Tag Archives: houston

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


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.

Houston Does it — adopts residential code 15% above state minimum standard

Texans living in Houston got some good news today when Mayor Anise Parker and the Houston City Council unanimously adopted a new residential energy code that is 15% MORE energy efficient than the state’s minimum standard. By taking this action, Houston joins a growing number of cities which have assured that new homes (and apartment buildings three stories or less) are being built efficiently. While the State Energy Conservation Office adopts the minimum standards, cities have the authority to adopt more efficient building codes. Houston has been a green leader on buildings for many years, consistently approving codes above state minimums. Today’s action is good news for homeowners, and will save energy, money and water too!

Sierra Club will continue to work with our allies to help local cities adopt standards for new construction that are energy efficient. Next up? Still trying to get Susan Combs at the Comptroller of Public Accounts to direct her SECO to adopt new codes similar to Houston’s. Also, we expect our efforts in San Antonio to pay off soon, as City Council is expected to begin discussing the 2012 IECC in February. Go green team!

Houston expected to approve new residential building code tomorrow

Mayor Anise Parker and the Houston City Council is expected to adopt a new residential energy code for single and two-family homes, as well as apartment buildings of one and two stories, which would be 15% more efficient than the state minimum standard, as set by the State Energy Conservation Office. Sierra Club has been calling on SECO to adopt a new minimum code similar to that being considered tomorrow by the Houston City Council. The proposal — Agenda Item No. 11 on January 8th — would meet an objective set by Mayor Parker and others to reach the 15% above code requirement by 2014. Previously, the City Council adopted a five percent and 10 percent above code requirement. Below is a letter sent by the Sierra Club to Mayor Parker endorsing the new Houston residential code.

To: Mayor Anise Parker and Houston City Council

From: Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club

Re: Agenda Item 11, January 8, 2014

Houston’s Energy Leadership: Efficient Homes

Tomorrow, on January 8th, Houston’s City Council will consider and should upgrade the city’s building codes for single and two-family homes and apartment buildings less than three stories. Houston should remain a leader in energy efficiency by adopting building codes that are 15% more energy efficient than the statewide mandatory minimum code set by the State Energy Conservation Office.

When the City of Houston updated its Residential Energy Conservation Code in 2012, it went beyond the minimum standards required by the state by adopting a code that was 5% stronger than the state minimum, which is based on the 2009 International Residential Code and 2009 International Energy and Conservation Code. With tighter efficiency standards for new buildings, Houston helped homeowners lower their electric bills, reduced the air pollution associated with electric generation, and helped position the city as a leader in green building and advanced building technology. Furthermore, in early 2013, Houston again updated its code to be 10% more efficient than the state minimum. Finally, tomorrow, City Council is scheduled to consider updating the code to 15% above the state minimum standard, which was adopted in 2012.  In order for Houston to remain a leader in energy efficiency, the Lone Star Chapter and local Houston group of the Sierra Club supports this latest proposal.

Making buildings more energy efficient through better building codes is one of the most cost effective means of reducing energy use, lowering energy bills and reducing demand for fossil fuels. Powering American buildings currently contributes to 40% of the nation’s energy use and 10% of the world’s energy use. Much of this energy is wasted through inefficiencies such as leaky enclosures and poor insulation and outdated or improperly installed equipment. These inefficiencies result in an unnecessarily high demand for energy and strain the economy by ramping up energy bills. In 2009, unexpectedly high utility bills were the second leading cause of foreclosures. Energy efficiency measures through improved building codes can contribute significantly to reducing energy bills.

SECO is currently considering adoption of the 2012 IRC and 2012 IECC, which is roughly 15% more efficient than the 2009 codes. While the Energy Systems Laboratory and multiple stakeholders have recommended that SECO adopt this new code, SECO would probably not implement this code until 2015. By adopting the 15% above 2009 code tomorrow, including a compliance path through the 2012 IRC and 2012 IECC, Houston will be staying ahead of the game and maintaining its leadership as a green city.

It is vital that Houston maintains its role as a leader in energy efficiency with energy code provisions that are 15% above the new minimum state codes. This is especially important as forecasts project approximately 540,000 new homes in the Greater Houston area in the next twenty years. Buildings that are built today last an average of 40 years and it is important to ensure that they are built to high standards that avoid as much waste as possible. Houston’s leadership will protect Texas residents and businesses from volatile electricity rates, reduce pollution that contribute to the state’s dangerous ozone and smog levels, and improve the reliability of the electric grid.

Houston should take the initiative to remain 15% above the 2009 IECC and IRC codes. Both the Responsible Energy Code Alliance and Texas A&M’s Energy System Laboratory have prepared recommendations on how local jurisdictions can achieve that goal and homebuilders have been able to meet the standard.

Celebrate Earth Day


Texas constitutes 0.004% of the Earth’s surface

Earth Day events happening around Texas…

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

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

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

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

Earth Day Dallas
April 20-21, 10 am – 6 pm
Fair Park
Organized by Earth Day Dallas (EDD)

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’

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

Earth Day Houston
April 14, 11 am – 5 pm
Discovery Green
Organized by Air Alliance Houston

Vida Verde Earth Day Festival
April 20, 9 am – 4 pm
Quinta Mazatlan
Organized by City of McAllen

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

Texoma Earth Day Festival
April 20, 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Municipal Ballroom and Grounds
Sherman, TX

Meeting With Decision Makers Workshop Event

Looking for something to do this weekend? Join us for lunch and a workshop to learn how to effectively speak with decision makers to drive your cause forward!


The workshop is open to all who are interested in learning how to create change in their communities. It’s a great way to get involved in the Houston area.
There will be opportunities in the week following the workshop to meet with actual Houston decision makers and implement what you learn.

To RSVP, please click here

Join the event on Facebook!

Map of St.Stephen’s Church and School

We hope to see you there!

Sierra Club and Steelworkers


20em (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spent the morning with United Steelworkers in Texas City in a forum organized by the Blue Green Apollo Alliance. Spent the night at Economy Lodge and there were funny smells in the air. Sigh.

The presentation rolled out by the Blue Green Apollo Alliance identified these problems:

  1. the US economy depends on oil
  2. the US is using more oil than we produce
  3. improvements are needed in the safety practices of oil production and refining
  4. the oil industry is a powerful political force, resulting in an unhealthy cycle of huge subsidies and lax regulation

And they proposed a suite of solutions:

  • we can cut our consumption of oil in half
  • we can ensure the oil we use is domestically produced and improve job security of US refinery workers
  • we dramatically improve safety and health practices in the US oil industry
  • the people we elect to represent us are committed to these ideals

In order to accomplish these things, there were suggestions of improving vehicle fuel standards, improving infrastructure for more efficiency, investing in transit options, and of course, smarter growth (courtesy of Agenda 21! just kidding).

We were asked to opine on the presentation, whether we agreed, disagreed, or had any further thoughts. We actually didn’t disagree with anything in the presentation, neither the facts of it nor the aspirations (Steelworkers: “Cut our consumption of oil in half? Desirable. Just not sure if it’s possible, or if Big Oil will let us do it.”) There were three similar events of this kind all over the country preceding our encounter, and the presentation changed after every presentation, so I’m assuming the content was perhaps more controversial at the beginning.

What I actually learned:

  • Steelworkers are having a tough time building their own membership. Their coworkers are mostly conservatives. The USW consistently supports Democrats, so they’re having a rough time.
  • Enforcement (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, EPA, any kind of state/federal regulator) only come around when they are called. They spoke frequently about more safety and more regulations.
  • I could have guessed this, but contract workers are a huge problem. They aren’t as well trained, and in a dangerous line of work like this one, the consequences for not knowing how to properly operate machinery or troubleshoot safety issues are enormous.
  • Deaths of contract workers in accidents do not count against “Safety Awards” given out by executives for no accidents. That is why the Texas City BP refinery had a “Safety Award for 4 years without an injury” in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, even though the Texas City BP refinery exploded on March 23, 2005, and killed 15 workers.
  • These companies cut corners wherever they can. They care about safety, as long as it isn’t expensive.
  • These guys know solidarity. They’re going to protest at Costco to get them to pull Palermo’s pizza after Palermo employees tried to form a union and the managers promptly called ICE on them. (Saturday, August 25th from 10am-noon at 3836 Richmond Avenue, Houston TX 77027 if you’re interested).
  • USW Local 13-2001 Vice President Mark Schubert, who was recently fired for statements he made at a new worker orientation, said this: “I’ve heard environmentalists belittle themselves. I have to say, that when I was growing up in the ship channel, I remember horny toads, fish, split-tail lizards… [I think that’s what he said, he was just listing wildlife]. Those guys were all gone for a while, but thanks to you guys, they’re coming back. And now maybe my grandkids will see them. And that’s really nice.”

To support Mark, you can sign this petition to Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson asking him to reinstate his job.

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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