Sunday, November 25, 2007

Gov. Helmethair is also Gov. Smogbreath

Texas Gov. Rick Perry just hasn’t met a polluter or a pollutant he doesn’t like, as his handpicked Texas Commission on Environmental Quality tells the federal Environmental Protection Agency not to make the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex clean up its air, specifically its ozone.

Among Gov. Smogbreath’s more ludicrous arguments is that ozone doesn’t put people in the hospital.


Rick, you ever seen a severe asthma attack?

Rick, you wanna admit that a person in D/FW admitted (likely to Parkland) with a severe asthma attack is probably one of hundreds of thousands of children in this state without any, or adequate, medical insurance, another one of those measurement sticks where Texas ranks near the bottom of the nation?

Here’s the actual TCEQ bullshit:

Starting with Ms. White's letter of April 19, the TCEQ has asserted that Texas’ pattern of asthma hospitalizations – peaking in winter, when ozone levels are low – shows that ozone doesn't send asthmatics to emergency rooms. That would contradict many studies that link ozone to hospital visits, and thus undermine the EPA proposal.

The asthma hospitalization pattern, TCEQ officials said, seems to be a uniquely Texan phenomenon, probably due to the state's combination of weather and emissions sources. Ms. White wrote to the EPA that the pattern was “an example of how Texas is different from the rest of the U.S.” and cited it as “indicating that ozone is not a significant contributor to asthma hospitalizations.”

The TCEQ’s Mr. Shanbacher repeated the argument at an EPA hearing in Houston on Sept. 5. TCEQ executive director Glenn Shankle’s formal comments on the EPA plan, dated Oct. 9, also cited it.

This would be laughable if not despicable. Anyway, here’s its detailed refutation:
Actually, the seasonal pattern has been found everywhere it's been studied – “in countries as environmentally, economically, culturally and socially different as Trinidad, Norway, Hong Kong, the United States, and England,” researchers wrote in a 2001 study published in BMC Health Services Research, a peer-reviewed online journal.

The winter-peak pattern is common knowledge among asthma researchers, said Dr. Eric Crighton, the study’s chief author. His paper cited more than a dozen other studies published since 1984 that found the same seasonal trend.

“Rural, urban – if you go to someplace like northern Ontario, where ozone is certainly not a problem, you'll find this same pattern,” said Dr. Crighton, assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of Ottawa. “You go to deserts, to unindustrialized [places] – you name it.”

The immediate cause of most winter asthma hospitalizations, he said, is almost certainly viruses, which spread among children when school starts and are then passed on to their families and others. Asthma hospitalizations match school dates so well, Dr. Crighton said, that it's possible to tell when semesters start by looking at admissions.

The winter asthma peak doesn't exonerate ozone at all, he said, because lung damage from long-term exposure to ozone, even in amounts once thought safe, puts asthmatics more at risk from other threats such as viruses.

Let’s throw a little further refutation from the EPA into the mix:
Dr. Henderson, the head of the EPA's ozone review panel, concurred. The panel members knew about the winter-peak asthma pattern when they called for a dramatically tighter ozone standard, she said.

“They took into consideration seasonal differences and co-pollutants and other confounders of the data,” Dr. Henderson said. “So the panel took those things into account in doing the analysis.”

Meanwhile, Texas Big Biz is all too willing to ride Gov. Smogbreath’s coattails, even as far as verbatim quotes of TCEQ statements in its own comments to the EPA:
Language identical to that in Mr. Schanbacher's September testimony later appeared in letters to the EPA from the Texas Association of Business on Oct. 8 and from the Association of Electric Companies of Texas on Oct. 9.

That includes this whopper:
Mr. Schanbacher said in an interview that he was not aware of a winter peak in asthma hospitalizations being found anywhere else. “I think other states don't keep as good hospital records as Texas,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Grover Norquist/Newt Gingritch talking points are also out in force. Perry and Texas Big Biz want the EPA to consider cost in setting new ozone standards, which is specifically not allowable under the Clean Air Act.

If nothing else, Perry, the state agencies and the Big Biz that dance to his tune have shown they’re as blatant and bald-faced in their lying as Gov. Smogbreath’s predecessor.

Who was that? Some guy who claimed he learned bipartisanship in Austin.

His name almost escapes me, but I can never forget an initial … W.

Rick, can I take you to one of TXI’s cement-production smokestacks in Midlothian, tie you to the top in January, and see how long it will take for you and TCEQ to quit talking about this winter asthma anomaly bullshit?