Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Pollution should be addressed at source

By the Advocate Editorial Board
June 28, 2014 at 1:28 a.m.

Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency have had a rocky relationship. Our pro-business and industry state has fought new regulations in a court battle that went all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Victoria is facing its own problems with the EPA's emissions regulations. Our area has been in non-attainment in the past and found a way to reduce emissions to meet the national standard. Now, the EPA is considering lowering the acceptable amount of emissions again, which would likely put Victoria and other areas of the Crossroads back in non-attainment.

The EPA uses a yearly and a 24-hour average to determine if an area meets attainment standards, according to the EPA website. However, the amount of emissions and pollution in the area's atmosphere may not be entirely the fault of local plants, businesses and residents. Cyril Durrenberger, a research scientist at the Center for Energy and Environmental Resources at the University of Texas at Austin, has collected air samples near regional plants such as the Coleto Creek power plant and other sites in Cuero and Inez, and his research shows that only about 10 percent of ozone is emitted by Victoria sources. The rest blows in from other areas.

The EPA website has this to say about non-attainment areas: "The Clean Air Act defines a non-attainment area as the area that is violating the national ambient air quality standard or a nearby area that is contributing to a violation of the PM2.5 standards." PM2.5 is an abbreviation for particulate matter made up of particles less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, which are believed to pose the greatest health risks.

That means the Clean Air Act makes it possible for action to be taken if emissions and pollution produced in other areas forces the Victoria region into non-attainment. If Durrenberger's research is accurate, that means the majority of the pollution in our atmosphere is blowing in from places such as Houston, Corpus Christi or even further away on air currents. Victoria can't do anything about ozone passing through our area from other sources. If the EPA truly wants to reduce harmful emissions, it should find the source instead of penalizing the area where the ozone ends up.

We understand the environment, especially a clean atmosphere, is an important resource that must be protected. But the eagerness to protect our air should not overrule common sense when it comes to carrying out the law. There are certainly steps that the Victoria area can continue to take and improve to reduce emissions in our area, but action should also be taken to reduce the amount of pollution being poured into our area from outside.

If the EPA truly wants to reduce emissions, it must go to the source.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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