Tag Archives: City Council

Concerned San Antonio Residents Call for Plastic Bag Ban

Plastic bag banning reusable bag picSan Antonio’s economy has remained steady and prosperous by successfully attracting new businesses and helping existing companies grow. The City has focused on creating new employment opportunities in 21st century industries, maintaining a great quality of life, and facilitating business growth at the local and international level.  This is a city working to improve itself. San Antonio has made great strides in terms of supporting clean energy, investing in the SA River Improvements Project (SARIP), and expanding its public transit system. However City officials are lagging behind when it comes to protecting the city’s beauty by fighting plastic bag pollution. 

One very serious and expensive environmental problem that San Antonio is facing at the moment is pollution from plastic bags.  Single-use checkout bags have harmful impacts on the environment and drain tax dollars as well.  Even more, San Antonio residents use more than 1.6 billion plastic bags every single year.  At least 80% of these end up in landfills or as litter. While stores don’t charge for the bags, city taxpayers pay for a variety of pollution impacts. They cause damage to recycling facilities, and despite the fact that they are about 1% of the waste stream they cost recyclers as much as 30% of their labor time. They cost local residents as much as 1.3 million a year to control their pollution, and they disproportionately affect low income communities who have fewer resources for pollution control, less recycling and more fragile infrastructure. That 1.3 million could be helping lower income neighborhoods, but instead is being wasted on plastic bag pollution. Even more money is spent on state and federal clean-up efforts, and it is impossible to put a dollar value on the impacts to wildlife killed by plastic bags. It’s clear that convenient plastic bags are not worth the damage that comes with them.

San Antonio’s City Council is now considering a ban on plastic bags at retail checkouts. Several cities across the state have already taken action against single-use bags. The cities of Brownsville, Fort Stockton, Austin, South Padre, and three others in Texas have seen dramatic decreases in bag litter since they passed local ordinances on checkout bags. Because of this supporters and members of the Sierra Club Alamo Group, Texas Campaign for the Environment, and Environment Texas joined with residents of San Antonio to soundly express support for a full ban on single-use plastic bags in San Antonio.   Residents testified during the “Citizen’s to be Heard” portion of the June 12th City Council meeting, and no action was taken by council.   However efforts are still being made, on June 21st the Blacknote Galleria showed a screening of “Bag It!”, an insightful documentary on the overuse of plastic, to help increase awareness and support for the issue.  Here at the Sierra Club we are asking supporters of a ban to contact their city council members and to express their support of a ban at City Council meetings. The City Council Governance Committee will likely hear the issue sometime in August or September, so be sure to contact your council person before then.  San Antonio residents deserve a clean city and so they must press their City Council to pass an ordinance ensuring that action is taken to solve this problem.

Plastic bags are a hot topic, not just in Texas but all over the country and in a few others. The main topic of conversation seems to be the paper vs. plastic debate.  There are a lot of interesting sides to the argument but I believe this one has a winning conclusion. Ultimately the real fight isn’t against plastic bags but rather doing what is right for the environment. Banning plastic bags is one step towards protecting the environment and protecting our future. It’s rare that we recognize a problem from the very start. Rivers used to be dumpsters until we realized that polluting was harmful to our drinking water.  Fields used to be ours for the taking until we realized over-farming was damaging to the integrity of soil. And plastic bags will be used for our convenience until we realize they are hurting our environment.

Written By:  Christina Farrell

Phase Out Fayette Update

) A worker walks among solar panels at the Lie...

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

A group of concerned Austinites have been meeting weekly to discuss and plan a way to move Austin’s energy out of the Fayette coal plant.  Our first mission is to get City Council to complete three studies by 2012 that they committed to in the Austin Generation Plan.  These studies are supposed to look at three aspects of Austin’s energy: accelerating the schedule in phasing out the Fayette coal plant, increasing the efficiency goal, and setting a goal for onsite, distributed renewable energy.  Basically, it’s the first step in getting the ball rolling so that we can ultimately begin the process of phasing out of Fayette.

Right now, we are asking organizations, businesses, and people to get on board with us, in various ways, in order to show our City Council members that we care about the implementation of the Austin Generation Plan.

If you would like to join us, the Phase out Fayette team meets every Tuesday from 6 to 7pm!

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SunPower coming to Austin?

While it’s not a manufacturing plant, SunPower, one of the largest solar PV manufacturing and installation companies in the world, is scheduled to open a corporate operations office in Austin, Texas sometime next year, under a proposed economic development agreement with the City of Austin. Under the proposal, SunPower would agree to invest at least $7.5 million in property improvements at the proposed site, as well as $2.5 million in machinery, and create at least 450 jobs over a ten year period. SunPower says all of those job hirings should occur in the next four to five years. In return, they will be eligible for up to $901,710 in grants, in addition to a grant of $2.5 million from the State of Texas.

The agreement will go to City Council next Thursday at 4 PM for a public hearing and possible action. The proposal is the second involving a solar company and Austin. Earlier this  year, Chinese PV manufacturer Yingli Solar announced it was considering opening up an assembly factory in Austin. While City Council did approve that proposed economic development agreement with Yingli, the Chinese company later decided to wait until announcing whether it will go ahead with its plans for a US assembly operations.

Austin is also home to solar companies like Heliovolt, which makes building intergrated solar products, and SolarBridge Technologies, which makes the micro inverters that can go on the back of solar panels.

Analysts say that if the Texas legislature were to approve legislation creating either incentives for solar power, or expanding the Renewable Portfolio Standard to favor solar, many more companies might be willing to locate throughout Texas, creating jobs in the Clean Energy economy.

Recently, as reported here on this blog, a company called Juwi Solar recently opened Texas’s first major utility-scale solar plant, just south of downtown San Antonio.

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Lone Star Chapter

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El Paso announces it will be latest city to adopt 2009 Energy Codes for new construction

At a forum held last week, and sponsored by the City of El Paso and the Sierra Club, Lone Star Chapter, city officials announced that they would ask City Council to approve the adoption of the 2009 IECC energy codes for new construction, with an eighth-month implementation period to get builders up to speed on new tests and procedures they will have to enact to meet the new stricter, building code standards. Back in June, the State Energy Conservation Office announced that the 2009 IECC codes and similar provisions in the International Residential Code will be the law of the Texas land beginning next year, following months of commenting and meetings. San Antonio, Austin, Waco, Eagle Pass, and Beaumont are a few of the cities that have already adopted the new codes, while Houston and Dallas codes already meet the new requirements.

Joining the CIty of El Paso at the event at the downtown  event were independent consultant Mike Myers, who successfully led an effort for San Antonio to adopt the 2009 IECC and adopt a much stricter greenbuilding program, Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed — hey that’ s me — Paul Royalty with El Paso Electric, and Renata Manning with the Border Environment Cooperation Commission. In the audience, were some greenbuilders, members of the American Institute of Architects, insulation, lighting and electrical installation companies, solar installers, and several officials, including El Paso state representative Joe Moody, state senate candidate José Rodriguez, and County Comissioner Veronica Escobar, who is running to be El Paso’s next County Judge.

In addition to adopting the 2009 base standards — which will be introduced at the September 14th City Council meeting — discussants considered ways in which El Paso could begin a greenbuilding program to encourage builders to go beyond the new codes and make buildings even more energy efficient. El Paso Electric in particular is considering adding incentives as part of its energy efficiency programs for homebuilders to meet energy star standards. El Paso Electric has just started a great solar panel rebate program which is now running like gangbusters. And while there original plan to build a 92 MW concentrated solar plant in New Mexico was put on hold, they are now looking at a series of 10 MW to 20 MW solar PV plants scattered around Southern New Mexico.

Look for the City to begin a greenbuilding task force soon with help from the local El Paso group of the Sierra Club, AIA local chapter and others. El Paso has the chance to make its city more sustainable and create green jobs by making its existing and new buildings more water and energy efficient. The Lone Star Chapter and the local El Paso Group will be there to help.

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