Tag Archives: conservation

Coal Pollution Effects on Human Health

Coal fired power plants are the single largest source of pollution in any country. http://saferenvironment.wordpress.com/2008/09/05/coal-fired-power-plants-and-pollution/

Coal fired power plants are the single largest source of pollution in any country.

Coal-fired power plant emissions contribute to global warming, ozone smog, acid rain, regional haze, and – perhaps most consequential of all from a public health standpoint- fine particle pollution. Emissions from the U.S. power sector cause tens of thousands of premature deaths each year, and hundreds of thousands of heart attacks, asthma attacks, hospital admissions, and lost workdays. So why are these power plants still up and running, and more importantly, why are there still planned developments of new plants?

To simplify things, public health concerns have focused, for at least the last decade, on the role of very small airborne particles in causing or contributing to various forms of respiratory and cardiopulmonary ailments and increasing the risk of premature death. These fine particles are particularly dangerous because they can bypass your body’s defensive mechanisms and become lodged deep inside your lungs. In fact, research also indicates that short-term exposures to fine particle pollution is linked to cardiac effects, including increased risk of heart attack. Meanwhile, long-term exposure to fine particle pollution has been shown to increase the risk of death from cardiac and respiratory diseases and lung cancer, resulting in shorter life-expectancy for people living in the most polluted cities. So who are the people that are most likely to be exposed to these health risks? In general, the poor, minority groups, and people who live in the areas downwind of multiple power plants. And unfortunately, persistent elevated levels of fine particle pollution are common across wide areas of the U.S., mainly in the east.

The adverse effects, including abnormally high levels of mortality, occur even at low ambient concentrations of fine particles—suggesting there is no “safe” threshold for this type of pollution. Since most fine particle-related deaths are thought to occur within a year or two of exposure, reducing power plant pollution will have almost immediate benefits. Below is a very nice table that I found from Physicians for Social Responsibility, outlining various diseases/conditions connected to coal pollutants.

Coal Pollution vs human Health

As it stands, we are at a turning point for determining the U.S.’s future energy policies. The health consequences tied to coal production are vast and have major impacts. We need to address the issue of coal-fired energy production, and we need to address it now. There should be NO new construction of coal fired power plants, and we must initiate plans to retire as many coal plants as possible that are currently in production.

Finally, as a nation, we must develop our capacity to produce energy from clean, safe, renewable sources in order to phase out the existing coal plants without compromising the ability to meet the nations energy needs. Instead of investing any more of our money into coal, the U.S. should fund conservation measures, energy efficiency, and renewable energy sources such as wind energy and solar power, which don’t have such a negative effect on public health.

Written by: Courtney Dunphy

Apply (or share the link) for the best internship in Texas!

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The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club is looking for its next group of fall interns! If you’re in Austin and interested in protecting the environment, gaining valuable career skills, and networking with folks in the environmental community, this is an excellent opportunity for you.

Interns with the Sierra Club will work with a professional staff-person as a mentor in order to learn how to effectively create change in multiple environmental sectors. Interns are paired with a staffer based on specific mutual interests, so they are able to work on (and learn about) issues that are important to them. Interns will have the opportunity to help organize a grassroots campaign, work in communications, and conduct policy research, among other projects and tasks. Interns will learn real skills through professional training workshops and apply their new knowledge to their work at the Club and beyond.

Internship duration: 9/9/13 – 12/6/13

To Apply:

Before applying, please review the job description here.

If you are interested in applying, please email your resume and cover letter to our Internship Coordinator Diego Atencio at texas.internship@sierraclub.org and CC Staff Adviser Dave Cortez at david.cortez@sierraclub.org by Monday, Aug. 26.

San Antonio Sets Example for Water Conservation in Texas

Nearly all of the water in San Antonio’s famed River Walk is recycled water. (Image credit: http://www.visitsanantonio.com)

As the world collectively peers into its magic crystal ball (which totally exists), most observers see a future ridden with serious environmental issues that will be difficult to manage – especially if meaningful action isn’t taken immediately. While many of these threats (like those of climate change) are global in nature, the degree to which different parts of the world are affected will vary. Texas’ future, for example, promises to be very difficult due to an increase in drought conditions coupled with a rapidly growing population – factors that will inevitably lead to a decrease in freshwater resources. Indeed, we are already experiencing difficulty in providing ample water resources to satisfy the state’s residential, commercial, and ecological needs – a fact that emphasizes the importance of water conservation, moving forward. Fortunately, San Antonio (the state’s second largest city) has taken on a leadership role in the state by successfully implementing aggressive water conservation measures through its public water utility, San Antonio Water System (SAWS).

Through a variety of incentives, educational initiatives, restrictions, and water recycling measures, the city manages to use roughly the same amount of water that it used in 1984, despite a 67% increase in population.

Much of this success can be attributed to its incentives for large-scale commercial water users, who represent 50% of the city’s water consumption despite being only 10% of the customer base. These incentives, which foot significant portions of the bill for water-saving retrofits, have been popular for businesses in San Antonio since they provide for high post-installation savings that typically allow businesses to get a quick return on their investment. For example, Frito-Lay’s plant in San Antonio undertook a $1.4 million dollar retrofit in 2003, for which it received a nearly $265,000 rebate; the retrofits also save the company roughly $138,000 per year, which means it likely recouped its investment in 2011. Most importantly, the plant’s retrofits have saved 43 million gallons of water per year and have even helped the company increase potato chip production. Other successful commercial water conservation programs include a rebate program for restaurants that has gotten 40% of San Antonio restaurants to lower their water usage, and a hotel rebate program which seeks to minimize the impact of the city’s bustling tourism industry on water resources.

SAWS has also implemented several impressive residential conservation programs like the Plumbers to People program, which provides free repairs to leaky plumbing for low-income San Antonians. Another effective initiative has been their High-Efficiency Toilet Program, which distributes new low-water toilets to customers with wasteful toilets. Both programs are very cost-effective and are praised for their ability to integrate low-income customers into SAWS’ conservation efforts. Most importantly, however, they save over 3 billion gallons of water per year.

Furthermore, much of the water that the city does use is eventually recycled. After being processed at a water treatment plant, it is commonly used for the irrigation of parks and golf courses, in cooling towers, and in industrial processes. Perhaps the most surprising use of recycled water, however, is for the replenishment of San Antonio’s famed River Walk.

Through these programs, San Antonio has made significant progress in reducing per capita water use from a high of 225 gallons per day in the mid-1980s to a low of 136 gallons per day, with a final goal of 116 gallons per day by 2016. Achieving further reductions in water use will become increasingly difficult, however, since opportunities to pick the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of conservation measures will become less abundant. Regardless, with more time to develop (and aided by progress in technology and policy, as well as phase-outs of water-guzzling coal plants), these programs will go a long way in securing water for San Antonio’s future.

Oh, and, it will surely help to have a mayor that describes water conservation as being “part and parcel of being a San Antonian.”

By Diego Atencio

Endangered Species: Quickly Dying Parts of Our Planet

Worldwide, there are thousands of beautiful species that are becoming closer and closer to extinction.  Not just animals, but plants too.  We, humans, must claim responsibility for this.

The biggest causes of extinction are pollution and lack of habitat.  Development causes natural habitats to be cleared and the animals that have been displaced must find another place to live.  This leads to competition among species for the limited habitat areas, and since a certain area can only sustain so many lives, much of the wildlife is destroyed.   Pollution contributes a lot to the extinction of aquatic organisms: when we dump into rivers and other bodies of water, the waste not only harms the creatures in that area but flows out to the ocean and harms organisms all over our planet.

Even just in North America there are approximately 2000 endangered species.  Canis lupus rufus, better known as the red wolf, is one of the most endangered but also one of the most popular! Why is it that such a beloved animal is allowed to venture so close to extinction?

Other well known, endangered species in North America include: Steller Sea Lion, California Big Horned Sheep, West Indian Manatee, Florida Panther, California Condor,  the American Crocodile, and many many other species that bring a rich diversity of life to this continent.

A more complete list of endangered North American species can be found here.

Do your part to help!

Drought Drought Go Away

The Mayor’s Water Conservation Task Force, a coalition of water conservation experts, industry representatives and engineering experts, had its first meeting on July 13th in the city of Houston. Armed for the purpose of planning for future population development, Houston’s mayor Annise Parker instructed the attendees to elaborate a plan that would prevent future water availability from diminishing and causing the city to enter a state of drought.

Daniel Krueger, the city of Houston’s director of Public Works, spoke of the importance of maintaining a perspective on planning for the next 100 years, as well as focusing intently on the next 50 years. According to Mr. Krueger, we need to maintain our water supply’s availability and wide use for future generations.

Galveston Bay, the bay connecting the metropolitan areas of Houston, Sugarland, and Bayton Texas.

Mayor Parker then spoke of the city’s history and culture for the purpose of setting the context in which experts would develop their recommendation. Given Houston’s ample water supply, there has been a  lack of  water conservation planning in the past. The Mayor indicated that last year’s drought conditions served as a wake up call to the city. With the intent to propose legislation, the Mayor urged the experts to ideate a plausible plan of action.

Carol Haddock, who serves as the senior assistant director at the city of Houston, noted that the city has a daily water supply of 1.1 billion of gallons with half going to consumers and half reaching the bay. Of that 50% reaching consumers, two-thirds is not regulated by building code. The remaining third, which is composed of retail customers, would be evaluated for the possible implementation of water conservation practices.

The city of Houston is scheduled to host its second meeting on July 27, with the purpose of  discussing the Chapter 47 ordinance.

-Hector Varela, Water Policy Intern

Special thanks to Jennifer Walker

SAVE THE DATE: September 29th-30th The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is Back!

Renewable Roundup 2012!

At a Glance…

WHAT?!?!: The 12th Annual Renewable Roundup is a sustainability symposium centered around green living, alternative energy education, family festivities, and sustainable lifestyle practices for our future. This event wouldn’t be complete without it’s A-list of Guest Speakers, Hands-on Workshops, Eco-friendly Vendors, Progressive Exhibitors, Tasty Food Demonstrators, and Supportive Sponsors.

WHERE?!?!: Fredricksburg, Texas

WHEN?!?!: The last weekend in September. Saturday September 29th 9:00am – 6:00pm and Sunday September 30th 9:00am- 5:00pm

HOW?!?!: For more information on how to get involved with the Roundup as a either a participant or patron, visit http://theroundup.org/.

WHO?!?!: Everyone and anyone is invited! We encourage all individuals and families to come out to this great event looking to learn about sustainable living practices. This event is proudly brought to you by a joint effort from TREIA, Texas Center for Policy Studies, and The Texas Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter.

Learn How, Here!

In Depth…

DETAILS/ARTICLE: 

Great News!  The annual Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair will be taking place again this year in the beautiful and historical town Fredericksburg, Texas! Organized by the Texas Renewable Energy Industry Association, in collaboration with the Texas Center for Policy Studies and the Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club, Renewable Roundup is a collaborative event centered around individuals, organizations, and companies passionate about sustainable living.  The event planning committee is working hard on making this year’s show the best ever. The underlining theme of this weekend event strives to promote cleaner and smarter ways of using our resources while educating the public about “Greener” lifestyles and options. This event serves as both a conference and festival, as it enlightens, entertains, and publicizes those interested in a brighter greener future. We would love to have you at this extraordinary event the 4th weekend in September (Sept. 29 &30). Please check out our website http://www.theroundup.org/ to find out more or contact Event Coordinator Laura Rice at info@theroundup.org.

INVOLVEMENT:

  • Attend!
  • Apply to be a Guest Speaker
  • Host a workshop the Friday before the gates open on Saturday morning
  • Reserve a booth or exhibit space to advertise and or promote a sustainable idea or product
  • Advertise
  • Sponsor the event
  • Volunteer at the event
  • Come to the VIP kick-off party Friday evening

Can’t Wait to See Everyone There! 🙂

-Danya Gorel Sierra Club Intern

~Special Thanks to Mentor and Conservation Director Cyrus Reed~

Let’s talk about water!

The Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter proudly co-sponsored the Brazos Valley Water Conservation Symposium on June 20th. The event was co-sponsored with the City of Waco, the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the Texas Water Foundation, the Brazos River Authority, and the National Wildlife Federation. Organized with the intent of educating individuals ranging from policy makers to water utility professionals, the meeting focused on the importance and benefits of practicing viable water conservation planning methods in the state of Texas.  The symposium, entitled “The Business Case for Water Conservation,” presented ways in which the region may meet its water needs through enhanced water conservation.

Ken Kramer kicking off the Brazos Valley Water Conservation Symposium

Toby Baker, the commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), addressed the immediate need to secure a reliable water supply for Texas stating that it cannot have growth without water availability. He talked about the potential for water conservation as a way to extend our water supply and then explained some of the issues surrounding water conservation. While TCEQ requires water providers to submit drought contingency plans, their capacity to enforce them is very limited. It is critical for water providers and state agencies to work together on conserving water as a way to extend our current water supply and better prepare for future droughts.

The Commissioner was then followed by Comer Tuck, director of the conservation division of the Texas Water Development Board. Mr. Tuck started by communicating to the audience that the year 2011 was the driest and hottest recoded in the history of Texas. Following a talk on the projected population increase, he spoke of the importance of funding the 2012 state water plan, a set of strategies that would help us meet the water demands of future Texans.

Carole Baker (Alliance for Water Efficiency and Texas Water Foundation) focused on myths related to the feasibility of performing water conservation. Common beliefs, such as water shortages being temporary problems that will disappear with time, do not reflect  their real nature. Instead, they are ongoing issues.  She then disproved the notion of current development being efficient by explaining that new properties use 20-60% more water. Ms. Baker concluded by clarifying that “wasting water is not economically feasible.”

Mark Peterson, coordinator for outdoor programs at the San Antonio Water System, spoke of the successful implementation of water conservation strategies in the City of San Antonio.  So what does it mean when it is said that the city is “on board” with conservation? It translates to meeting the water demands of a population 60% larger with the same amount of water supplied by the city during the 1980s.

Mr. Peterson explained that adopting the perspective of ongoing water conservation as being “a source of water” is crucial and that regulations are by no means a form of public punishment during dry times.  Another unique approach was perceiving customers as being part of San Antonio’s “conservation team“.  The reader should keep in mind that while water conservation practices in San Antonio are credited as being successful, the variability of the water sources and infrastructure of every water utility is different. That said, San Antonio can serve as a great model for other cities.

Lorrie Reeves, a representative of the Water Efficiency Network of North Texas, then talked about the benefits of creating local networks of water utility professionals and water conservation experts.  These networks consist of municipalities, water providers, and water conservation advocates that meet on a regular basis throughout the year. The purpose of these coalitions is to regionally reduce water use by working together to promote water efficiency education, programs, legislation and technologies and openly and actively share information and best practices. Through the networks, entities are able to efficiently share knowledge and exchange information. For example, by sharing strategies and goals with one another, the North Texas network  pooled their resources to educate the general public about irrigation strategies for clay soil (specific to the region).

Jennifer Walker leading the panel on the implementation of water conservation strategies in different Texas municipalities

While the success of water conservation programs and progress being made in numerous parts of the state of Texas  was apparent through the conference, the importance of coupling these programs and any restrictions with stronger education programs was a consistent theme that should be given future consideration.  Most water consumers do not understand the amount of water that is needed to keep a lawn healthy and often use too much, making it important to educate the public about the lack of need to irrigate extensively (Toby Baker).

-Hector Varela, Water Policy Intern

Special thanks to Jennifer Walker and Joanna Wolaver