Tag Archives: Public health

You Look Bike-alicious!!!

My experience as a novice Austin biker:

I recently took a 3- hr seminar on lawfully riding a bike in Austin and it was very informative. Our instructor went over subjects like: proper signaling, traffic maneuvering and Austin biking statistics. I was shocked at all the things I did not know about biking and how there were so many rules for the people I seen carrying on daily life.

After the class session the question was asked did I feel safer if I were to ride a bike, the answer is definitely, “No!”. I say that only because when I was a kid, biking meant fun and carefree days and now as a “novice city biker”, there are so many things to be weary of, like, buses and drivers not seeing you.
The next portion of training was actually taking a bike out to cycle. It was a ton of fun! We rode around for about an hour and then hauled it in with some constructive criticism from our instructor. It was a great ride, even though, there are a ton of reasons why I am afraid, I still can’t ignore the reasons why I would ride a bike. There are a ton of (1) healthy obvious reasons why bike riding is beneficial- avid bike riders usually eat healthier and are more physically fit. (2)It is feasible- I am rolling the numbers in my head on how much I would save on gas, if I simply biked short distances. (3) Lastly, I would cut down on my carbon-foot print if I simply didn’t drive so much!

Even though, I started off afraid of riding a bike in the streets of Austin, I was easily persuaded after a 1-hour ride around the neighborhood.  There are many programs in Austin to get you “bike ready” for the streets. All you need to do is a little research and you will find yourself enjoying all the benefits of pushing two pedals and you will look “Bike-alicious” doing it!

Icye Walker, Sierra Club Intern

Clean Air Rules!

The EPA released the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) today protecting the health of millions of Americans. The new rule helps 27 states to lower air pollution and improve air quality for all through the reduction of emissions from coal plants that add to ozone and fine particle pollution.

This new rule replaces the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule, which in 2008 a court ordered the EPA to replace.

Health Impacts

The EPA estimates that this new rule will keep Americans healthy by preventing:

  • up to 34,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks
  • 19,000 hospital and emergency department visits
  • 420,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms
  • 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma

This adds up to avoiding 1.8 million days of work or school missed by Americans and saving $280 billion/year! According to EPA Administrator, this rule will prevent 670-1,000 premature deaths by 2014 in Texas alone.

Other Impacts

The CSAPR will also:

  • Allow families to enjoy the summer without smog.
  • Increase visibility in national parks.
  • Protect sensitive ecosystems
  • More jobs through new construction of pollution controls, according to the EPA

Affects in Texas

“There is no reason why Texas shouldn’t get the benefits of this extraordinary rule like the rest of the country.” –Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator

Texas was one of the states included in this rule, which sets limits for NOx and SO2emissions. While some in the energy industry are complaining that there was not enough time to comment on this rule, according to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson they were given plenty of time and made a number of comments. The pollution controls are widely available and many power plants have already invested in them.

Also, this rule will help Texas, since Texas is affected by ozone from 11 other states! Most major cities in Texas will be out of attainment when the EPA releases its new ozone standards. Click here to see a map!  Moreover, Texans are the people most severely impacted by pollution from power plants, so the CSAPR will help us to lower pollution in our state benefiting many across Texas.

For more information go to the EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/airtransport/

Also, next week Texas environmental groups will release new data that details pollution problems at existing coal plants and underscores the importance EPA’s inclusion of Texas in this new Cross State Air Pollution rule.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson thinks it is a fundamental right for people to be able to breathe clean air and raise their families without the health threats of air pollution. Don’t you agree?

Click here to sign a petition supporting the EPA’s new proposal for mercury standards and continue protecting the health of American families!

Join us at a meeting!The Austin group of the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club on the 2nd Tuesday of every month (except holidays) at 7pm (with a social hour starting at 6pm) in North Dining Room of Scholz’ Beer Garten, 1607 San Jacinto.

-Julia Von Alexander, Beyond Coal Intern


Houston simply cannot afford a new source of air pollution.

According to the American Lung Association, Houston has one of the poorest air qualities in the nation. It’s no secret that Houston has refineries next door to neighborhoods along the ship channel. Within these communities, entire families live and their children go to school breathing air ridden with all kinds of pollutants.  The ALA estimates there to be more than 96,000 children at risk for pediatric asthma, based on recent census data. Could this be because Harris County has such unhealthy air? The ALA gave Harris County an “F” grading, based on annual average ozone levels.

Businesses and refineries that emit pollutants in the Houston area have rarely stayed under the EPA limit, if at all.  In neighboring Matagorda County the potential for air pollution emitted by the proposed White Stallion coal-fired power plant will make it harder still for Houston to achieve clean air.  If this coal-fired power plant is allowed to become fully operational, the quality of air in Houston will have even more difficulty staying under federal limits.

In a health impact study conducted by MSB Energy Associates on the proposed White Stallion coal plant, emissions could add more than 400 cases of chronic bronchitis.  This pollution may exacerbate the asthma of about 13,000 who already live with the condition. The most chilling effect is that there will be 630 deaths directly attributed to the pollutants emitted by this coal plant. This could be the death of a parent, a caretaker, or a child.

Another startling number to look at is the health care costs of such a plant.  Although the plant will provide funding to Bay City’s schools, the total estimated cost of health care due to air pollutants is more than $5 billion!  Already in hard times, we as Texans simply cannot afford a new coal plant.

Houstonians, please contact Mayor Parker and urge her to continue her support for clean air.  Tell our mayor that we can’t afford a new coal plant, to say NO to White Stallion.

- Kat Herrera, Beyond Coal Intern

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Kat at kat.m.herrera@gmail.com.   

Wow. Wow. Wow. At the Sunset Hearing.

Alliance for a Clean Texas

Texans from Dallas to Corpus Christi, from El Paso to Beaumont converged at the Texas Capitol today for the Sunset Advisory Commission Public Hearing.  Dedicated people from all walks of life came and some are staying past dinner time.  Their main focus — Sunset Review of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality began about an hour ago  and these environmental champions are digging in.

Dr. Wesley Stafford, Texas Medical Association, Jennifer Real, CROW-Conroe Residents Opposed to Wells, Lize Burr, Alliance for a Clean Texas, David Cortez, El Paso ASARCO opponent, Charlie Faupel, Goliad-Victoria Clean Environment Coalition

Lize Burr–  In this busy season, people have put their personal lives on hold and traveled to Austin.  They’re fighting for clean air and clean water, unfortunately, that often means they’re also fighting TCEQ. There’s only one Texas.  It’s time for our lawmakers to help us protect and preserve it – for generations to come.

Dr. Wesley Stafford, Clean Economy Coalition, RN's Marion Morris and Trish O'Day, Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility

Dr. Wesley Stafford serves on the Science and Public Health Council of the Texas Medical Association. He explained — Our Council unanimously agreed to recommend that the Sunset Commission establish a permanent position for a physician as a Commissioner on the TCEQ. Texas physicians feel that TCEQ is the agency that makes more important public health decisions than any other agency in the State.  There has been significant concern that public health hasn’t been a big enough consideration to the TCEQ in recent years and we feel it’s important to have a physician’s input.

Corpus Christi Clean Economy Coalition

Dr. Stafford and has been active in opposing the proposed Las Brisas coke-fired power plant in downtown Corpus Christi a community that experiences higher than average rates for asthma and birth defects.

CROW-Conroe Residents Opposed to Wells

It isn’t just the traditional environmental groups who are here today.  We’re enjoying the growth of our movements and new groups from all over the state have stepped up concerned about the following issues –

  • Texas Campaign for the Environment

  • Existing and proposed coal plants in Sweetwater near Abilene, Corpus Christi, Bay City, Goliad, the Waco area, LaGrange, and Franklin;
  • Injection wells near Conroe and the Woodlands;
  • Cement kilns near Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio;
  • Metal smelters in El Paso, Rockdale, and Austin;

    Fairfield Clean Environment Coalition

  • Refineries and chemical plants in the Houston area, Port Arthur, and Corpus Christi;
  • Uranium mining in the groundwater of South Texas and the Coastal Bend;
  • Water quality standards in streams and rivers across the State;
  • Landfills and the WCS Radioactive Waste dump in Andrews.

David Cortez a victorious ASARCO opponent from El Paso –Despite the TCEQ’s repeated refusal to stand up to big polluters, I am hopeful that the Sunset Commission will hear what people coming from all over Texas are saying today. The ASARCO case in El Paso where I’m from makes my point.  We kept that dangerous smelter closed because so many people got involved and because we had the law on our side.   Now, we’re demanding that the elected representatives on the Sunset Commission hold the TCEQ accountable for their actions and lack thereof.

Texas Impact

Charlotte Wells, Galveston Baykeeper, Mary Beth Maher, Sierra Club, Whitney Root, Multi-County Coalition & Texans Against Tenaska

Evelyn Merz, Sierra Club and Zac Trahan, Texas Campaign for the Environment

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After the Election- Play the Whole Hand (Part 1)

For those of us who care about clean water, clean air, and clean energy in Texas, election day wasn’t too great of a day. Actually, it was a massacre for our Texas climate hawks.  We need to hunker down and retool. Didn’t think we were going to give up, did you?

We won’t be getting new and improved TCEQ commissioners who care about enforcing the law and protecting public health. We’re stuck with guys like Brian Shaw, who are “committed” to moving dirty permits, like Las Brisas’ air permit, “as quickly as possible.”

But changing our political leadership to change the political scene is not the only way to play the game.

We tend to lock ourselves into the idea that voting is the only card we have to play.  Or perhaps others are telling us that voting is the only way- civic engagement organizations, political organizations, and MTV spend massive amounts of time and money on getting out the vote. And when it doesn’t go our way, we get disappointed and disenchanted with the whole thing (that thing being democracy).

But there are other cards to play.  There are other cards in the deck.  We’re just not as used to playing them. And folks, we are going to need the whole deck of cards.  Things are about to get really, really interesting.

Let’s call voting card #1.  Which means…

Card #2: Calling/writing to your elected official. A lot of people think that when it isn’t an election season, it’s the off-season. Not so. Quite the opposite.  Politicians don’t get a whole lot done during election season (and if it looks like they are, they’re pretending).

But guess what? There’s a 19-year-old intern who has to read every single piece of mail and receive every single phone call made by constituents to that politician’s office.  And they have to take notes on every single constituent comment.

Let’s pretend that the political hot topic of the moment is a bill that would allow for something other than water in the drinking fountain. Concerned Texans call their politician, and the 19-year-old intern’s notes look something like this:

People who support fruit punch in all public drinking fountains: 27
People who support rum and coke in all public drinking fountains 35
People who think the government should stay out of public drinking fountains: 12
People who think that clean, cold water in public drinking fountains is just fine: 66

So, at the end of the day, the intern reports to a legislative aide, who then reports to the chief of staff, who then informs the politician that while a lot of people are interested in having things other than water come out of public drinking fountains, and some skipped high school government, cooler heads have prevailed and constituents want cool, clean water coming out of their public drinking fountains.

Why this matters: I like to call this providing “political cover”. Politics is a pretty brutal game, and politicians will be politicians.  Very, very, very few will stick their necks out and vote for a bill simply because they believe it is good, or right.  They need to know that their constituents support this bill.  They need to know that they are stand with the public opinion. They need political cover, so that when an intrepid reporter asks them why they voted a certain way, they can say, “It’s what my constituents wanted.”

It’s a numbers game.  The more we call, the more we write, the more political cover we can provide. The numbers. Will. Win.

Now, imagine what can happen if thousands of people call, write, and email their elected officials, united around a single issue. The Sierra Club can claim a huge network of members, activists, and supporters.  If we are all working, united, around certain issues, we can out-call, out-write, and outnumber anybody.

Card number 3: The lobby visit.  Lobby visits are not just for overpaid people in suits.  Lobby visits are for people. Lobby visits are for you.

We could talk about this… but what you should do is attend the Sierra Club Chapter’s Legislative Workshop on November 13th in Austin.  Or you could attend the Sierra Club’s Learn to Lobby Clinic on November 8th in Corpus Christi.  And if neither of these work for you, email Flavia.delafuente@sierraclub.org, and we can make a lobby clinic happen in your part of Texas.

Hunker down, folks.  It’s time to redraw our strategy, because when it comes to fighting for clean air, clean water, and clean energy, giving up is NOT an option. La unión hace la fuerza.

More cards to play, coming your way, next week. Stay tuned.

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