Author Archives: texasgreenreport

Truth about Tarsands (via Living on Earth)

Living on Earth: The Truth about Tarsands (audio)

If you want to know what a tar sands crude pipeline spill is like, listen to this wonderful report of the 2010 Kalamazoo River pipeline split aired on Living on Earth by Public Radio, posted here by kind permission of Living on Earth. After you listen, you can read the transcript and see pictures of the tarred river and its wildlife.

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Camp YEA

Guest post from Rebecca Lyons, Sierra Club member in the Coastal Bend

A parent recently told me how they couldn’t throw anything recyclable away since their student had come home and shared what he had learned about protecting the environment.  Children setting an example for adults when it comes to conservation and sustainability options is a growing phenomenon in the United States.  Many youth are even actively seeking out ways to become informed and involved in saving their planet.  One way such students can put their passion into action is by attending Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp.

YEA is a nonprofit organization that trains youth to build the knowledge, skills, confidence, and community to become activists and leaders for social change for years to come. Our flagship program, YEA Camp, is a week-long summer camp, with four sessions in three states, for youth who want to make a difference in the world.  In only three years, the camp has expanded from the West to East coast.  This year, camps will be held in Oregon, California, and New Jersey.  Camp dates will be July 7-13 and July 14-20, July 21-28, and August 5-12, respectively.  For more information, visit the website,, read the newly launched blog, view this two-minute video introduction to YEA Camp, or e-mail Nora at

After camp, students return home equipped and excited about making a difference in their communities.  So far, YEA Campers have started an animal welfare club at their schools that has held beach clean-ups, shown movie-screenings, and raised over $1,000 for their local animal shelters; spoken at hearings against coal power plants; expanded vegetarian and vegan options in their school cafeterias, and launched an effective campaign to persuade their cities to lower the minimum age for volunteers at their local animal shelter.  Helping the environment by using less plastic, eating less meat, and creating less pollution is one of the core values embodied in all YEA Camp alumni, as we are passionate about seeing positive outcomes that will help conserve and protect the environment we love.

Sweetwater Exposed in Negotiations to Sell Water to Tenaska

Things have been heating up in West Texas as Tenaska gets more and more desperate to find water to cool it’s proposed coal plant in Nolan County. Tenaska, in it’s increasingly desperate attempts to obtain water has been turning to back room deals and negotiations to try and cobble together the water needed for the plant.

These underhanded deals began earlier this year with the city of Stamford signing a water contract with Tenaska. The City of Stamford negotiated for over one year before it’s citizens even heard of the existence of this contract. Then when the existence of a contract did come to light, the City of Stamford rushed through a vote on the water contract within a period of a few weeks in an attempt to squash constituent feedback.

Sweetwater, a town that had abandoned negotiations with Tenaska in 2010, has now been back in talks with Tenaska to sell their water. This was beknownst to Sweetwater’s citizens until last month when the City finally released documents to the Sierra Club detailing these negotiations. These documents were only wrenched from the city’s hands after the Sierra Club submitted an open record’s request to the city.

The City of Sweetwater has been in negotiations with Tenaska for the past 7 months, without any public notice. Understandably, residents are outraged at the notion that Sweetwater officials have been bargaining away their water rights, without even consulting them. Selling such a precious public resource is not something that should be entered into lightly without public input, and that is exactly what the City of Sweetwater is doing.

The water in consideration is effluent, or “wastewater,” produced by the city. The term wastewater is misleading though, with many cities throughout Texas turning to wastewater as a way to meet water shortages during the drought. Effluent water can be used for irrigation in agriculture and sports fields. Some cities even utilize advanced filtration to circulate it with their drinking water. These are methods of usage that Sweetwater could potentially need to turn to in the future, should the drought continue or worsen. Economically, this potential deal is also bad news for Sweetwater residents, with Tenaska getting this water for pennies on the dollar compared to what local citizens pay.

Residents have a right to know why the City is considering selling water to a coal plant for dirt cheap, in a back room deal, during one of the worst droughts in history. Numerous brave residents did speak out at last week’s Sweetwater City Commission meeting, only to be ridiculed by City officials. The City of Sweetwater has accused groups such as the Sierra Club and Texans Against Tenaska of being conspirators about this water contract, but it is only because of the diligence of local citizens that these negotiations have come to light. This sort of attitude towards constituents is inappropriate and unacceptable. It is time that the City of Sweetwater come clean about its dealings with Tenaska and open up these contract negotiations for public input.

Lower Rio Grande Valley Bikes to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels

Folks from across the Lower Rio Grande Valley gathered at Texas State Technical College (TSTC) Saturday for a morning bike ride. This was more than just your usual Sierra Club outing, but a call on local, state and national leaders to address climate change and move beyond fossil fuels. The numerous renewable energy projects around TSTC were showcased during this ride, and participants learned ways that they can help move beyond fossil fuels. We are able to have a clean energy future, and now we want our decision makers to join us in pledging to do so to keep our air and water clean.

The Moving Planet bike ride was a great success with around 50 people in attendance, and media coverage from The Monitor, The Valley Morning Star, and the Brownsfield Herald. Many thanks to Mark Peña, Sally Merrill,  Stefanie Herweck, and the other organizers for hosting such a wonderful event!

Austinites Bike to Move Beyond Fossil Fuels

By: Brian Jackson
September 24th 2011 – Today was Moving Planet Day promoted by to move the planet beyond fossil fuels and unsustainable practices. The Lone Star Sierra Club paired with to host a green and sustainability bike tour. (Special thanks to Niles Seldon with Austin group’s outings in being the lead organizer for the event!) The group assembled at 4th and Guadalupe at the Austin farmer’s market to a beautiful Texas morning, the music and the fan-fare of the market. At around noon the 60 or so enthusiasts took action to explore the many sustainable and green transportation and civic landmarks around the city. The first stop was City hall where Council member Chris Riley shared many of the installations of the legislative building, including the terraced gardens watered from the Air conditioning condensation water.
The ride continued towards the Austin Amtrak station, that while not itself inclusively a green project, represents the public transportation of the future, with routes to Dallas, Houston, El Paso and San Antonio. The ride continued to ride past the Seaholm Power Plant, where the city is redeveloping the former power plant, into a hotel, apartment, concert venue and business park. This is a green project because it is revitalizing the buildings we already have to boost new industry. Other highlights included stops at the Whole Foods parking lot where we saw the electric car charging station and the Whole Foods Bicycle repair station both promoting more sustainable forms of transportation.
As the afternoon wore on and the Texas sun beat down, and the mercury topped 100, some riders turned toward home before we stopped at the Austin Sierra CLub office where volunteers can come and find resources and get involved in sustainable change. Our final destinations were the Texas Capitol building and the downtown Metro-rail station the meets the Lance Armstrong Bikeway. The brave dozen or so that made the last stop discussed local Cycling clubs and preferred routes, A Favorite being to take the metro rail towards Leander then riding back to Downtown.
The power of‘s vision of moving the planet is a goal that is a simple as dusting off your bike and taking it to work, or taking the relaxing trip to Dallas on the train rather than driving the congested 35. Many people felt the directs power of the sun on the ride and are enthusiastic about the possibility of the Austin City encouraging rooftop solar as the city’s power source. Beating fossil fuels is a battle won a day at a time, and todays bike ride proved that with enthusiasm and strength.

Austin City Facilities now 100% GreenChoice

Austin, TX – Today, the City of Austin, Texas, announced that starting October 1st, it will meet its 400 million kilowatt hours of electricity needs wholly from in-state generated wind energy. The energy will be provided by a wind farm in west Texas and will power all libraries, fire stations, recreational centers and police stations. Austin has set a goal of buying 35% of its total energy from clean sources by 2020.


“I applaud Mayor Leffingwell’s announcement,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign. “Austin now leads the country in powering its public buildings with clean, safe, renewable energy. This is the standard that other cities across the country must measure up to. The decision to power Austin’s public buildings with 100% clean energy is a strong first step towards a secure energy future for the city. However, we urge Austin to go one step further and phase out the Fayette Coal Plant, which powers many of Austin’s homes and businesses. This plant burns huge quantities of coal, producing toxic emissions like mercury, which endangers the health of women and children. In addition to this trailblazing announcement, Austin can cement its place as a clean energy leader by moving, not just its public buildings, but all of Austin Beyond Coal.”