Tag Archives: Dallas

Sierra Club tells TCEQ to scrap their emissions inventory for State Implementation Plan at Public Hearing in Houston

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In a sparsely attended public hearing this week, Sierra Club’s Brandt Mannchen told the TCEQ that their proposed Emissions Inventory for the eight-hour ozone State Implementation Plan was grossly inadequate — particularly on “area” sources like oil and gas drilling and dry cleaners and emissions from the ports — and that it was impossible for the public to recreate the numbers. The TCEQ is required to submit a 2011 Emissions Inventory as part of the State Implementation Plan for the Eight-Hour Ozone standard of 75 parts per million. Both the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area and the Dallas-Fort Worth area are considered “non-attainment” for ozone because they consistently violate those standards. Other cities like Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Tyler-Longview-Marshall have also violated the standard on occasion though not enough to be considered non-attainment.

The 2011 EI is important because it establishes the baseline by which TCEQ must show how it will reduce emissions of the pollutants — nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds – that create ground-level ozone pollution. In addition to the EI itself, the state must list regulations which will help limit emissions and if necessary develop additional regulatory and voluntary controls to show the state will meet the health-based standards. Getting the EI right – as Brandt mentioned in his comments – is essential. The Lone Star Chapter is working with our local Houston Regional Group and Dallas and Fort Worth regional groups to submit comments on the EI by the January 27th deadline.

Despite the stakes, Mannchen was only joined only by two other Sierra Club members and a smattering of others — none of whom spoke.  Among other issues raised by Mannchen was the failure of the EI to even consider the impact of emissions from outside the non-attainment areas — including large coal-fired power plants and the thousands of oil and gas facilities in the Eagle Ford, and Haynes areas which can impact ozone formation; the use of old 2009 data to generate numbers for a 2011 Emissions Inventory; and poor calculation of emissions from maritime vessels in the Houston Port.

Tomorrow, those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area get their chance to speak, January 16th.

Meeting is in Arlington on Thursday, January 16th at 2 PM at the Arlington City Hall Building in the Council Chambers (101 w. Abrams Street). For information about the proposed EI and related documents, check out this TCEQ Hot Topics page. 

Even as TCEQ develops this EI and the SIP, the EPA is actively considering lowering the ozone standard to between 65 and 74 from the current 75 parts per billion. This could have a profound effect in Texas, forcing communities from Laredo to San Antonio to Tyler to develop more robust controls.

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Speak out at the EPA Hearing in Dallas!

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Tired of not having a say about the carbon emissions companies are putting into the air that’s affecting our climate? Frustrated because you never have opportunities to tell the government how you feel about current environmental policy?

 

Texas is the country’s leading coal consumer and has some of the dirtiest coal-powered plants in the nation. Emissions that are released by coal power plants have a significant impact on changes in climate. Even a 1 or 2 degree change could reduce current crops by 5-15% through droughts, increase flooding by up to 10%, decrease stream flows by 5-10% in river basins, and increase wildfires by up to 4 times! 

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With climate change influencing our daily lives, it’s time to speak up!

 

The Environmental Protection Agency will be holding a public hearing on November 7th, 2013 in Dallas to discuss carbon pollution regulation standards for power plants. This hearing will take place on the first floor of the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library at 1515 Young Street from 10 am to 3 pm.

 

A total of 11 public hearings like the one in Dallas place were scheduled all over the country to gain public feedback, but 2 in Boston and Philadelphia were cancelled due to the government shut down. This public feedback from the hearings will be taken into consideration as the EPA prepares its proposal that is scheduled to be ready by June 2014.

 

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Registration for this event can be found at:

http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/public-listening-session-registration

 

This is your chance to tell the government and others your opinion on climate change disruption, and how we should be addressing carbon pollution standards. The Listening Session at the EPA hearing will allow you to tell the EPA how you want to take action on carbon pollution. Take a stand, speak up, sign up, and then head on over to Dallas!

Gasland 2 Screenings Coming to Texas

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If you live in Dallas, Fort Worth or San Antonio you are in for quite a treat next week. The much-anticipated sequel to 2010’s Gasland will see special screenings here in the Lone Star State. These three aforementioned cities will receive the special treatment with a Q&A session with filmmaker Josh Fox as well as rumors that Gasland interviewees will be in attendance at the Fort Worth screening.

The best part? These screenings are all free and completely open to the public. Whether or not this is an issue that you have been following for years now or are just becoming exposed to it, this is a great opportunity for community members to come together and educate themselves around this polemic issue.

These screenings come right off the heels of a monumental gas drilling victory in Dallas as well as the recent lawsuit against Exxonmobil for contaminating more than 50,000 gallons of water in western Pennsylvania. The fight against fracking appears to be picking up steam here in the US.

In fact, just last week more news from the mill show threats to communities in northern Colorado, as several activists in Boulder County were posting photos of flooded frack wells to their facebook site. These groups have expressed concerns towards a lack of oversight of drilling wells near their community as well as industry efforts to cover up the risk of contamination.

“Our concern is that all of these sites contain various amounts of hazardous industrial wastes that are now capable of spilling into the waterways and onto the agricultural land. Many of these chemicals are carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and known disruptors of the human endocrine system. As of today there is no testing taking place, industrial, independent or otherwise to determine the extent of the contamination, nor any talk of it. And one can guarantee that this week the COGCC will be issuing more drilling permits even as the hydrocarbons flow into the rivers.” – East Boulder County United spokesperson Cliff Willmeng.

According to an August 2013 poll released by The Guardian, a whopping 76% of Americans are worried about the potentially hazardous effects of natural gas drilling. This trend appears to indicate growing support in anti-fracking policies spreading throughout the United States.

The fact that these screenings take place in Texas cities where fracking is already happening goes to show that Americans are really starting to question the safety hydraulic fracturing.

Here’s a quick snippet of what Josh Fox had to say of his film:

“‘Gasland 2’ features real people -ordinary Americans- whose lives have been upended by the dirty and dangerous process of fracking. That’s why I am working with environmental leaders and advocates across the country to protect our health, water, climate and landscapes and to prevent state and federal governments from allowing a path to destruction.”

Texas is just one several of states hit by recent fracking operations – including Pennsylvania, New York State, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Dakota and Louisiana.

Celebrate Earth Day

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Texas constitutes 0.004% of the Earth’s surface

Earth Day events happening around Texas…

Austin
Austin Earth Day Festival
Saturday, April 20th, 12pm-7pm
Browning Hangar at Mueller Park
4550 Mueller Central Dr., Austin, TX 78723
http://www.earthdayaustin.com

Beaumont/Port Arthur/Orange
2013 Trail Between the Lakes Hike
April 19th , 20th, & 21st
www.texas.sierraclub.org/triangle/pages/trail.html
Phil Rogers – philarogers@gmail.com – 409-543-4616
Bruce Walker – bwalker@gt.rr.com – 409-782-3486

Belton
Earth Day Festival Belton
April 13, 9 am – 5 pm
Organized by AWARE Central Texas and
Belton Chamber of Commerce
Contact: Linda Griffith or Richard Paul Thomas at (254) 947-4717 or via email to linda@tbcinternational.com orrichard@tbcinternational.com.http://www.beltonearthday.com

Brazos Valley
Brazos Valley Earth Day
April 20, 2013
11 am – 7 pm
Wolf Pen Creek
Organized by The Brazos Valley Earth Day Committee
http://www.brazosvalleyearthday.com

Corpus Christi
Earth Day Bay Day
Saturday, April 13th, 10am to 5pm
Heritage Park
1581 N Chaparral St, Corpus Christi, TX 78401
Sierra Club Contact:
Lois Huff, huffs@the-i.net, 361-774-1500
http://www.facebook.com/events/426674934068213/

Dallas
Earth Day Dallas
April 20-21, 10 am – 6 pm
Fair Park
Organized by Earth Day Dallas (EDD)
http://www.earthdaydallas.org

Edinburg
The City of Edinburg Earth/Arbor Day Festival
Saturday, April 27th, 9am to 1pm
Edinburg World Birding Center
Includes a 1 mile family walk and a ‘Bicycle Rodeo’
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=496129070453227&set=a.136022163130588.26197.135992229800248&type=1&theater

El Paso
El Paso’s Earth Day
Saturday, April 20, 9 am – 1 pm
Union Plaza District
Organized by City of El Paso
Environmental Services Department
home.elpasotexas.gov/environmental-services/documents/El%20Pasos%20Earth%20Day%202013%20Invitation%20for%20Exhibitors-Vendors.pdf
http://www.downtownelpaso.com/el-pasos-earth-day-celebration-2013/

Houston
Earth Day Houston
April 14, 11 am – 5 pm
Discovery Green
Organized by Air Alliance Houston
http://www.earthdayhouston.org

McAllen
Vida Verde Earth Day Festival
April 20, 9 am – 4 pm
Quinta Mazatlan
Organized by City of McAllen
http://www.quintamazatlan.com/events/special/vidaverde.aspx

San Antonio
April 18: “Earth Day” NW Vista College (9 A.M. – 1 P.M.)
April 22: “Earth Day” San Antonio College (10 A.M. – 2 P.M.)
April 23: “EarthFest” UTSA 1604 (11 A.M. – 2 P.M.)
Contact Gay Wright at alamo.sierra@yahoo.com or(210) 362-1984.

Earth Day San Antonio
April 20, 2013
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Woodlawn Lake
Organized by Build San Antonio Green
http://www.heb.com/page/about-us/community/events/san-antonio/earth-day-2013

Texoma
Texoma Earth Day Festival
April 20, 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Municipal Ballroom and Grounds
Sherman, TX
http://www.earthdaytexoma.org

Stories From the Frontlines: The Crossroads Between Fracking, Tar Sands, Campaign Finance, and Renewable Energy

How Two Texas Regulatory Agencies Have Embraced Industry Interests Over Citizen Concerns and Public Health

By Dave Cortez and Dewayne Quertermous

This feature was written following two hours of public testimony at an Arlington, Texas town hall regarding the Sunset Review of the Public Utilities Commission and Railroad Commission of Texas – two agencies tasked with regulating electricity, telecommunications, oil, and gas industries, among others. Organized by the Greater Fort Worth & Dallas Sierra Clubs and Public Citizen, the event served as a citizen’s communication forum for North Texans to speak directly to State Representatives Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) and Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas). We thank both of them for their participation.
 
To submit comments directly to the Sunset Advisory Commission, please email sunset@sunset.state.tx.us
 

Last week, more than 80 concerned citizens gathered in Arlington to present passionate testimonials about their experiences with two major state regulatory agencies: the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Railroad Commission (RRC). From concerns about the PUC’s failure to implement state renewable energy mandates and the need to develop net-metering rules for solar, to the financing of campaigns for Railroad Commissioner and the RRC’s track record of neglecting citizen concerns over fracking and tar sands pipeline construction, one unmistakable theme repeated throughout the night was that they are tired of these agencies operating largely by and for polluting industry interests, and not for the public good.

On December 19th, many of these same North Texans will be joining with other concerned citizens from around the state to relay their personal stories of struggle and frustration with the PUC and RRC directly to members of the Sunset Advisory Commission – a 12 member legislative body tasked with the 12 year review to determine the need for an agency, looks for potential duplication of other public services or programs, and considers new and innovative changes to improve each agency’s operations and activities.

(Click here for location, meeting time, and Sierra Club’s comments on the PUC & RRC Sunset Review.)

Keystone 8-24

RULE 37 , EMINENT DOMAIN, AND
Avoiding RENEWABLE ENERGY

Of the more than forty speakers, many criticized the RRC’s lax regulation of the oil and gas industry, especially regarding fracking for natural gas and oil. While there was praise for the Fracking Fluid Disclosure Bill passed in the 82nd legislative session, and the RRC’s quick implementation of the law, as well as a few other fracking related regulations the Commission has strengthened, any positive recognition was always followed by a litany of air, water, public health, and safety concerns.

The Commission’s willingness to let industry have virtually free reign to frequently use the Rule 37 exemption, allowing them to take a mineral owner’s minerals without a lease and with little if any remuneration, came up often throughout the night. A common sore point was that Rule 37 hearings are not held locally but in Austin, forcing landowners to travel to Austin for a hearing that may be rescheduled at the last moment in order to protest what is usually a rubber-stamp approval for the industry.

fracking

Numerous speakers were frustrated by pipeline companies’ abuse of their eminent domain powers, which they get by simply checking a box on a form saying they are a ‘common carrier’. A sustained stream of outraged speakers cited concerns that the RRC does nothing to confirm the veracity of this statement, much less set any criteria for what constitutes a ‘common carrier’, whether associated with gas and oil drilling or with tar sands pipelines. The fact that once they receive ‘common carrier’ status, virtually no limits are placed on the use of eminent domain by a private company, left many incredulous.

“There’s no box to mark or delineate tar sands on the T4 form at the RRC. Tar sands is unlike conventional crude, Syncrude, or Venezuelan crude,” said event organizer Rita Beving. “These tar sands companies get a federal IRS exemption as they have determined with the IRS that dilbit or tar sands is not crude, and therefore are exempt from paying into the U.S. spill liability fund.  Still this company marks their T-4 at the RRC that they are “crude”. What is Texas to do should there be a spill? Who is going to bear the liability? The counties? The state?”

The PUC was not spared by the wave of criticism from speakers. In reference to a petition filed by the Sierra Club and Public Citizen in September, citizens wanted to know why the PUC has maintained a 7-year position that the implementation of a 500 megawatt renewable energy mandate would harm Texas electricity consumers, when many saw it as an efficient means to achieve energy independence and create jobs.

 “The recent denial to hold public meetings for a petition to act on the non-wind RPS, and in documentation on a commission website that compares the capital cost of a natural gas plant to the total cost of a solar PV plant and then declares solar too expensive indicates a bias that needs to be removed or an analysis that needs to be improved,” said Larry Howe of Plano.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AND CAMPAIGN COFFERS

Although audience members expressed their frustrations with the PUC’s deference to industry lobbyists and utility stakeholders, the fact of the matter is members of the PUC are unelected and therefore lack sufficient means for public accountability. The 3 commissioners are appointed by Governor Perry – who ironically enough signed Senate Bill 20 into law in 2005, which established a mandate for 500 mws of “non-wind” renewable energy such as solar and geothermal power.

But commissioners at the RRC are publicly elected. Members of Clean Elections Texas were on hand to present testimony highlighting the need to reform the system of financing campaigns for seats at the RRC.

It isn’t just that 1) there’s been an explosion of campaign spending in RRC races in the last ten years, 2) that most of the money comes from people in industries with business before the commission, 3) that commission candidates raise significantly more than candidates for comparable agencies, 4) that there is no limit to how much any single interested party can give to a commissioner, or 5) that most of the high dollar contributions come from individuals in regulated industries…it’s that some of the campaign contributions simply cannot be explained as an effort to affect the outcome of an election,” said Joel Page of Clean Elections Texas.

Further analysis and review of testimony shows that the volume and source of money flowing into campaigns for the RRC – as documented by a 2010 study by Public Citizen – suggests an effort to buy influence over the Commission. Between 2000 and 2010, money raised and spent by incumbent commissioners increased nearly seven fold; in the 2008 cycle, incumbents spent more than 3.5 million dollars. The amount spent by industry sources – energy companies, their employees, as well as consultants, attorneys and lobbyists – has steadily increased as well.

Problem is: campaign finance reports show that much of the money raised by candidates for RRC goes unspent. This begs the question, “why would donors give candidates more money than they need to run a campaign that receives relatively little public attention?”

IMPLEMENTING REFORM AND
MOVING TOWARD A CLEAN ECONOMY

Wind Solar Worker

There’s no doubt that Texas is an oil & gas state. While our economy is rooted in the days of Spindletop and wildcatting for Texas crude, there’s no reason assume that clean air and water are mutually exclusive to economic and energy development. Texans are proud of our rights to personal property, our independence, and the idea that we can lead in more than low-wage jobs and carbon pollution.

But when our appointed and elected leadership at the PUC and RRC fails to listen to legitimate grievances from of its own citizens,  to respect state law, to protect private property rights, to prioritize transparency & accountability, and to tap into the most abundant renewable energy resource in the nation (the Texas sun), prudence dictactes a greater and more vocal response from the people whom these agencies are tasked to represent and protect.

Send in your comments to the Sunset Advisory Commission, and your State Senator and Representative.  Want to build a local clean economy team in your area? Get started by taking 5 minutes to complete this short survey.

There’s no more compelling case for action and reform than your personal story. However, if you’d like to review talking points and more details of the Sierra Club’s and Public Citizen’s comments on the PUC Sunset Review click here. For talking points and more detail on the Sierra Club’s comments on the RRC Sunset Review click here.

Below is a photo essay featuring all of the speakers at the Arlington town hall. Click on photos to see quotes from the testimony given that night.

Texas Sierrans join with hundreds of activists to stop a “NAFTA of the Pacific”

Sierra Club, Texas AFLCIO, Texas Fair Trade Coalition, CWA, and Occupy Gather at Trade Rally

(Rally in Addison, Texas)

This past weekend in Addison, Texas, a north Dallas suburb, more than 300 environmental activists, labor unionists, public health advocates, human rights supporters and members of the Occupy movement joined together to prevent a  “NAFTA of the Pacific”. The rally demanded the release of the draft text of the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement.

The American people have been denied the right to see the text of the TPP that could weaken environmental rules, increase fracking and exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG), lower labor standards and wages, outsource more jobs, increase medicine prices, throw out food safety policies, ban Buy American rules, and allow multinational corporations to challenge and overturn U.S. federal and state laws in private trade tribunals that operate entirely outside of  U.S. court system.

(Sierra Club’s Ilana Solomon gets crowd to shout “hell yeah” to supporting American-made solar & wind products)

A very big “thank you” to the Dallas and Ft. Worth Sierra Clubs for taking time to learn about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and for attending our events. Another shout out to the Lone Star Chapter interns who helped make over 300 calls to Texas Sierrans about the threats TPP could pose to environmental, labor, health, and consumer regulations in the U.S.

Trade is an issue that crosses all political and issue campaign boundaries. Whether you care about clean air, saving American jobs, fair access to medicine, or holding Wall Street accountable, the fight for fair trade is a much-needed unifying battle that can help us build coalitions that can win the change we want to see.

Thanks again for all your support and hard work, and stay tuned for some next steps as we prepare to mobilize solidarity actions during the next round of negotiations in early July in sunny San Diego, California.

In solidarity,

Dave Cortez
Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter
TX BlueGreen Apollo Alliance
 
Ilana Solomon
Sierra Club Labor & Trade Program
 
Bob Cash
Texas Fair Trade Coalition
 

(Dallas and Ft. Worth Sierrans stand with officers and staff from CWA District 6 and Local 6215. Credit: Herb Keener)

Gala, Rally and March Videos:

The Yes Men honor US Trade Rep. Ron Kirk
with the “2012 Corporate Power Tool” award:
http://www.yeslab.org/tpp
Ilana Solomon, Sierra Club
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzbYwDx1cqU&feature=relmfu 
Becky Moeller, Texas AFLCIO
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nwv4iGQ2iYs&feature=relmfu
Brent Taylor, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNuLlQ7IfZQ&feature=relmfu
Claude Cummings, Jr. and Nancy Hall, Communication Workers of America
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YCVsE-KLOBo&feature=relmfu  
Sanya Reid Smith, Third World Network
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AsohjpdMEQ&feature=player_embedded
Judy Lerma, National Nurses United
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIUNY17A0os&feature=relmfu
Parks Stearns, Occupy Dallas
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btLWzLn47eA&feature=relmfu
Lori Wallach, Public Citizen/Global Trade Watch
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCAOPhTs-MU&feature=relmfu
Arthur Stamoulis, Citizens Trade Campaign
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Af0cwrchN2I
Thanks to all our rally sponsors who worked so hard to make this a successful event: Austin Central Labor Council, Citizens Trade Campaign, Code Pink, Communications Workers of America District 6 and Local 6215, Dallas AFL-CIO Council, Dallas Peace Center, Friends of the Earth, International Association of Machinists, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and IBEW Local 20, Elevator Constructors Local 21 International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Local 745, MoveOn.org Dallas, National Family Farm Coalition, National Nurses United -Texas,  North Texas Jobs with Justice, Occupy Austin, Occupy Dallas, Occupy Texas, OPEIU,  Public Citizen, Lone Star and National Sierra Club, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Texas State Building Trades Council, United Steelworkers, United Auto Workers,  United Students Against Sweatshops, Welcoming Immigrants Network and many others.


Dave Cortez
Coordinator
Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance
512-477-6195 (office)
Twitter: @TXBlueGreen
www.texasbluegreenapollo.org
David.Cortez (at) SierraClub.org
Check out our green jobs plan for Texas: The Texas BlueGreen Apollo Program
And a National, 21st Century jobs plan: 
Jobs21! – Good Jobs for the 21st Century 

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