How long should children have to wait for clean air? Their entire childhood and beyond? How much should families have to shoulder the cost in money and health before industry steps up and stops polluting? How long can Houston area industry skirt around their responsibility for toxic emissions?
Well, the answer thus far is 30 years and counting.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on January 31st that Houston did not meet limits on smog-forming pollution. These limits were put in place in 1979. According to the Houston Chronicle, upwards of 300 chemical plants and industrial facilities in the area could face hefty fines for not meeting the limits. And federal law allows fines to be collected until the standard is met. But the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which would implement the penalty program, has not yet published procedures for how to collect the fines. The TCEQ has to re-evaluate the penalty program. Industry, of course, wants the penalties considered against their economic impact. This all means that it will take more time for the standards to be implemented, and more pollution for the residents of Houston.
Houston leads the nation as the city with the most severe ozone problem. CleanAirHouston.org says Houston has earned a number of dismal titles. Houston can boast the highest single measurement of ozone pollution on the country; most days exceeding the 1-hr ozone standard; and a third most days exceeding the 8-hr standard. Experts find that our summer months bring an ozone concentration that is two to three times higher than the government standard. That means running or jogging in Houston is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day!
Thirty years of illegal pollution has led us to this. Thirty years is too long. This is the conclusion the Sierra Club acted upon when they brought suit against the EPA for failing to enforce the Clean Air Act in Texas. The EPA’s determination of Houston’s clean air shortfalls has come almost six month after a settlement was reached last fall.
Yes, thirty years is a long time. It’s over two-thirds of my own life–the span of my marriage, the birth of all five of my children—graduations and college, 16 re-locations and two careers! Someone born in Houston 30 years ago and raised here doesn’t even know what it’s like to live in healthy air. If that 30 year-old Houstonian has children, and her children have asthma, she may not even know that her children could have been asthma-free if they lived in a less polluted place.
We’ve waited long enough! Join Mom’s Clean Air Force and sign our petition for strong clean air regulations. Please lend your voice to the call for action NOW.