Tag Archives: climate disruption

Sierra Club tells Texas Public Policy Foundation conference attendees that federal government not the problem – impacts of oil and gas development are..

During the annual  Texas Public Policy Foundation — a noted conservative think-tank in Texas — 2014 policy orientation conference in Austin, Sierra Club joined Railroad Commissioner David Porter and Representative Jim Keffer (Eastland-R), chair of the Energy Resource Commission, on a panel entitled “Energy and Markets: Mastering the Resource” which was all about oil and gas. There was a packed house, including many legislators and their staff, mainly those who are more conservative in their philosophy. 

During the hour-long discussion, Commissioner Porter characterized the federal government as an obstacle to continued oil and gas development and in particular set his sights on the US Fish and Wildlife, implementation of the Endangered Species Act, “radical” environmental groups whose lawsuits are used to shut down industry, and the potential for the feds to add new fracking regulations that are best left to the states. Porter said that the endangered species act was being used to shut down industries, while admitting that the state was working with USFWS to develop a habitat conservation plan for species like the Lesser Prairie Chicken. Porter did acknowledge the need for appropriate regulation and in response to questions about his recent participation in a town hall meeting on injection wells and their potential impact on tremors and earthquakes in the Azle area did again announce he wanted to hire a seismologist and review Texas rules on injection wells. 

Chairman Keffer, taking a more measured approach, agreed that the oil and gas industry was creating tremendous economic opportunity and development, as well as important taxes for the state government, but agreed there had been missteps in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and that new technology and regulations were needed. He lauded the RRC for recent new rule changes on casing and cementing, mentioned his two bills that were passed on required disclosure of fracking chemicals and new rules on rural pipeline safety. He said that during the interim, his committee wanted to look at the issue of injection wells, rural pipeline safety and also mentioned the real problem of roads and water use. On the whole, he said he was optimistic that Texas could solve these issues but needed to acknowledge them and not stick their head in the sand. 

Speaking on behalf of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, Conservation Director Cyrus Reed took a different approach, characterizing the oil and gas development as “boom and gloom.” “Like it or not, there are real consequences of this boom,” he stated. He noted that the purpose of the Endangered Species Act was to protect species, not shut down industries and that both industry and species could survive with good planning and appropriate regulation. 

Reed discussed the needs for further regulations and action on air quality — including venting and flaring — injection wells, pipeline safety and rural property right, roads, water use, inspections and enforcement and climate disruption. He said the fact that so many folks were concerned with injection wells and the potential for leaking or earthquakes meant it was time to revisit those regulations — and consider a requirement for an upfront seismic analysis (which the State of Ohio) before permitting — as was also true for the large amount of gas being wasted through gasing and flaring and leaks from valves and pneumatic devices. “Climate disruption is real and the methane leaks are undermining the benefits of switching from gas to coal,” he stated. 

Reed consistently stressed that any one individual oil or gas well might not be problematic, but the cumulative impact on water, air and waste streams was an environmental and public health challenge. For a copy of the agenda of the conference, see here. If you would like to see a copy of our PPT on these issues, contact me. cyrus.reed@sierraclub.org

Rally for Renewables in Austin

SIerra Club members and volunteers outside AUstin CIty Hall on Thursday June 20th.

SIerra Club members and volunteers outside Austin CIty Hall on Thursday June 20th.

Last week, members and volunteers with Sierra Club showed their support at the Rally for Renewables outside of Austin’s City Hall. The event was part of the Beyond Coal Campaign to reduce dependence upon coal burning and increase utilization of wind and solar energy. Why are dirty coal plants a continuing issue in the 21st century? The focus, or heart,  of the rally is to encourage Austin’s mayor and city council to retire the Fayette Power Project and be coal free. The emphasis here is on retire vs selling the plant off and “greenwash” the city into a state of coal free energy. Retiring the plant would ensure the end of the devastating effects the burning of coal from this plant has on our environment. Below are some quick facts to help everyone understand the importance of relieving us of our dependence upon burning coal.

Coal plants are our nation’s top source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Burning coal is also a leading cause of smog, acid rain, and toxic air pollution. These emissions of toxins into our environment leads to various forms of climate change.  Various forms of pollution includes: Mercury, Sulfur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxides, and Ash.

Toxic Mercury  is released into our atmosphere and then returns to the surface via rain and enters our streams and rivers. Prolonged exposure to Mercury can lead to numerous neurological and heart damaging conditions. An uncontrolled power plant can emit approximately 170 pounds of Mercury ash per year.

Coal plants are the leading source of Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) pollution. An uncontrolled power plant can produce up to 14,000 tons of SO2 per year. SO2 accumulation in the atmosphere causes acid rain which leads to the destruction of crops, forests,  and soils, and acidifies our lakes and streams.

Nitrogen Oxide causes ground level smog. An uncontrolled plant can emit over 10,000 tons of Nitrogen Oxides per year. This pollutant is naturally found in the atmosphere, however, human activities such as agriculture, transportation, and industries have been steadily increasing the amount found in the atmosphere.

U.S. Nitrous Oxide Emissions, By Source:

In the US alone, we produce no less than 140 million tons of coal ash pollution. All of that ash has to go somewhere, and in most cases it is dumped in the backyard of these coal plants. This ash can be put into open-air pits or into man-made ponds. Unregulated dump sites can leach these pollutants into the ground and potentially into our ground water systems, by way of aquifers.

Overall, The Rally for Renewables was a success! Numerous volunteers came out to show their support for the cause. The event lasted for nearly 2 hours with many different community members making appearances. This event, just like any like it, is an important demonstration to our local governments. As citizens of this earth, we have the right to have our voices heard, just as they were last week.

Written by: Courtney Dunphy

Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Statement on President Obama’s Climate Plan


For Immediate Release:
June 25, 2013

Contact:  Scheleen Walker, office: (512) 477-1729, ext. 115; mobile: (512) 481-1448

Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Statement on President Obama’s Climate Plan

AUSTIN, TX –  Today President Barack Obama announced his administration’s next steps for building a legacy of action to fight the climate crisis. The plan includes new energy efficiency standards for federal buildings and appliances, scales up responsible clean energy production on public lands with an ambitious new commitment to power 6 million homes by 2020, and uses the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants.

Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Director Scheleen Walker released the following statement in response:

“This is the change Texans struggling with drought and pollution have been waiting for on climate.

“President Obama is putting action behind his words, which is exactly what the Lone Star Chapter, our thousands of Texas members and supporters, and coalition partners have worked mightily to achieve.  Today, we applaud him for taking a giant step forward toward meeting that goal. As the largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country, Texas has a special responsibility to rapidly tackle carbon pollution.

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 2.27.19 PM

click photo to enlarge

“Texas farmers, ranchers, and cities have been suffering through year after year of drought. Scientists at Texas universities are telling us that over time climate change is going to make the drought even longer and more severe. By committing to implement new energy efficiency standards, increase responsible clean energy production, and most importantly using the full authority of the Clean Air Act to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, the President is stepping up to reduce the climate-disrupting pollution that is destabilizing our climate and threatening our agricultural economy and growing cities.

“The first step in the Presidents’ climate legacy were the clean car rules. Today he committed to tackle existing power plant emissions. To complete his legacy, we look forward to a day when the Administration takes the final step, and recognizes that natural gas and tar sands crude are dangerous fuels. Nevertheless, the President’s plan gives us hope that he will cement his climate legacy and protect future generations by ending destructive oil drilling in the Arctic, rejecting dangerous nukes, phasing out dirty fossil fuels in favor of clean energy – and by making the critically important decision to reject the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline.”

Screen Shot 2013-06-25 at 2.26.52 PM

click photo to enlarge