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Curriculum: Agriculture: Energy & Environmental Technology [ 119.22(c)(7)]

The Texas Legacy site hosts a variety of educational curricula, lesson plans, keys and ideas, and supporting media, including video, databases, transcripts and other material.  Below you can find the TEKS Agriculture standards for Energy and Environmental Technology, particularly Air Quality as described in section 119.22(c)(7), with relevant activities drawn from this archive.

Goal:  The student describes air quality improvement:

  

Excerpts of TEKS Text

TexasLegacy.org  Relevance

Suggested Activities

 

(A)  discuss air quality standards;

 

 

 

 

 

Students can view many TexasLegacy.org materials related to air quality standards, policies, pollution sources, and control programs.

 

Air quality standards come in several types:  indoor air quality, outdoor ambient air quality, and air pollution emissions.

Most attention on indoor air quality has been focused on second-hand tobacco smoke, though other important concerns include radon, volatile organics (especially from paint fumes), molds from damp conditions, and carbon monoxide and particulates from heating and cooking.  Green building advocates, such as Pliny Fisk and Gail Vittori, have worked to improve indoor air quality.

Outdoor ambient air quality standards come in two categories:  "criteria" or "conventional" (ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide,  particulate matter, and lead),  and "toxic" pollution (acetaldehyde, benzene, 1,3-butadiene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic organic matter).  Some of the pollutants, such as ozone, are sampled at different intervals (1-hour and 8-hour) to catch spikes and general trends.  The overall goal is for airsheds to come into "attainment", or compliance with the federal conventional standards via a mix of programs under the rubric of a State Implementation Plan.  Failure to be in attainment can jeopardize state receipt of federal funding, particularly highway revenues.  Interestingly, legally mapped airsheds can ignore the very real long-range transport of air pollution from outside the airshed, and make attainment of air quality standards very difficult (please watch the video with NASA remote sensing specialist, Kamlesh Lulla).

 

 

(B)  list policies relating to air quality;

   

Many air quality standards relate to health protection, whether from acute effects, such as asthma attacks, or from chronic disease, such as asbestosis, black lung, or cancer.  Health concerns have been raised about air emissions from petrochemical plants (please listen to the reactions of the Beaumont minister, Rev. Roy Malveaux).  Health problems stemming from utilities have also received attention (please consider remarks from San Antonio organizer, T.C. Calvert).  Health concerns from  waste incineration have also been brought up (please see Midlothian landowner, Sue Pope, and Port Arthur wastewater technician, Alfred Dominic)

Some air quality standards hinge on aesthetics, such as the Class I area designation given to most national parks and wilderness areas, with the goal of protecting visibility.  This is a particular concern in Big Bend National Park which has long enjoyed spectacular visibility, even to 200-mile ranges.  Unfortunately for park visitors, and for astronomers at the nearby McDonald Observatory, visibility has been declining due to long-range transport from utility plants and other air pollution sources.  In her transcript, Fran Sage discusses the visibility issue in west Texas.

A rapidly evolving air quality policy concerns climate change.  There are deep worries that additions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases are causing the climate to warm, with consequences such as melting of ice caps and glaciers, rises in sea level, increases in hurricane force, and shifting of drought zones.  While there is a scientific consensus on the connection between man's carbon emissions and climate change, there is still hesitancy in our industrial and political leadership, as of this writing (see cartoonist Ben Sargent's humorous poke at the situation).

 

 

(C)  identify sources and effects of air and noise pollution; and

 

TexasLegacy.org narrators can act as guides for students to understand the diverse, and non-obvious sources and effects of air and noise pollution.  Please see the text and links to the right to get started.

 

Sources of noise pollution can be as small and yet as pervasive and persistent as a alarm clock, TV blaring, or dog barking (please think about naturalist John Ahrns' remarks).  While these little beeps, murmurs, and barks can be irritating, the effects from a large neighboring power plant  can be distracting to the point of disrupting people's study, work and rest (please consider the views of health advocate Sylvia Herrera in her talk about the Holly Power Plant in east Austin).

Sources of air pollution are seldom the belching smoke from a towering stack anymore - increasingly the pollution is invisible, and may come via leaks from a thousand small valves and vents (please consider George Smith's comments).  The effects of air pollution are understood to be large, whether chronic asthma or early death from cancers (please see the video of Channelview realtor LaNell Anderson lamenting the many estimated deaths due to air pollution).  However, the toxicological research has frequently not been done to isolate the effects from particular industrial chemicals (please watch the segment with Galveston toxicologist Marvin Legator).  Also, the epidemiological data are also sketchy (please look at the visit with Houston pathologist David Marrack).

 

 

(D)  list air pollution control programs.

 

 

Air pollution comes from many sources, with the mix among the sources varying among  communities and airsheds.  Please consider the many TexasLegacy.org narrators in their local reactions to their air pollution problems and answers.

 

Air pollution emissions are typically divided into two kinds of sources:  mobile and stationary, or, in other words, vehicles and industrial plants

In mobile sources, work has focused on improving fuels (removing lead from gasoline and sulfur from diesel), increasing fuel efficiency (through CAFE standards), and installing catalytic converters (to reduce carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides).  As editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent points out, improving fuel efficiency and reducing vehicle use through mass transit are of course major goals as well in lowering mobile pollution.

In stationary or industrial sources, efforts have concentrated on market-based trading programs to reduce sulfur and nitrogen emissions that lead to acid rain, New Source Review permits for new facilities, and operating permits for existing facilities. In most parts of the state, mobile sources tend to dominate the pollution mix, but in industrial areas such as Houston, stationary sources are the leading factor.

The trading in emissions has raised concerns that pollution is not uniformly being regulated among all communities, but rather is being emitted according to the age of the facility and the cost of pollution reductions.  please watch the segment with Houston pollution inspector Brandt Mannchen, as he discusses the difference between this market system and the more traditional "command-and-control" regulation, where emissions are set on the basis of industry technology and health effects.

Pollution emissions from stationary sources are regulated under self-reported data, and through periodic inspections.  Please see the excerpt from the interview with Houston advocate George Smith, where he explains how the self-reporting system can break down. 

Regulation of air pollution from industrial  accidents, commonly called "upsets", has also lagged.  Industrial facilities sometimes have problems in their process or pollution control equipment, and have to release poorly treated emissions.  Pasadena petrochemical worker, Steve Smith recalls a major explosion and fire at a Houston Ship Channel plant, killing 22 people, and releasing tons of unregulated emission.  Rev. Roy Malveaux recalls another set of explosions in Corpus Christi's Refinery Row.

Air pollution control is a very costly business, whether in fitting out a new automobile model with suitable equipment, or in installing new scrubbers on an industrial plant.  As a result, air pollution control programs tend to be very political, whether at the grassroots level (see activist T.C. Calvert's comments) or in the boardrooms of agencies and corporations (see former EPA administrator Adlene Harrison's clip).

 

 


 
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2007