Public Citizen Calls on Texas to Fund Air Quality Monitoring Resources for the Next Natural Disaster

Feb. 26, 2019

Public Citizen Calls on Texas to Fund Air Quality Monitoring Resources for the Next Natural Disaster

Statement of Adrian Shelley, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Note: On Monday, the Texas House Appropriations Subcommittee on Articles VI/VII/VIII declined to provide funding for vehicles to conduct air quality monitoring after natural disasters such as hurricanes. Today, Public Citizen and its allies called on the subcommittee to fund this need. You can read the letter to members of the appropriations committee here (PDF).

The natural disaster that was Hurricane Harvey was followed on the Texas coast with another manmade disaster that threatened public health. More than 8 million pounds of air pollution were released – primarily from industrial plants shutting down because of flooding, power outages or lightning strikes – and their impact on local air quality was never fully appreciated. The state of Texas never conducted mobile air monitoring after Harvey, leaving it to environmental advocates to bring their own resources to assess the public health threat. After the storm, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) revealed that it needed additional resources to adequately monitor future storms.

Yesterday, the Texas House Appropriations Subcommittee on Articles VI/VII/VIII declined an opportunity to provide that funding. While the subcommittee did allocate much-needed funds for air monitoring equipment – for which we thank subcommittee members – it did not allocate $947,500 for vehicle upgrades. Today, Public Citizen and its allies representing 17 public health and environmental advocacy organizations across Texas call on (PDF) the subcommittee to allocate these funds.

Texas’ next natural disaster does not have to become a public health crisis. Allocating resources to TCEQ air monitoring will help Texas minimize future risks and protect the public. We are calling on the subcommittee members to do so today.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., with an office in Austin, Texas.