New EPA Soot Limits Could Affect Houston the Most

A new EPA proposal that would set new, tougher standards for particulate matter in the air might leave the Houston area scrambling to comply. The rules would reduce the amount of soot that's allowed in the air.

The new air quality standards could impact cities like Houston the most. With a busy, growing port lined with refineries, particulate matter like soot is a big problem here. Currently, the highest level of soot in the air along the ship channel is just above what the EPA is proposing as a limit.

Matthew Tejada with Air Alliance Houston and says the Houston area might have a hard time complying by 2020.

“I actually think it might be a little bit short-sighted to say that the Houston area is going to be fine. I actually think that we have a lot of work in front of us, work that we can do and work that we can achieve a positive result out of, both for the economy and for public health and the environment if we start having this conversation.”

Tejada says the new rules could also help push an improved particulate monitoring system in the Houston area.

“We used to have quite an extensive particulate matter monitoring network in the Houston-area and the vast majority of those monitors were shut down about a decade ago. We really need to get back out there into the communities around these heavy shipping areas and heavily industrialized areas to try to monitor and find out exactly what are the levels that are impacting human health in these residential areas near shipping corridors.” 

The EPA says the new rules could save millions of dollars in health care-related costs. The agency says it expects 99 percent of counties nationwide will have no trouble meeting the new standards.