Department at the Intercontinental Terminals Company facility fire in Deer Park, Texas on Tuesday.
Deer Park Fire Department

Kristin Crump and her two kids put damp cloths over their mouths on Thursday for the short walk from their suburban Houston front door to their car, defying an order to remain inside because of dangerous fumes coming from burned-out petrochemical tanks a couple of miles away.

Benzene Warning Lifted Near Houston-Area Petrochemical Plant

Mar 21, 2019
A plume of smoke above Intercontinental Terminal Company's Deer Park, Texas facility on Tuesday.
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

Residents near a petrochemical storage terminal in the Houston suburb of Deer Park were warned to shelter in place for several hours on Thursday after elevated levels of benzene were detected in the air. The warning was lifted around noon after air-quality readings improved, but health officials said air monitoring will continue as firefighters and company officials work to stop any risk of a flare-up and to clean up the site.

A plume of smoke above Intercontinental Terminal Company's Deer Park, Texas facility on Tuesday.
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

A fire that broke out at a petrochemical storage facility over the weekend in the industrial Houston suburb of Deer Park has been extinguished, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday morning.

Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

Authorities say a plume of pitch-black smoke from a fire at a Houston-area petrochemicals terminal is traveling thousands of feet into the atmosphere and lessening concerns about air quality in the region.

Fire At Petrochemical Facility Outside Houston Isn't Dangerous, Company And Texas Officials Say

Mar 18, 2019
Florian Martin / Houston Public Media

Chemicals detected from a fire at a Deep Park petrochemical storage facility do not represent a public health concern, according to the company that owns the facility.

KUT News

Texas children are suing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, claiming the TCEQ should have to protect the quality of the air the same way it’s required to protect the quality of water.

As part of a nationwide movement, the youth are asking the agency to protect water under the public trust doctrine – the historic idea that the state is responsible for the quality of a shared resource.

flickr.com/pyxopotamus

The State of Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency have been battling over air permits for years. But now it looks like there's an official agreement between the two.

This week the EPA announced its final approval of revisions to the state's permitting program for "major air pollution sources." But "final" may be something of a misnomer, because the two sides actually announced an agreement on the program way back in June.

KUT News' pals at StateImpact Texas covered the announcement then. Here's a little bit from their report:

So what are the changes exactly? Under the PALS program, emissions monitoring is done on specific units at each site under an overall emissions cap, as opposed to a blanket site-wide cap with no specific unit monitoring as before. “Even though they create some flexibility for those units, they don’t allow you to cover an entire site with pollution limits,” Soward says. The EPA also says the new program requires continuous monitoring.

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT

Did you see the Space Shuttle Endeavor fly over Austin this morning? Send us a picture to news@kut.org. Here's a look at what else is happening in the area:

Central Texas Ozone Watch

The Clean Air Force of Central Texas is predicting “Level Orange” ozone levels for today. The areas affected by this Ozone Watch include Hays, Travis, Williamson, Caldwell and Bastrop Counties.

According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Air Quality Index, Austin’s air quality is currently “good."

Individuals with chronic lung disease, the elderly and young children are particularly sensitive to ground-level ozone. They should attempt to avoid exposure by minimizing exertion outdoors today.

The Clean Air Force of Central Texas encourages everyone to reduce air pollution by carpooling or riding the bus, tuning up vehicles and waiting to refuel until after 6 p.m.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Resigns

A Texas Supreme Court Justice is resigning and will go into private law practice in Austin.

Environmental Protection Agency

You could call it a win for Texas officials in their ongoing battle against the Environmental Protection Agency.

A federal appeals court decided this morning the EPA went beyond its authority with a cross-state air pollution rule. The rule would have clamped down on power plant pollution that affects air quality in neighboring states. It was set to go in effect in January but several states, including Texas, sued to stop it.

Attorney General Greg Abbott is leading the charge for Texas against the EPA. He issued this statement about today's ruling:

Map created by NPR, CPI, and StateImpact

Today, NPR, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and StateImpact launched a new series investigating air pollution and regulation across the country. The series is entitled, "Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities." StateImpact has more on the project on its website.

Photo courtesy Valero

The federal Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday proposed scaling back some requirements of its cross-state rule for reducing air pollution — a rule that has incited the fury of Texas officials including Gov. Rick Perry.

Photo by bondidwhat http://www.flickr.com/photos/bondidwhat/

As temperatures soar into the 100s again this summer in Austin, many homeowners will be cranking up their air conditioners. However, unknown to many, the desirable, cooler air they’re breathing could be harmful.

Richard Corsi, a professor at the University of Texas who studies air quality, notices that many U.S. homeowners, particularly those living in warm climates, are sealing up their houses by fixing cracks around their windows, replacing old weather strips, and so on.