Texas Latinos face greater health risks from pollution-related diseases, study finds
Latinos would have a higher risk of disease and death without the standards and would be affected more than other groups because they’re more likely to live in polluted areas, according to a report released by five groups. Asthma, bronchitis, organ damage and death rates would increase among the 39 percent of Latinos who live within 30 miles of a power plant and the one in two Latinos who live in the nation’s top 25 ozone-polluted cities such as Houston and Dallas, the report said.
“Protecting our children and communities from smog and air toxics must be taken seriously. With the health of so many at risk, we can no longer ignore the science,” the report said. “The EPA must strengthen the smog standard and set mercury and air toxics standards to the levels recommended by the agency’s science advisors.”
The report identifies eight states that contain 75 percent of the nation’s Hispanic population and would suffer the most without tougher rules. The largest of the eight are California and Texas. Thirty-eight percent of Texas’ 25.1 million people and 38 percent of California’s 37.3 million people are of Latino or Hispanic origin, according to 2010 census data.
The report was written by the National Latino Coalition on Climate Change, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for American Progress and the National Wildlife Federation, and released with the National Hispanic Medical Association. It comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s announcement in early September that he would delay a rule to toughen ozone standards, and as Republicans in Congress have pushed to weaken, delay or block EPA pollution rules.
The Obama administration decided to delay the ozone standards until at least 2013 after pressure from Republicans and business groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which praised the president for delaying the standards, had said they would have cost the nation as many as 7.3 million jobs by 2020.
“Leaving the current standard in place — the policy of choice of large, polluting industries — means more lives lost and more asthma attacks, suffering that Latinos will greatly bear,” the report said.
House Republicans have pushed to delay or block a host of EPA rules. Last week a House subpanel approved bills to delay and weaken rules reducing toxic emissions from cement plants and industrial boilers. The House Energy and Commerce Committee will mark up the bills Wednesday.
Some Republicans such as Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, have said utilities will struggle to meet the January 2012 start date of an EPA rule that will limit emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide from power plants in 27 states, including Texas. EPA says the emissions can harm health across state lines and the rule’s projected $120 billion to $280 billion in benefits to public health in 2014 will outweigh its $800 million in projected costs that year.
The rule could reduce Texas’ electricity capacity, putting a state suffering from record high temperatures and droughts at risk of service blackouts and “placing Texans’ health and safety in jeopardy,” Olson wrote in a letter to Obama on Sept. 14 in asking him to delay or reverse the upcoming rule. Olson cited Dallas-based Luminant Generation Co., which recently announced it would cut 500 jobs and close two units at one of its coal power plants because it couldn’t meet the rule’s January 2012 start date.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry also has vocally criticized the emissions rule, calling it an example of “burdensome regulations based on assumptions, not facts, that will result in job losses and increased energy costs with no definite environmental benefit.”
The state’s nitrous oxide levels decreased 58 percent its ozone levels decreased 27 percent from where they were in 2000, more than any other state, the governor’s office said.
“The air Texans breathe today is cleaner than it was in 2000, even as our population has grown by nearly 4.3 million,” Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Perry, said in an emailed statement.
Gina McCarthy, EPA’s top air-pollution official, said on Thursday that utilities can choose among several options that already exist to meet the new standards, and that they don’t need to comply until 14 months after the rule’s start. EPA won’t “force the lights to go out” in Texas, McCarthy told a House panel.