Tag Archives: ken kramer

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

Your Congressperson is in Town- Time for a Visit

Congress is officially in recess. Most members go to their home districts and host town halls, local meet-ups, “constituent coffees”, and attend local events.

You can find your representative by going here: http://www.house.gov/

In the top right hand corner, fill in your zipcode. When it shows you your representative, click on the little computer icon to go to their website. Search their website for a calendar of local events.

We’re looking for people to be a part of Sierra Club contingents to these events to stand up for clean air and clean water. If you’re interested, email Flavia at flavia.delafuente@sierraclub.org and I’ll get you started.

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What? You didn’t! Part II

Yesterday, the Texas State House of Representatives voted on third reading for House Bill 2694 that, if it passes the Senate, would continue the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  96 numb Representatives — all but one Republicans,  voted for an amendment that Panhandle Rep. Warren Chisum attached to the bill.  Chisum’s amendment removes citizen’s rights to contested case hearings by placing the burden of proof on the citizens as opposed to big industry.

Ken Kramer, Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club commented,

The House floor action on the TCEQ sunset bill Wednesday was a historic low point in legislative activity on environmental issues. It represents a failure of the majority of state representatives to protect both public health and the rights of their constituents to a clean environment.

Here’s the record vote on the Chisum Amendment.  You can scan this list to see how your legislator voted, and phone your representative to either thank them or ask them to clean up their act.

Dallas Rep. Rafael Anchia made a valiant effort to strip the Chisum amendment from HB 2694 and protect citizens’ rights to a fair, contested case hearing.  David Weinberg with the Texas League of Conservation Voters considered the floor debate on the Anchia amendment to be, “some of the most compelling arguments of this Session.”

Here’s the record vote on the Anchia amendment.  Again, you can check out how your Legislator voted and give them a call.

Ken concluded —

The TCEQ sunset bill as filed in the House represented a balanced piece of legislation that reflected the recommendations of the Texas Sunset Commission after a thorough and careful review of the state’s major environmental regulatory agency. Key amendments to the bill on the House floor today have undermined that balance and have given polluters the best present they could have asked for to celebrate Earth Day later this week. The most egregious changes in the TCEQ bill were those that undercut or in some cases eliminate the rights of Texans to contest proposed pollution control permits that pose a threat to their communities and their families.

There is hope that the bill as it moves to the Senate will be cleaned up to make it the balanced legislation it started out to be. If the TCEQ sunset bill isn’t cleaned up in the Senate, neither will the state of Texas be cleaned up.

Posted by Donna Hoffman, 04-21-2011

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What? You didn’t!

The thing that keeps me hopeful when the Texas Legislature and the TCEQ do things like they did yesterday, is knowing that people often do the right thing despite the Legislature and TCEQ.  There’s hope that rationality could prevail.

So what happened yesterday?

The TCEQ passed a terrible environmental flows rule and the State House of Representatives passed a terrible TCEQ Sunset bill.

First, Environmental Flows…

TCEQ Commissioner Buddy Garcia did the right thing!  Feel free to thank him with an email – bgarcia@tceq.texas.gov

The other two TCEQ Commissioners, Chair Bryan Shaw and Carlos Rubinstein tried to break our hearts with a terrible new environmental flows rule that leaves our friends the oysters, the shrimp and the fishing and tourism industries of the Texas coast too salty for life.  Need more info. so that you can make a comment on Matt Tresaugue’s Houston Chronicle article?  Here’s what Ken Kramer, Director  of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club says about the decision yesterday.

At today’s Commission meeting the public comments were strongly in favor of stronger standards, and those comments came from a diversity of folks – oystermen, seafood restaurant owners, seafood wholesalers, the Galveston Bay Foundation, the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas (recreational anglers), National Wildlife Federation, and Sierra Club. A few comments were made in favor of weak standards by representatives of water supply interests, who thus far have sought to stonewall or control the process for development of standards so as to avoid any meaningful environmental protections.

Read more.  Ken pointed to the large river systems authorities — the Trinity River Authority and Sabine River Authority as being the groups that blocked a meaningful result.  Now Texans have to disregard the TCEQ’s poor rule and make wise initiatives to leave enough water in the rivers to make it to the bays and estuaries.

What else could have happened yesterday?

Readers stay tuned for…What?  You didn’t! Part II…on the Texas State House of Representatives vote on the TCEQ Sunset bill.

Posted by Donna Hoffman, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club

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URGENT: Stop Chisum Amendments from Destroying Contested Case Hearing Process

Smokestacks from a wartime production plant, W...

Image via Wikipedia

Call your state representatives, this will be hitting the House Floor tomorrow morning.  Find your representative’s contact information here.

From Ken Kramer, Lone Star Chapter Director:

“State Rep. Warren Chisum is seeking to hitch a ride on the TCEQ sunset legislation for one of his other stalled House bills (House Bill 3251). This Chisum bill – now resurrected as a proposed amendment to the sunset bill – would eliminate the opportunity for a contested case process by which Texans may seek adequate protection for their communities and families from mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.

“This Chisum proposal would relegate ‘public participation’ in air pollution permit amendments for electric generating plants to a public review and comment process and a public ‘hearing’ where community residents could come and vent their concerns about the permit amendment – but without any leverage to pressure the permit applicant to negotiate improvements to the permit amendment.

This Chisum amendment arises because – as a result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision a couple of years ago – coal-fired power plants and other electric generating facilities are going to have to meet stronger standards (‘MACT’ or ‘maximum achievable control technology’ standards) under the federal Clean Air Act for controlling ‘hazardous air pollutants’ such as mercury and toxics. That will require amendments to current air permits. Rep. Chisum wants to do away with the opportunity for a contested case on those specific permit amendments. Doing so, however, would remove the ability of citizens to make sure that those hazardous air pollutant control standards are as protective of their health and their environment as they need to be. Texans need to retain that leverage of a contested case process to get coal plant operators to the table to agree to tighter air pollution protections or to get TCEQ officials to require truly protective emission limits.”

Call your state representatives, this will be hitting the House Floor tomorrow morning.  Find your representative’s contact information here.

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Texas…not so ugly.

Texas nature photographer Charles Kruvand has been named recipient of the 2010 Arts in Service to the Environment Award by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The award will be presented as part of the annual Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Awards Dinner at Chez Zee American Bistro in Austin on Saturday, April 9 at 6:30 PM. The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club annually recognizes Sierra Club members and others who have done outstanding work in pursuit of environmental protection or in furthering the goals and activities of the Sierra Club, the nation’s longest active – since 1892, and largest environmental organization.

The Arts in Service to the Environment Award is conferred only when merited to an individual or group for an outstanding work of art in any medium or discipline in service to the environment.

Charles Kruvand is an Austin-based photographer whose work has been featured throughout Texas, including at the Dallas Museum of Natural History, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, the Wichita Falls Museum of Art, the Heard Natural Science, Museum, the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and the International Museum of Art and Science in McAllen. His photographs are also in the corporate collections of Kodak, Texas Instruments, Frito-Lay, and Citigroup.

Most recently his artistic and awe-inspiring color photography of Texas water features has been the visual focus of the recently published book The Living Waters of Texas.  The book is a compilation of personal essays by Texas environmental advocates accompanied by Charles’ stunning photos.

The book’s Editor and Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, Ken Kramer said:

Texas book reviewer Glenn Dromgoole described the book simply as “gorgeous.”  That it is, but it is more than that. The 100 photos by Charles in the Living Waters book dramatically portray the diversity, spiritual value, and beauty of Texas rivers, creeks, springs, bays, marshes, bayous, and other water resources. They enhance the voices of the Texas conservationists who wrote about their inspirations and experiences by giving their words an evocative, emotional, and artistic context.  No one who spends time perusing the photos in the book will be untouched.

The photography featured in The Living Waters of Texas was a labor of love for Charles, who spent literally two decades compiling the portfolio from which the water photos in the book were drawn. His recounting of those experiences at the Texas Book Festival last October was captivating and motivating.

Andy Sansom, former executive director of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and now executive director of the River Systems Institute (which sponsored the book), recognized the exceptional nature of Charles’ water photography and launched the effort to produce a book to highlight that photography and use it to help inspire new advocates for the protection of the state’s natural heritage.

No photographer in 2010 made a more important contribution to the appreciation for the Texas environment than Charles Kruvand.

In addition to Kruvand’s award, this year’s Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club Awards Dinner will honor Sierrans and others whose actions on parks and wildlife, water issues and environmental justice, as well as chapter service, merit both recognition and appreciation from the environmental community and all Texans.

Cost to attend the April 9 dinner in Austin is $40 per person, and proceeds will benefit the Lone Star Chapter’s legislative program. Dinner includes entrée and dessert with a vegetarian entrée available. A cash bar starts at 6:30 p.m. Dinner will begin at 7 p.m. and will conclude with the presentation of the awards. Dress is business casual.

The deadline for reservations is tomorrow, Friday, April 8. Space is limited, so early reservations are encouraged. Tickets are available at www.texas.sierraclub.org or by calling (512) 477-1729.

Chez Zee American Bistro is located at 5406 Balcones Drive in Austin.

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Who Wants to Retire 4,000 MW of Coal in Texas?

We do!

Fraser’s Energy Plan a Good First Start On Cleaning the Air in Texas But Environmental and Community Stakeholders Must Be Part of the Process

Sierra Club commends the recent filing of the proposed Texas Energy Policy Act by Senator Fraser in the state Senate but calls on the Texas legislature to ensure that environmental and community stakeholders are included in this plan.  The bill, entitled Energy Policy Act, SB15, proposes a robust planning process where an appointed Texas Energy Policy Council examines Texas’s electricity needs.  A key provision in the proposed plan asks the Council to reduce air pollution in the state to help major metropolitan areas like Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston meet the minimum health safety guidelines of the Clean Air Act.  Currently, close to 20 counties are in non-attainment, meaning that the air is so polluted, it does not meet minimun standards of safety.

“This proposed bill is an important first step at addressing Texas’s air pollution within our borders, as well as our role in regional pollution.” said Jen Powis Senior Regional Representative for Sierra Club.  “But while a year long planning process is an important first step, all of the key stakeholders, including the environmental community, must be at the table.”

The bill as drafted amends Texas’s electricity industry deregulation bill (Texas Utilities Code, Chapter 39) and calls for the plan to retire the dirtiest 4000 MWs of power plants.  In 2002, when the deregulation bill was originally filed and adopted, the legislature created a strong renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to encourage new jobs and new growth in emerging industries like wind generation.  Texas currently leads the nation in wind generation and has met that aggressive RPS over a decade earlier than anticipated.  Sierra Club points to the need for doing the same for energy efficiency programs and solar power with a non-wind RPS.

“Texas needs a stronger goal for efficiency and policies that allow solar industries to set up shop here.” said Cyrus Reed, Sierra Club’s Conservation Director for the Lonestar Chapter.  “If this bill only retires coal in order to ramp up existing natural gas, it misses a huge opportunity to bring new jobs and clean energy industries to Texas.  By many accounts, Texas could lead in job creation in these sectors if the Legislature were to adopt policies promoting clean energy.”

The bill’s plan aimed at promoting Texas’s home-grown natural gas industries ignores the major threats to air and water pollution that citizens in the Barnett Shale are dealing with first hand.   The production of shale gas carries its own set of issues, including protection of water resources, benzene emissions, and ozone impacts. As shale gas production is currently expanding to other areas of the state, those issues must be resolved.

“If the state legislature is going to address energy and environmental issues on a comprehensive basis, it has to provide greater protections for public health from natural gas production as well as improve the state’s overall effort clean up our air,” said Ken Kramer, Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “We’re pleased to see that Senator Fraser recognized the state’s pollution problems in crafting this planning process.  But we need to move forward now in strengtherning the state’s pollution control programs while we develop a state energy plan that could further enhance a clean energy future for Texas.”

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