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State Using Helicopter to Monitor Emissions

In an effort to find under-reported emissions, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is flying a specially equipped helicopter in Houston’s airways. It’s not a science fiction movie, just a new study into Houston’s air pollution issues. Area residents may notice a small white helicopter hovering over certain areas, equipped with special technology to capture […]

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In an effort to find under-reported emissions, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is flying a specially equipped helicopter in Houston’s airways.

It’s not a science fiction movie, just a new study into Houston’s air pollution issues. Area residents may notice a small white helicopter hovering over certain areas, equipped with special technology to capture pictures of what the human eye can’t see. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Spokesman Terry Clawson says a new infrared camera will be mounted on the helicopter. The camera can detect volatile organic compounds, or VOCS, that are invisible to the eye.

The HAWK camera documents VOCs like gasoline vapors or methane in the form of a dark cloud. It also documents the time and location of the emission so the TCEQ can keep records. Clawson says they hope to use the information to work closely with the petro-chemical industry on how to reduce emissions in industrial areas.

The camera will also be mounted on a boat as well as land vehicles and some stationary stations. It’s a $100,000 effort that’s part of a larger study underway throughout the eastern half of Texas.

During the study period, Clawson says the companies exhibiting high emissions won’t be under the threat of sanctions or enforcement. But he couldn’t rule out the possibility of the camera being used for those kind of measures in the future.

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Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

News Director

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez leads news coverage for Houston Public Media across broadcast and digital platforms. Ramirez is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Before becoming News Director, Ramirez held the position of Executive Producer for Daily News, leading daily and breaking news coverage, helping...

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