Author Archives: karibanta

Sierra Club Tells House Energy Resources Committee, “It Ain’t 1983,” Supports HB 3598 to Raise Maximum fines on oil and gas polluters.

For Immediate Release: April 10, 2013

549061_10151518113817920_4140573_nFor More Information: Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed – 512-740-4086, cyrus.reed@sierraclub.org

Dressed in his best imitation Don Johnson/Miami Vice white suit, Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed testified in support of legislation to raise the maximum fines the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) can assess against oil and gas companies violating state laws from the current $10,000 to $25,000 per violation per day.

“The $10,000 maximum was set in 1983, when the Police and Michael Jackson were the two biggest musical acts, and the Ewings out of Dallas were the biggest oil developers in Texas,” Reed told members of the House Committee on Energy Resources. “You should support HB 3598 (Rep. Lon Burnam – Fort Worth) to raise the maximum penalty from $10,000 to $25,000, because $25,000 today essentially equals $10,000 in 1983.”

Reed noted that the Sunset Advisory Commission recommended raising the RRC maximum fines to $25,000 four years ago. The Texas Attorney General, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already have maximum fines of $25,000 per violation per day.

Reed wrapped up his testimony quoting Sting and Michael Jackson, “It is time for the Railroad Commission of Texas to watch ‘every move you make’ and tell companies operating in Texas with egregious regulatory violations to pay the fines, clean up their act or ‘beat it’.”

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Completing Streets, Giving Choices

Transportation choices: it’s the slogan of the Green Transportation campaign but it’s also at the heart of what we do. Complete Streets give choices: the roads and streets safely serve the needs of all users–cars (of course), but also cyclists, pedestrians of all ages, and transit users.

Common ways of completing streets are adding crosswalks, improving sidewalks, providing bus shelters, and narrowing traffic lanes to make room for bike lanes on the road. Simple, often inexpensive interventions can make an incredible difference.

Our Transportation Associate, Kari Banta, moderated a panel on Complete Streets at the SXSW Eco conference on October 3. Joshua Houdek of the North Star Chapter and David Jurca from the Kent State Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative to talk about Complete Streets– how they work, making them happen, and testing them out with  a “pop up” temporary demonstration project.

The Sierra Club North Star Chapter helped get complete streets legislation adopted in Minnesota–a tremendous accomplishment–so now activists can direct attention toward getting them implemented. Minneapolis is truly transforming the way people think about getting around, as you can see in this presentation.

Making a complete street depends on who is using it. A rural highway might not need sidewalks or bus shelters, for example. The community needs to be involved in the planning process to decide what they need from their streets, working with the city planners and engineers to phase the improvements into the regular maintenance schedule. If the changes are low cost, there’s a possibility they could be done much sooner. As with many things the Sierra Club does, it takes volunteers working together to get people together and keep pushing the project forward.

Part of getting people comfortable with Complete Streets is giving them a chance to try it out for themselves. David Jurca explained Pop Up Rockwell, the project he did with graduate students to convert four blocks of Rockwall Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio to a pedestrian and biking oasis. Using paint, temporary planters, outdoor furniture, and some very clever inflatable art pieces he turned a disused and barren street into a real place.

Here’s the film they produced to explain the project–please set aside nine minutes to see how an amazing transformation is possible!

Pop Up Rockwell from KSU CUDC on Vimeo.

You can listen to the full SXSW Eco presentation, titled Life in the Streets: Reclaiming Public Space, here.


Kari Banta
Transportation Associate

Gallery

Austin’s Full of Love for Walking, Biking and Skating

This gallery contains 12 photos.

This past Saturday, the City of Austin closed a two mile stretch of Sixth Street for Viva Streets, a day long festival of active transportation and, well, fun! The Lone Star Chapter set up a table and asked people to … Continue reading

Have You Hugged a Train Lately? National Train Day is May 12th.

Celebrate the fun and excitement of trains this Saturday! There are local events in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, San Antonio,  Jefferson, and Giddings–as well as other places across the country if you are not lucky enough to be in Texas.

National Train Day poster

Ever since my first trip at age 6, I’ve considered it the most civilized way to travel. Stretch your legs, get up and walk around any time, recline you seat without squeezing the person behind you… you can’t do these driving a car or taking a plane. Plus the U.S. Department of Energy says passenger trains are 20-50 percent more fuel efficient than planes or cars on a per-passenger mile basis. Relax and breathe easier on a train!

We can and should take pride in our trains. The United States has the most miles of track of any country in the world and Texas has the most miles of any state. Though the current levels of service don’t match up to Europe or Asia, we can change that.

Head over to the National Train Day website to find out more and to share your story about what trains mean to you. Share your stories here, too!

Bonus points if you ride your bike to the station!

-Kari Banta, Transportation Associate

May is Bike Month!

Has it been so long since you’ve used your bike that it’s part of the fence? Don’t worry, the Sierra Club has teamed up with the League of American Bicyclists to make riding safe and easy.

May is National Bike Month

During May, try to ride your bike to work, school, or for running errands.

All you need to start are a bike, a helmet, and some patience. Set yourself up to succeed! The National League of Bicyclists has Five Steps to Riding Better that will make you feel more confident and safe on the road.

There are a number of events throughout the month to encourage you to give it a try. This link shows everything in Texas (Austin, San Antonio and Odessa have events so far).

This link shows all of the bike shops, bike clubs and riding instructors in the state.  If you still have questions, this link has lots of answers.

Still don’t think you can do it? Here are nine reasons you shouldn’t ride to work (good points with a heap of sarcasm).

Dallas Doesn’t Need Another Highway: City Council Member Speaks Up

Scott Griggs, Dallas City Council Member, doesn’t think the Trinity Tollway in Dallas will fix the congestion problems in the city. With seven major highways already in the downtown area, it’s clear that more roads won’t fix the problem.

As quoted in the Dallas Morning News,

We are so addicted to the automobile. Adding lane capacity is like an obese person buying a bigger belt and saying he doesn’t have a weight problem.

Dallas Evening Rush Hour Traffic (Photo: Justin Cozart)

Dallas Evening Rush Hour Traffic (Photo: Justin Cozart)

Though he’s in the minority on this issue, Griggs understands that the solution to congestion is to get some of the traffic onto other modes. Moving people by transit and goods by freight rail costs far less, has a lower environmental impact, and would create more long term jobs than a new tollway.

If you’re in the Dallas area and would like to attend the Public Hearing for the Trinity Tollway, it’s on May 8th  in the arena of the Dallas Convention Center, located at 650 S. Griffin Street in Dallas, Texas, 75202. An open house will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. A formal presentation will begin at 7 p.m., followed by a public comment period.

-Kari Banta, Transportation Associate.

USDOT Secretary LaHood is excited about Austin’s BRT

Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is an extra-long bus that operates in a dedicated lane and gets priority at intersections. Some say it’s “rail on wheels.”

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff came to Austin to sign a federal grant of $38 million for the system. It’s expected to be running in 2014.

Bus Rapid Transit is a component of the All Systems Go plan, which has been designed to link transit modes and improve connectivity in the system. BRT service will give better transit options for the MoPac and I-35 corridors. Here’s the Cap Metro information page on the Bus Rapid Transit routes. Because of their extended length, these busses have more room for bikes and wheelchairs.

-Kari Banta, Transportation Associate