Tag Archives: United States

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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Going Green, Literally?

With today marking the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, its time to dig through your drawers and pull out your green attire in celebration of the holiday, but also to avoid those pinchers on the prowl. To me, St. Patrick’s Day is one of those holidays that’s clearly not on the same tier as Christmas, Thanksgiving, or even Halloween but more of a day that is excusable to sit back and enjoy the televised parades or reach for that Jameson or Bailey’s bottle and enjoy a drink or three. On the other hand, I know people with Irish blood pumping through their veins will disagree and say that there’s a lot more to it. Each year, March 17th strikes the day of celebration of Saint Patrick, who many centuries ago brought Christianity to the Emerald Isle, also known as Ireland. It’s said to be told that St. Patrick used the shamrock to break down the Christian fundamentals of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity, which refers to the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. One of the largest celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day in our home country is taken place in Chicago, Illinois. As a matter of fact, every Saturday before St. Patrick’s Day the city dyes the Chicago River green, which many decades ago was fused from an environmental issue.

The Chicago River is dyed green every Saturday before St. Patrick's Day.

Up until the 1960’s, all the industrial garbage the Windy City had produced over the years heavily polluted the Chicago River. Eventually, environmentalist put their foot down and got the city to pass pollution regulations protecting the river.  A man named Steve Bailey was one of the business managers of the Plumbers Local Union for Chicago at this time. Bailey, nonetheless, was also a voice for the St. Patrick’s Day plans for the city.One day in late 1961, a plumber walked into Bailey’s office with splashes of green all over his overalls. Amused and curious about these green stains, Bailey was eager to hear the story behind it.  As it turned out, the stains were from dye that had been put into waste lines to see whether or not buildings were still dumping out into the river. In other words, the plumber placed the dye into these building’s waste systems and observed near the end of the river for the emerald green dye in the water. It was suddenly then when a tradition had been born.

The White House fountains were also dyed green last year. The idea came from Chicago native, Michelle Obama.

Over the years, people have made pushes to make the dye substance more environmentally friendly.  They now use vegetable dye instead of the original outdated fluorescein dye that was also used during WWII to find soldiers in the ocean after their plane had been shot down. Water pollution issues in the U.S. have been addressed for over fifty years and in certain cases can indirectly aid other causes such as St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago. Here’s to a wonderful and safe St. Patrick’s Day, cheers.

Related Links : 2012 Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade, St. Patrick’s Day history, St. Patrick’s Day clothing, Chemistry World Blog, The City of Chicago’s Official Tourism Site, Dying of The River

– Jarred Garza, Beyond Coal Sierra Intern

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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Put Your Hands Across the Sand!

Guest post by Intern Lena Lane!

On April 20th, 2010 an explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oilrig radically changed the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. It also changed the lives of all those along the coast who saw their shrimp and oyster catch disappear, the wetlands die, and the thick slick of oil causing sickness in their towns.

A mile underwater, around 185 million of gallons of oil began pouring out of the damaged rig, uncovered for 86 days. This disaster killed 11 workers.  And, according to the National Wildlife Federation, more than 8,000 birds, sea turtles, and marine mammals were found injured or dead in the six-month period after the spill.  Today, there are still concerns about the long-term effects of the sometimes mile-long plumes of oil still deep in the ocean.

Although it has been said that the Gulf of Mexico is recovering the truth is a huge dead zone has formed near the mouth of the Mississippi and the wetlands on the Louisiana coast rapidly shrunk in size by around 2,000 square miles. Health concerns have also arisen from the use of dispersants- chemicals that break up the oil so that it would sink to the bottom of the ocean. High levels of ethylbenzene, a byproduct of using dispersants, have been found in the blood of those near the spill. In fact, a three year-old boy who visited the Gulf Coast had at least three times the normal level of ethylbenzene in his blood, an organic hydrocarbon toxic in large quantities. Other components of the crude oil and dispersants such as benzene and Xylene were found in the blood of those close to the spill. These components are known to be cancer-causing agents. However, most of their long-term effects on human health are still unknown.

Although the BP oil spill has largely disappeared from the media, this tragedy set off a movement that continues to unite people regardless of economic status, ethnicity, and political affiliation. This movement is called Hands Across the Sand.

Individuals in 42 nations across the world will join hands on June 25th this year to take part in a peaceful demonstration supporting the efforts of those who are still cleaning up the BP oil spill as well as condemning the dangerous oil extraction process that caused it. The event is also a means of showing support for a cleaner future and greener energy.

Register here!

To be a part of this event in Austin, arrive at the Pfluger Bridge on South Lamar Boulevard at 11:30am.  

To take part in the Corpus Christi event go to Mcgee Beach on Shoreline Dr. between the Holiday Inn- Emerald Beach and the Seawall.

If you are near South Padre Island please meet at Beach Access No.21. For more information please visit http://www.handsacrossthesand.com/.

Come out and show your support!

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Dump the Pump Tomorrow, June 16th

Dump the Pump.  Save Money. Ride Transit.
June 16th, 2011 is a great day to encourage your friends and coworkers to try public transportation for their commutes.

The Sierra Club is partnering with the American Public Transit Association to use this day of action as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of public transit. Click here to send a message to your members of Congress and President Obama to say that America needs a world class public transportation system that moves us off oil.

Already use transit or another car-free way to get to work? Use #TweetMyRide on Twitter to let us know!
Local Events in Texas:
Lubbock: Citibus will run free of charge on June 16th.
McAllen: At the Bus Terminal, Metro McAllen have free passes, snow cones and other treats. They will also have an informational booth and be passing out marketing tools to educate the public on the transportation system and how it provides travel options other than driving a car.
Austin: Capital Metro is having a brown bag lunch with live music at 11:00am – 1:00 pm at Brush Square, across from Downtown Station.
Dallas/Fort Worth: DART, The T in Fort Worth, and the North Texas Clean Air Coalition have more details on their event here.
San Antonio: VIA is sponsoring a contest. Take a picture of yourself riding the bus on June 16th and post it to their Facebook page for a chance to win a free month’s pass.

“Dump the Pump Day” started in June 2006 when gas prices were $3 per gallon. Now that gas prices are closer to $4 per gallon, saving money is on everyone’s minds and public transportation is the quickest way to beat high gas prices.  According to the latest APTA Transit Savings Report,  a two-person household in Dallas can save an average of nearly $10,000 annually by downsizing to one car.

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Representative Farenthold Listening Sessions in South Texas

Representative Blake Farenthold will be holding several constituent listening sessions in South Texas this week.

This is an excellent opportunity to go pay him a visit and be the first line of education and information for Sierra Club priority issues.
Listening Session at Los Fresnos Area Chamber of Commerce (203 North
Arroyo Blvd., Los Fresnos, TX 78566). It will start at 6 p.m. CST.

Corpus Christi Listening Session: Wednesday, May 18, 2011, 6 p.m. CST
Location: Moody High School (1818 Trojan Drive, Corpus Christi, TX 78416)

Open House in Corpus Christi: Thursday, May 19, 2011, Time: 2-5 p.m. CST
Location: Corpus Christi Office (101 North Shoreline Blvd., Suite 300, Corpus Christi, TX 78401)

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Take Action Online Against Las Brisas!

Towards the end of January an independent panel of judges, the Office of Public Interest Counsel, and the EPA all recommended that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality deny the proposed Las Brisas petroleum-coke burning plant an air permit, based on its multiple deficiencies and clear violations of the Clean Air Act. The Perry-appointed commissioners approved it anyways. According to its own permit, Las Brisas will emit 220 pounds of mercury, 100 pounds of lead, 8,096 pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 1,767 tons of particulate matter on a yearly basis.

Communities in Corpus Christi are left with few options: the ultimate authority of the EPA, and the leadership of their elected officials.

“This is my hometown, and I love it,” Rebecca Lyons, a graduating honors student at TAMU Corpus Christi, told Matt Tresaugue of the Houston Chronicleback in January, “But I don’t want to raise a family here because of the health risks…There has to be a better way.”

After hundreds of letters, petitions, and phone calls made to the EPA, Corpus Christi residents are taking their fight to the online world. Join us!

Take Action Online!

Copy and paste this status and video to the EPA’s Facebook pages!

Corpus Christi doesn’t want Las Brisas. Stop the air permit now! http://bit.ly/merA7n

EPA’s Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/X4FYe

EPA Region 6 Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/lBXW9C

Administrator Lisa Jackson’s Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/130rQ6

Are you on Twitter? Tweet with us!

@epaGOV @lisapjackson I want clean air! Stop the Las Brisas air permit in Corpus Christi, TX! http://bit.ly/merA7n

Ready to go the distance? Ask your elected officials if they support responsible growth, or Las Brisas…Copy and paste this to their Facebook pages:

I’m a voting constituent, and I don’t want Las Brisas. Do you? http://bit.ly/merA7n

US House Rep Blake Farenthold: http://on.fb.me/f2XnkP

State Rep Connie Scott: http://on.fb.me/jj0qJv

State Rep Todd Hunter: http://on.fb.me/mpSG5d

Mayor Joe Adame: http://on.fb.me/km137a

State Senator Judith Zaffirini: http://on.fb.me/lbxOW5

State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa does not have a Facebook page. Send his office an email instead by scrolling down here.

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