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Slick Vik

Houston ranked dirtiest city in nation

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You may have heard that Americans are pumping less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than we were a few years ago, which is great for mitigating climate change. But as Ben Adler pointed out in a post for Grist on Sunday, we still have a long way to go. CO2 isn’t the only greenhouse gas, and its often-overlooked “co-pollutants” have more immediate, localized effects on human health, particularly for poor communities and people of color.

 

During an address to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation last month, EPA chief Gina McCarthy pointed out that emissions of co-pollutants such as nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, sulfur oxide, and soot contribute to as many as one in 10 deaths in urban areas. “That is not acceptable,” she said.

“And we know that minorities are more likely to live near hazardous waste sites,” McCarthy added. “We know that respiratory and cardiac illnesses there are at a higher rate. For example, an African-American child is five times more likely than a white child to die from an asthma attack.”

It’s not news that large polluting factories are often concentrated in communities where people of color and of low-income are the primary, if not the exclusive inhabitants. But an EPA report released last week drives this point home. The report, which documents greenhouse gas emissions from large facilities in 2012, is accompanied by interactive maps showing where those facilities are located (at least the ones that actually report to the EPA).

Looking at those maps, I located five of the nation’s worst areas where waste processing plants, refineries, and power plants are bundled — much to the detriment of families living close by. (A factory icon represents a single large facility, while circled numbers indicate clusters of these facilities.)

 

houston-galveston.png?w=422&h=365

 

This picture says it all. From Houston to Galveston (in the lower right corner) to Port Arthur (just off the top right corner of the map), this is perhaps the most polluted, definitely the most clustered area in the nation. The Port Arthur area is where the Keystone XL pipeline would end, bringing tons of dirty tar sands and refinery waste to an already beleaguered community.

 

http://grist.org/cities/5-highly-polluted-urban-areas-you-dont-want-to-live-if-you-can-help-it/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=socialflow

Edited by Slick Vik

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From Houston to Galveston (in the lower right corner) to Port Arthur (just off the top right corner of the map), this is perhaps the most polluted, definitely the most clustered area in the nation.

Houston has refineries? Why wasn't I told about this?

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So we should outsource the jobs to China so they can deal with it right? I mean they already have the worst air quality in the world, but since it's not America let's just ignore that they are increasing their annual air pollution while we reduce ours. Ignorance is bliss.

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Houston has refineries? Why wasn't I told about this?

Wow, just wow. Air pollution doesn't matter as long as $$$ are flowing?

Edited by Slick Vik

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What is that single, large facility just north of Katy?

 

Katy compressor station owned by DCP Midstream, Spectra, and Phillips. 15,000 tons of CO2 emitted, which is lower end for that sort of thing.. Sort of pales in comparison to the Parish plant, which emitted 14.3 million tons. Follow the link to the grist.com piece, it has a link to the EPA site, or go here http://ghgdata.epa.gov/ghgp/main.do and have fun.

 

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Wow, just wow. Air pollution doesn't matter as long as $$$ are flowing?

 

CO2 doesn't really matter in this context, as it's not a pollutant.

 

As for plants being built next to minority areas, I think you will find that in many, if not most, cases, the plant was there first, and the less privileged moved near the plant because housing was cheap or available. Being poor definitely limits your choices, but the poor in the US live far better than the poor in just about any other part of the world.

 

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Wow, just wow. Air pollution doesn't matter as long as $$$ are flowing?

 

It's a statement that points out the obvious without providing any added value.  Some sort of action plan on how to reduce the pollution that is caused by refineries is noteworthy.  Instead, we got:

 

- Houston has refineries.  Refineries are dirty.

 

- Really, what do you suggest we do about it?

 

- Nothing, just wanted to point it out.

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Wow, just wow. Air pollution doesn't matter as long as $$$ are flowing?

 

Don't worry.  The switch to automated electic cars will clean up the air around Houston.

 

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Guest Jackwood

Unfortunately the internet will still be polluted.

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you know how the wind changes direction depending on if the land is warmer or if the water is warmer? what if their were regulations that the refineries and plants could only burn off dirty stuff during the time periods when the wind was blowing off shore, so its dumping the carbon emissions out into the ocean and not blowing inland, polluting the city?

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you know how the wind changes direction depending on if the land is warmer or if the water is warmer? what if their were regulations that the refineries and plants could only burn off dirty stuff during the time periods when the wind was blowing off shore, so its dumping the carbon emissions out into the ocean and not blowing inland, polluting the city?

That's great but how much pollution would the machines that control the weather emit?

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you know how the wind changes direction depending on if the land is warmer or if the water is warmer? what if their were regulations that the refineries and plants could only burn off dirty stuff during the time periods when the wind was blowing off shore, so its dumping the carbon emissions out into the ocean and not blowing inland, polluting the city?

I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that the LOE to bring a refinery offline is slightly higher than hitting a switch if the wind changes direction.

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you know how the wind changes direction depending on if the land is warmer or if the water is warmer? what if their were regulations that the refineries and plants could only burn off dirty stuff during the time periods when the wind was blowing off shore, so its dumping the carbon emissions out into the ocean and not blowing inland, polluting the city?

That's not how it works here. The prevailing wind is from the southeast, night or day unless a front changes it to the North. Most of the time, the wind is going to blow inland. Besides, chemical plants and refineries can't just shut down for half the time. It can take days to get some of the units started.

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Hmmm. This is a hot topic. Immediate benefits which usually equals jobs, dollars and growth for the community. Verses long term damage to citizens, the communities and the environment. Like so many things in this reality, I wish we could find a happy medium. It just seems to me the pendulum has to either swing radically in either direction, and ultimately, a long term solution is never reached. Having said that. Does anyone know what exactly is the air quality of Houston? Is there a study we could read and interpret? Are we better or worse off than say 10 or 20 years ago? I would like to think we have made some headway. I see that the govt is planting scores of trees all around Houston which does help absorb some of the carbon dioxide. Maybe, a small step is to start a movement where every Houstonian home owner plants a tree or bush in his/her lawn every year until it cannot sustain it, then work to plant trees, shrubs, etc in surrounding parks, green spaces etc. Listen, I am not so naive to think this is a stellar solution to a potentially catastrophic problem. I just think we all get overwhelmed with the problem, and small steps I feel are the answer.

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Hmmm. This is a hot topic. Immediate benefits which usually equals jobs, dollars and growth for the community. Verses long term damage to citizens, the communities and the environment. Like so many things in this reality, I wish we could find a happy medium. It just seems to me the pendulum has to either swing radically in either direction, and ultimately, a long term solution is never reached. Having said that. Does anyone know what exactly is the air quality of Houston? Is there a study we could read and interpret? Are we better or worse off than say 10 or 20 years ago? I would like to think we have made some headway. I see that the govt is planting scores of trees all around Houston which does help absorb some of the carbon dioxide. Maybe, a small step is to start a movement where every Houstonian home owner plants a tree or bush in his/her lawn every year until it cannot sustain it, then work to plant trees, shrubs, etc in surrounding parks, green spaces etc. Listen, I am not so naive to think this is a stellar solution to a potentially catastrophic problem. I just think we all get overwhelmed with the problem, and small steps I feel are the answer.

 

I think that there's a NIMBY aspect to this as well though.  Let's face the facts.  Houston is a city that was built on oil.  It's no different than how Chicago was built on the stockyards and Pittsburgh was built on steel.

 

Making that transition from being an oil town to truly being a world city is something that has been underway for 30 years now and will probably continue for another 30.  The elimination of refineries around the city is something that will have to happen over the course of years and possibly even decades. 

 

Do we want them there in the future?  No.  But we also have to remember that this city would have never have become the fourth largest city in the country without them.

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Houston is an industrial powerhouse.  That in and of itself will preclude us from ever being a "sparkling" clean metropolis.

 

We will never see the demise of the port and the subsequent refining operations strewn about Galveston Bay (the largest sheltered bay on the Gulf of Mexico).

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I saw that article, and I tend not to believe it's nearly as bad as they make it out to be as it's typical slide-show format, poorly researched linkbait crap.

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As someone who works in the environmental field, I'd like to use some of what people have said here as a touching off point for an issue of media and public attitude I just think is wrong-headed. I really dislike these ranking of "dirtiest city", "most polluted city," etc and how news articles report on them. The reporting often comes off as finger wagging at the cities identified, and certainly people who don't live in those cities use that information to feel smug about their own city being cleaner than the ones listed. They act as if the pollution is that city's fault and problem, when in the case of Houston at least, we suffer from pollution so that people in Charleston and Colorado Springs don't have to, yet they still get to have all the fuels and chemicals that we process and produce here. These activities create a lot of air emissions, wastewater, and solid waste that must be treated and disposed of here in the Houston area. Our pollution is their pollution, too, because it is the pollution created to make the critical materials that people in those cities as well as Houstonians have come to rely on. People in those cities need to stop being so smug and realize they have a responsibility for Houston pollution as long as they buy the products this city produces.

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