Communities Can Now Easily Combat Air Polluters with AirMail
“Pollution” can feel like a vague idea that isn’t tangible enough to action. How can we have cleaner air? Where is it happening? Who is doing the polluting? Better yet — How can I, as an individual, help prevent more pollution from happening?
AirMail is a free, web-based tool for Harris County residents to hold corporate polluters accountable. This tool developed by Air Alliance Houston and January Advisors tracks the status of pollution permits issued by corporate polluters to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in real time, allowing residents to take action independently. Corporate polluters go to the TCEQ to request permission to expand their pollution. More often than not, the TCEQ lets them, and doesn’t hold illegal activity accountable.
RELATED: REPORT: AS TCEQ SITS IDLE, POLLUTERS DOUBLE ILLEGAL AIR POLLUTION IN 2018 see also BIG LEAKS, LITTLE REGULATION
Pollution permit information in AirMail is automated to pull from eight different sources and is condensed into one interactive map for residents to navigate through. It doesn’t simply show pollution already happening, it shows upcoming permits that have a window of opportunity for public action.
Filters for this tool include:
- Public Action Deadline
- Program Area (pollution type)
- Industry Type
- Permit Number
- Notice type
- Public actions
After choosing a permit to action, residents can view more information on “Available Public Actions” on the right panel of the screen. If there is a chance to submit a public comment, it is linked. If Air Alliance Houston is already organizing around the permit, residents can learn more and join their community in preventing more pollution.
In order for the TCEQ to hold a public meeting, however, they must receive a request from a Texas legislator. The information to contact the appropriate legislator is also listed with the “Available Public Actions,” so residents can encourage the legislator to reach out to TCEQ and make the public meeting happen.
Environmental racism cannot be overlooked in this work. Capitalism doesn’t only place profits over people, with our country’s intense history and current presence of white supremacy, capitalism also supports corporate polluters in harming Black and Brown neighborhoods. From the cancer clusters in Baytown and Fifth Ward, to the high asthma rates in Galena Park and the increased cancer risk in Harrisburg/Manchester, these communities are disproportionately affected by the negligence of corporate polluters. As mentioned earlier, TCEQ, a government agency, does not hold corporate polluters accountable. And why would they? The capitalist system will consistently prioritize corporations over people.
RELATED: Chronic air pollution in Harris County is one example of environmental inequality in Texas
More About the Organizers
Air Alliance Houston and January Advisors did a joint webinar to discuss this new tool. This webinar is available to watch, click here.
Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit advocacy organization working for over 25 years to reduce the public health impacts of air pollution through applied research, education, and advocacy.
January Advisors is a data science consulting firm based in Houston, specializing in public and non-profit sector clients. This firm works on data analysis, visualization, and strategy projects.
There’s Even More Groups!
Not one individual or organization is alone in this work. This is not a full list other groups, but it is a good place to start.
- Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS)
- Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience (CEER)
- Texas Health and Environment Alliance (THEA) [Includes San Jacinto River Coalition, Cypress Community Coalition, and Northeast Houston Coalition]
- Houston Youth Climate Strike
- One Breath Partnership
- Environmental Defense Fund