Author Archives: donnalhoffman

Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline Delayed!!! Wow.

US officials representing President Obama and the State Department today heralded the beginning of the Age of Aquarius and a beautiful harvest moon tonight by announcing that they have delayed any decision about the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline!!!    Wow.

I still have a land line.  I got a phone message today from my wonderful Sierra Club activist friend Sally Osterling in Maryland.  She was ebullient.   And I knew to post here to Thank and Congratulate Sierra Club and our allies!

This is Sally from the Northland.  I could not wait to say this.  You may have heard already.

The pipeline decision has definitely been postponed for further environmental inspection of the whole thing.  It will not happen in the near future. Ha ha!  I’m just so excited!

It was absolutely great on Sunday!  Ha ha!  We could have wrapped around that…ha ha ha… we could have wrapped around at least twice and maybe twice and a half times around the White House. Ha ha ha ha ha!  There were so many of us!  It was just fabulous!  And we felt such synchronicity with the Occupy movement.  That Occupy movement is changing things.  Oh my goodness!  Its very, very exciting!

Love and moonlight to everyone!  Its good to hear hope so vibrantly alive and laughing in a determined friend’s joy.



Seven amazing years!

Hello my environmental warrior friends!

 After seven amazing years with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, I’m peddling over to a position with Bike Texas beginning October 17.  I’m looking forward to offering bike safety curriculum to college and university campuses for their incoming freshmen and going on legislative rides with Senator Rodney Ellis during session!

Working with the Sierra Club has been a wonderful experience in so many ways — collaborations with brilliant and engaged leaders – Ken and the staff and volunteers of Sierra Club and our many partner groups across the state and nation; a robust publication schedule with a keen audience in the reporting community and a diverse readership of activists, officials, and industry; opportunities for creative expression and coordinating with impassioned fellow Texans;  beautiful outings in special places that I might not have experienced were it not for my time with Sierra Club. 

 I’m grateful!

 Here is a slide show of some of my favorite moments on staff with Sierra Club.  If you don’t see yourself in this collection, please send me your favorite photo.

 I’m excited about the campaigns that Sierra Club is organizing around the state, happy the Club is building bridges to labor, people of color, and our next generation.  The work of Texas Living Waters continues to raise the awareness and practice of water conservation to a higher degree.  Wild lands efforts are protecting jewels like the Devil’s and Neches Rivers, the Christmas and Guadalupe mountains. With a lot of additional help from National Sierra Club, the Beyond Coal and Beyond Oil campaigns are addressing probably the biggest environmental challenge in our state – the burning of fossil fuels; while the Lone Star Chapter’s Clean Energy, Smart Transportation and Blue-Green Alliance campaigns are moving us forward in a positive direction. 

 At this transition, I want to send special shout outs to my buds in el eSTOP, URAC, and the Coastal Bend Sierra Club – que viva ALTURA!  Special shouts to my Texas Pecan Alliance friends; Shouts to the Golden Triangle Sierra Club and the Trail between the Lakes hikers; a shout out to the cosmos in memory of Paul Judice one of the kindest activists to greet me; Shouts to all the Sierra Club group leaders around the state who were showing up — some for the past three decades, and who keep showing up!  Shouts to the folks who made a big ‘Stop the Coal Rush’ rally happen in February 2007;   Shout to the outings leaders and to the Roll Beyond Coal bike riders, especially the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club who take it to the next level;  Shouts to our favorite legislators, county commissioners and city council members;  Shouts to everyone in the Alliance for a Clean Texas — Public Citizen, SEED, Environmental Integrity Project, Texas Impact, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Environment Texas, National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Clean Water Action and the awesome local groups; Shouts to the friends at National Environmental Law Center and Earthjustice; Shouts to the reporters, editors, photographers, and videograhers;  Shouts to the interns and office volunteers — including Hello Mary Beth Maher and Annette Stachowitz!; Shout outs to my comrades Ken, Jerome, Neil, Cyrus, Jennifer, Tyson, Oliver, Eva, Jen, Lydia, Flavia, Dave, Kari, Stephanie, Karissa, and Jared.

 Rock on, my friends!  Stay in touch!  I’m with ya!

 So.  Now. Can we celebrate? 

 You’re invited to a little happy hour/dinner that Jennifer Walker pulled together.  (Thanks, Jennifer!)

Hope you can come!  Tuesday, October 11, 5:30 PM at Scholz Garten, 1607 San Jacinto, 78701.

Love, Donna



Moving Austin Forward Off of Coal

Austin City Council Sets Deadline for Energy Studies

Important Vote Commits City to Evaluate Options to Move Beyond Coal

Late Thursday evening, Austin City Council voted to approve two resolutions that set deadlines for the completion of two studies required under the Austin Generation Resources 2020 Plan approved in February of 2011.

 One resolution, offered by Councilmember Bill Spelman and Mayor Pro-Tem Sheryl Cole, requires the Austin City Manager and Austin Energy to perform a full analysis of the different options available to phase out our use of the 600MW Fayette Coal Plant, partly owned by the City of Austin, by September 2012.

 The analysis must include:

–       an examination of the water used by the coal plant;

–       upcoming environmental regulations that the power plant will have to meet;

–       alternative sources of power available to the City of Austin.

Austin Energy must give presentations of the study conclusions to both to the Electric Utility Commission by September 2012 and then to City Council.

A second resolution, sponsored by Chris Riley, Bill Spelman, and Mike Martinez requires that Austin Energy develop a strategy and plan by December of 2011 to determine how to meet the goal of saving 800 megawatts of energy through efficiency measures by 2020, including how they will conduct a much larger energy efficiency potential study.

 In response, Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Clun issued the following statement:

 “Sierra Club supports Austin Energy’s move to 35% renewable energy and 800 megawatts of energy efficiency by 2020.  We also fundamentally believe the City of Austin can end our use of coal and phase out our use of the dirty Fayette Coal Plant.  We appreciate that City Council has voted to move forward with two studies that will help answer how we will make this transition cost-effective and timely.”

“The two resolutions go hand in hand because one of the best ways we are phasing out our use of coal is by increasing our efficiency and renewable energy goals and programs. I hope the analyses will be completed well before the September 2012 deadline imposed by the City Council.”

 #  #  #

Joe ‘McCarthy’ Barton Attacks EPA as Chem Plant Burns out of control in his district

A fire at the Magnablend Chemical Company is burning out of control today near Dallas in Joe Barton’s Congressional District.  Tomorrow, Tuesday, October 4, Congressman Barton of Ennis is holding an Energy and Environment Subcommittee Hearing: Quality Science for Quality Air.
“A major chemical plant fire near Dallas at the Magnablend Chemical Company demonstrates the critical need for a strong Clean Air Act to protect public health from extraordinarily large volumes of toxic air pollution when accidents like this occur,” stated Dr. Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter.
“Most industrial accidents such as this one are preventable according to investigations of other chemical plant accidents.  Congressman Joe ‘McCarthy’ Barton of Ennis should not hold hearings to attack the US EPA at a time when the agency provides a critical life-supporting role in the nation and when his own district is on fire with toxic air pollution spewing into the air,” Carman emphasized.

The Magnablend Chemical Co. operates specialty chemical blending services.
For more information, contact Dr. Neil Carman, 512-288-5772

This Is How We’re Stopping Tar Sands.

A Broad Coalition is Sounding the Alarm today — Texas Water at Risk during U.S. Department of State Hearing on proposed Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline

 Local Officials, Property Rights Activists, Religious Leaders, Environmentalists, and Students are asking you to join us in asking the State Department to Stop the Tar Sands Pipeline

6:00 PM Rally Tonight:  LBJ Auditorium, University of Texas at Austin, corner of East Dean Keeton Street. Click here for a map.

A broad coalition of property rights activists, local officials, religious leaders,  environmentalists, and students gathered this morning in Austin at a U.S. Department of State public hearing to speak in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

 “A foreign company has taken my land to try and build a dangerous and unnecessary pipeline, a pipeline that could spill toxic crude onto my land and into all our water,” says David Daniels, an East Texas rancher who founded STOP, Stop Tar sands Oil Pipeline when he received an eminent domain letter from TransCanada.  “TransCanada has duped the State Department, but they haven’t duped me. I don’t want this pipeline on my land. I don’t want this pipeline anywhere in Texas.”  Read Daniels comments here.

 Uris Roberson served as spokesman for the newly-formed East Texas Sub-Regional Planning Commission, a ‘391 Commission’ for local authority formed by the cities of Gallatin and Reklaw to address the pipeline situation.  Roberson delivered comments on behalf of its President, Mayor Chase Palmer of Gallatin.

 Mayor Palmer said, “This commission has been formed to ensure that we, to the best of our ability, live up to the responsibility that we have to the citizens of Reklaw and Gallatin and also our entire region of East Texas that is affected by the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline.”

 In June 2011 the head of the federal pipeline safety agency, Cynthia Quarterman, told Congress that the U.S. pipeline system was not designed with raw tar sands crude in mind, that safety regulations were not written to address it’s unique risks, and that the agency had not yet studied the issue or been involved in the State Department’s environmental review of Keystone XL.   The groups gathered at today’s hearing asked the State Department to reject the Keystone permit application and re-do its analysis to consider threats to water resources.

 Mayor Palmer’s comments stated the Commission’s concerns, “This lack of information prevents our communities from fully understanding the breadth and scope of potentially devastating impacts that could result from the construction, operation and maintenance of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  The Commission has numerous questions and concerns, our two upmost being: potential impacts to our water supply and the overall lack of relevant, material and detailed information or analysis.  We are asking the Department of State to reject this application.” Read Mayor Palmer’s comments here.

 BP-Enbridge oil spill whistleblower John Bolenbaugh confirmed the Commission’s concerns.

“The company never told the public living near the pipeline or workers like me working on the clean up about the dangerous toxins in the tar sands oil that spilled into the Kalamazoo River,” said Bolenbaugh a veteran and union worker.  “People became very sick and were having seizures.  After the company fired me for speaking out, I began looking for the places where they hid the spilled oil.  One woman and her child hugged me and thanked me for doing it.  So did another man from his wife’s hospital bed.” 

Environmental groups pointed to elevated concerns in Texas due to our state’s current exceptional drought and existing air quality problems.

“If this pipeline were allowed to be built, up to 1.7 million gallons of toxic tar sands oil could flow into east Texas drinking water and land before the emergency shutoff valve would trigger,” said Dr. Neil Carman chemist and Sierra Club Clean Air Program Director.  “The U.S. Department of State must reject a Keystone permit.  Its analysis ignored the heightened threat to water resources with exceptional drought conditions in Texas and it ignored the existing toxic burden of the refinery communities in Port Arthur and Houston.”

Religious communities commented at the hearing about the need to move past oil and develop clean energy resources. 

Amanda Yaira Robinson, Coordinator of Texas Interfaith Power and Light said, “Texas faith leaders of different religious traditions stand united in opposition to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, on moral grounds. This pipeline would commit us—and the rest of the world—to a much warmer climate and a planet that is far less hospitable to human and all other life. Rather than continue our destructive dependence on oil, let us find a way forward that protects the health of all people and the planet that we share. The Keystone XL is not the way.”

 Debra Medina with We Texans (Tea Party), Terri Hall,Founder/Director of Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom, Reverend Lou Sneed with Faith Presbyterian Church and the Austin Interfaith Environmental Network, and Jackie Joy Sierra Student Coalition leader at U.T. Pan American, among many others also spoke in opposition to the Keystones XL Tar Sands pipeline today.

Additional comments:

Biggest Environmental Issue of Our Generation

As a new Sierra Club intern and engineering student at UT,  I am lucky enough to have the chance to stay well informed about current environmental issues facing our world today. The biggest environmental issue of our generation will be culminating this fall — the proposal by Transcanada to build the dangerous Keystone XL tar sands Pipeline.

If President Barack Obama allows this proposed pipeline to be built, every single person in Texas will suffer.  Every student at UT, every child entering kindergarden at a Texas elementary this fall, the young, the old, the weird, the rich.  Those around the world have taken notice, including eight nobel laureates that have written to President Barack Obama urging Obama to reject the proposal to build the $7 billion pipeline that spans from Canada to Texas. Over a thousand protesters from all over the nation were arrested in Washington D.C protesting the pipeline, yet looking around my campus of 50,000, how many people know what is being planned without their consent, without their knowledge?

Although this is not strictly a Texas issue, it will effect Texans profoundly. 10-12 million Texas inhabitants who get their drinking water from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer that the pipeline will run over will be at the mercy of a pipeline similar in construction to the Keystone pipeline in Michigan, one that has had 12 spills in one year of operation and has caused 40 miles of the Kalamazoo river to become unusable.

Texas has been plagued by drought and wild fires.  Everyone from Bastrop to Tyler is feeling the hurt of a Texas without water. Can a state with 93% of its counties listed in extreme drought afford to lose any amount of water to an oil pipeline spill?

I as a student will not  let my friends and colleagues remain in the dark about this issue, but everyone in Texas needs to become aware of this proposal. If you respect the student sitting next to you in class, or the woman at your HEB with grocery shopping for her small children, or the men and women who work along side you every day, as fellow human beings capable of great things, you need to inform them about the upcoming proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline.

Once informed about the Keystone XL pipeline it is hard to not to take action.  A fellow UT student of mine, John Richter, has taken a great step forward by creating a great cheat sheet — John is a Computer Science major spurred to action after hearing about the Tar Sands.

When I first heard about the Tar Sands, I immediately wanted to go to DC and protest, but I couldn’t afford the flight or miss classes.  So, I did what I could at the time and created a cheat sheet on the tar sands at

Being in Texas, I’m at the epicenter of where the pipeline fight will play out, and I can make my stand here.  I feel happy that I have this opportunity to work with other students and take a stand.

Time is running out on standing up to Tar Sands, and my generation, and those following that have everything to lose. I encourage everyone, to implore their colleagues, family, and friends to educate themselves on what is going on, and how to take action. Every single person in Texas will be effected by this. An easy way to do your part is to attend a public hearing. Barack Obama will be closely watching the public hearings to see how many attend, especially in Austin, one of his favorite cities.

Please attend the public hearing in Austin this Wednesday. Your attendance will matter.

U.S. Department of State Hearing.  The public is invited to comment.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 from 12:00 Noon – 8:00 PM, LBJ Auditorium, University of Texas, Austin, TX.  Free parking. 

Come speak at the hearing.  Attend the press event at 11:30, a rally at 6:30 and/or the bike ride at 8:00.  For more information, contact or

Posted by Kathleen Hetrick, Sierra Club intern

Back Pats, Events and Lone Star News Roundup

Hello Sierrans and Friends! 

Welcome to Julie Hart our Fall communications intern.  Julie just completed an English -Writing & Rhetoric degree from St. Edwards University and she’s helping out by sharing the news stories below in the Lone Star News Roundup.  Thanks, Julie!

Join me in giving big back pats to Excom member Margot Clarke for posting on Texas Green Report!  Your voice comes across loud and proud!  Here’s Margot’s latest.  Hurray!  At last!  The weather is turning cooler.  You know what that means, don’t you?  Time to check your tire pressure!

There are many ways to get involved during the next two weeks.  This weekend, Sierra Club’s partnering with on six Moving Planet events across Texas.  If there isn’t an event in your city, consider getting some of your friends together to make your own.

On next Monday and Wednesday, the U.S. Department of State holds the first of two hearings in Texas on the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.  Rita Beving, Ian Davis, Joe Deshotel, Jr., Juan Parras, and the Texas tar sands team have done a great job organizing and getting the word out in the media.  See the articles below for background information.  Can you attend one or both of the hearings? 

PORT ARTHUR  Mon., Sept. 26th, 4:30pm – 10pm, Bob Bowers Civic Center, 3401 Cultural Center Drive, Port Arthur, TX, 77642.  Click here to RSVP

AUSTIN  Wed., Sept. 28th, 12pm – 8pm, University of Texas, Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium, 2313 Red River Street, Austin, TX, 78705, RSVP here.

Finally, on Thursday, September 29, US EPA is holding a Hearing in ARLINGTON on Proposed Air Pollution Rules for Oil and Natural Gas Drilling, read fracking at the Arlington Municipal Building in the City Council Chambers, 101 W. Abram Street, Arlington, TX 76010 (map) from 9 AM-12:30 PM, 2-5 PM, 6:30-8 PM.  RSVP:  Questions?  Email the awesome, or call (512) 477-1729 x117

 So!  It’s a busy Fall and there are lots of ways to get involved.  Have fun with it.  Donna


Texas Environmental Groups in New York Times

Green Groups Add Muscle in Texas, Gird for Uphill Battles  9/14/11: By Nathanial Gronewold of Greenwire —  Overview of environmental groups’ work in Texas.“The Sierra Club and other groups are fighting to keep other coal-fired plants from coming online. They acknowledge an uphill battle on that front, but also take credit for significantly slowing plans to build a 1,300-megawatt ultra-efficient coal-fired plant called the White Stallion Energy Center.”


TCEQ rules exacerbate drought’s impact on Galveston Bay  Sierra Club’s Op Ed with National Wildlife Federation, Galveston Bay Foundation, and Jerry’s Seafood ran in the Houston Chronicle showing how recently adopted TCEQ rules that were intended to protect our bays could actually exacerbate the already severe drought conditions in Galveston Bay. Check it out and leave a comment.

 Water conservation gains backers  9/18/11: San Angelo Standard-Times – Proposition 8, a proposed amendment to the Texas constitution supported by the Sierra Club, will give landowners incentives to practice responsible water stewardship.  Proposition 8 goes before Texas voters on November 8.

 Tar Sands

Houstonians Protest Pipeline Plan  9/18/11: Houston Chronicle – This past Sunday roughly 30 protesters gathered in Houston to rally against the Keystone XL pipeline.  “The rest of the country gets to have a green energy future, but not this community.  This community is going to become a sacrifice zone. Why is that?”  – Leslie Fields, Sierra Club’s national environmental justice director

 Locals Protest at Washington Rally  9/17/11: Nacogdoches Daily Sentinel – 1,252 protesters were arrested in Washington D.C.   Protesters were rallying against the Keystone XL pipeline for two weeks in late August/early September. 

 Pipeline Report Ignores Drought, Wildfires  Texas Energy Report – We got a story in the Texas Energy Report, [see text at bottom of Roundup]. For those who don’t know, the Texas Energy Report is an outgrowth of the Quorum Report, which covers the Texas capitol. It does not have a huge popular subscription, but lots of people in government and policy as well as members of the media get it, so this could help. – Trevor Lovell

 Will Tar Sands Pipeline Threaten Groundwater?  9/19/11: National Geographic – Article on how tar sands pipeline will affect water quality nationwide.  Highlights numerous hazards associated with transporting tar sands through the proposed pipeline.

 Game Over  9/16/11: Burnt Orange Report – Tar sands pipeline is “game over” for Earth’s climate.  Hearings will be taking place in Port Arthur and Austin on the 26and 28, respectively.

Clean Air

Court considers forcing EPA to clean air in Texas  9/14/11 – Businessweek – On September 13 the Sierra Club filed a consent decree requiring the EPA to enforce clean air laws that have been in place in Texas since 1997.

 Beyond Coal

Two East Texas Coal Power Plants to be idled to Meet Emissions Limits  9/12/11 – Star-Telegram – Progress is being made on reducing toxic emissions from Texas coal plants.  “The announcement by Luminant today is a victory for all Texans who care about clean air,” Eva Hernandez, Beyond Coal Campaign Coordinator

 Posted by Donna Hoffman, Sept. 21, 2011