Our Commitment to Environmental Justice
Owing in part to a large industrial footprint, a car-centered culture, and lax enforcement of unauthorized emissions, the Houston region has never met federal standards. This failure to protect our regional air quality has hit communities of color particularly hard, affecting health, quality of life and equity of opportunity.
For over fifteen years, Houston Endowment has funded efforts to support reductions in ambient air pollutant levels and to protect the health of the residents of greater Houston.
Our work has focused on investments in a suite of strategies centered around policy and practice change, community advocacy, and narrative change. These efforts have laid an important foundation for a significant infusion of resources that will act as a springboard toward cleaner air for everyone, every day.
In 2020, we made a commitment of $5 million to further this important work and enable our grantees to respond nimbly to a range of important opportunities and challenges. For example, a series of recent chemical fires in our region has heightened public concern about air quality. Industrial facility expansions underway along the Houston Ship Channel present a chance to employ up-to-date strategies to minimize pollution. At the same time, in partnership with our grantees, local officials have expressed increased willingness to take meaningful action to reduce emissions. And, underscoring the urgency of the moment, research indicates that longtime exposure to air pollution may increase the risk for poor outcomes from COVID-19 infections.
Our grantee partners include Air Alliance Houston, Environmental Defense Fund, Public Citizen, Environmental Integrity Project, and Lone Star Legal Aid. We also provide support for the One Breath Partnership (Environmental Defense Fund, Air Alliance Houston, Public Citizen, Environment Texas, Environmental Integrity Project, and Rice University), and the Healthy Port Communities Coalition (Air Alliance Houston, Achieving Community Tasks Successfully (ACTS), Coalition of Community Organizations, East Harris County Empowerment Council, Public Citizen and Texas Health and Environmental Alliance).
As we take this moment to act, it is important to recognize that our grantees’ successes over the last fifteen years have positioned us to maximize impact in the years ahead. This success has never been more essential, and we hope that others—including decision-makers, funders, and the public alike—will join us.
We are proud to support this work, and we look forward to what is to come.
Keeping Concrete Batch Plants out of Neighborhoods
Air Alliance Houston and Lone Star Legal Aid worked alongside community members to halt construction of concrete batch plants in the residential areas of Acres Homes and Aldine, while the One Breath Partnership spotlighted these stories to a regional audience.
Strengthening Industrial Permits To Reduce Emissions
As the area’s petrochemical and refining complex expands, the Environmental Integrity Project has led efforts to ensure that the operating permits for new and expanding industrial facilities incorporate practices to minimize air pollution.
Boosting the Local Response to Pollution Events
Following a series of fires at area chemical plants, local advocates encouraged Harris County to substantially increase its emergency response infrastructure and to partner with the City of Houston to better coordinate air monitoring and enforcement.
Building an Air Monitoring Network in Pleasantville
A partnership between ACTS (Achieving Community Tasks Successfully) and the Environmental Defense Fund resulted in the installation of the state’s largest community-owned air monitoring system in the Pleasantville community.
Exposing Texas’s Air Pollution Enforcement Record
The Environmental Integrity Project found that the State of Texas imposed penalties on only 3% of illegal air pollution during a five-year period. This prompted state and local officials to consider strategies to boost enforcement of environmental laws.
Spotlighting the Pollution Impacts of Hurricane Harvey
Following Hurricane Harvey, the One Breath Partnership engaged local, state, and national media to spotlight the environmental consequences of the disaster, which spurred public officials to take action against polluting facilities.
Targeting State Funds to Reduce Emissions
Several partners—including Public Citizen, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Healthy Port Communities Coalition—built support to ensure that the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan was extended, fully funded, and addressed key emissions sources in non-attainment areas like Houston.
Reducing Emissions at Oil Refineries
Initiated by the Environmental Integrity Project, Houston Endowment grantees and their partners spurred the United States Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen air monitoring and to revise rules that will measurably reduce toxic emissions from oil refineries.
Enacting Anti-Idling Ordinances
Over the course of several years, Air Alliance Houston, with support from the Healthy Port Communities Coalition, led successful campaigns to encourage the cities of Houston, Galena Park, and Jacinto City to enact anti-idling ordinances on heavy-duty diesel vehicles. The Environmental Defense Fund spurred the adoption of a similar policy at the Port of Houston.
Quantifying the Link Between Air Pollution and Health
In partnership with the City of Houston, Rice University researchers identified the first evidence of a clear time- and location-specific association between air pollution and cardiac arrest.
Strengthening Texas’s Environmental Enforcement Agency
Led by Public Citizen, a coalition of organizations from across the state successfully advocated for meaningful changes to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality during its every-12-years state Sunset Review.
Incentivizing Clean Vehicles at the Port of Houston
The Environmental Defense Fund partnered with Port Houston and the Houston-Galveston Area Council to secure over $10 million in federal funds to reduce emissions from vehicles operating in and around the Port.
We are taking this moment to act, to ensure clean air for everyone, every day, and we hope that others, including decision-makers, funders and the public alike, will join us.
We are proud to support this work and look forward to what is to come.