The chief toxicologist of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Michael Honeycutt, is leading the charge against the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expected future regulations on smog, also known as ozone. The EPA is expected to lower the acceptable ozone standard from 75 parts per billion to 60 parts per billion by December 1st.

Parish Coal Plant - Photo credit - Nathan  Woodruff

Parish Coal Plant – Photo by Nathan Woodruff

The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) Ozone Review Panel consisting of doctors and scientists has unanimously advised the EPA that ozone levels are too high and need to be lowered. Their research shows that ozone is responsible for a variety of health effects: “lung function decrements, pulmonary inflammation, respiratory symptoms, respiratory morbidity and respiratory mortality”.  According to the EPA, ozone concentrations aggravate diseases such as asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and heart disease; ozone is also associated with higher mortality rates, especially in older adults.  However, Republicans in Congress and Texas are acting to protect American jobs and job-creators against the EPA’s “agenda”.

Michael Honeycutt, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chief Toxicologist

Michael Honeycutt, Chief Toxicologist at the TCEQ

In an article arguing against proposed new ozone standards David Honeycutt writes, “after an in-depth review of the EPA’s analysis, as well as a thorough study of the relevant scientific literature, the TCEQ has concluded that there will be little to no public health benefit from lowering the current standard”. Honeycutt explains that because ozone is an outdoor air pollutant and “since most people spend more than 90 percent of their time indoors”, then they are rarely exposed to significant levels of ozone. He claims that “Environmental regulations should be based on sound science. If they are not, then it opens the door for regulations that are based on politics”.

Major Texas cities such as Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas, home to over four and a half million people combined, already have ozone levels above permitted levels. According to the American Lung Association, Houston is 7th in the country for highest ozone levels and Dallas ranks 8th. If the EPA lowers the acceptable ozone standard to 60 parts per billion as proposed, then the cities of Austin and El Paso, with a combined million and a half residents, will also fail to meet federal standards. But the debate concerns more than just federal regulations. Though many Texas cities fail to comply with the current ozone standard, most scientists still think it is too lenient and the public’s health remains at risk at these levels.

That is of course, with the exception of scientists like David Honeycutt of the TCEQ who argues that stricter ozone regulations will provide no substantial health benefits. As he explained, Texans needn’t worry about ozone if we just stay inside.

Around the country, citizens are demanding action on climate change policies.  Recently,  Florida’s Clean Energy Future — a coalition of clean energy, business, Hispanic, faith, community and academic leaders throughout the Sunshine State  –worked across the state to raise awareness about the threat of climate change and to urge elected officials like Governor Rick Scott “to develop a strong plan for Florida to meet the requirements of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.”  And, across the state concerned Floridians have responded. On Monday, that response reached a crescendo when they delivered 92,217 petitions to Governor Rick Scott.

The signatures were delivered to the governor’s office by school children pulling little red wagons filled with boxes of signed petitions and college students and parents — about 30 people in all. Holding signs like “Dirty Power Makes Me Sick,” “Protect Kids,” “Our Health is at Risk!” and “Clean Power Plan Saves Money,” the kids, college and adults made their concerns known and their voices heard on climate change.

Jordan Myatt, a young student from Tallahassee, said:  “We’re all citizens and we’re all people, and either way, it’s going to be affecting adults and kids, so I think it’s adults’ and kids’ problem. Global warming caused by pollution is something that is a big problem now and needs to be fixed. We’re just going to keep pushing it and pushing it…We need to stop it now. It’s already the glaciers melting and the sea level rising.”

Adi Chauhan, age 9, of Tallahassee, added: “The weather will be affected too. The summers will get warmer and the winters will get colder, so it’s time to fight against [climate change]…Climate change is happening and it’s real — it’s happening right now.”

Daniel Corbett, a 21-year-old senior majoring in environmental sciences at Florida State University said: “Today’s action, delivering these petitions to our state capitol and legislature made clear to our elected leaders that climate change and energy policy is no longer just an issue for tomorrow. It is an issue for today.” Corbett added: “It doesn’t matter whether you identify as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, what faith you follow, where you call home, what language you speak or how much money you make, because climate change, pollution, whether our energy is dirty or clean, that is all of us.”

Susan McLeod, a mother and pharmacist from Tallahassee, said: “We have now over 91,000 signatures from folks all around Florida who also see the effects of climate change in our state. We ask the governor today to jump on board and help Florida to develop a plan to reduce carbon pollution.”

Clearly, the folks, both young and not so young, quoted above “get it” on what the problem is and what needs to be done.

Make your voice heard, tell the EPA that you support a strong Carbon-Cutting Standard – The EPA recently announced the first-ever standard to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Add your voice in support of cutting carbon from our largest source of climate change-causing pollution.


A new investigation shows a strong correlation between the fracking boom and a significant increase in fatal crashes in Texas.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is known for the environmental dangers it poses: obscene water use, groundwater contamination and the release of greenhouse gasses. An equally dark side to the practice has recently been revealing itself.

Texas Increase in Vehicle Accidents and Fatalities as Fracking IncreasedWorking together, The Houston Chronicle and Houston Public Media conducted an investigation that found fatalities involving commercial vehicles on Texas roads have increased dramatically since the fracking boom of 2008. In 2009 there were a reported 352 highway fatalities involving commercial vehicles. That number jumped to 532 in 2014; a 51 percent increase.

For decades, Texas’ incidents of auto fatalities were in decline. Improved safety standards, such as seat belts, child seats and airbags made being on the road less deadly. However, Texas saw an 8 percent increase between 2009 and 2013, the same time the fracking boom started.
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EPA Workshop for Communities with Environmental Justice Concerns on Rule to Reduce Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants
(online participation available)

 October 30, 2014
8:30 am – 5:00 pm ET
7:30 am – 4 pm CT

Crystal Gateway Marriott
1700 Jefferson Davis Highwayz
Arlington, VA 22202

 On June 2, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) Proposed rule. This rule proposes state-specific goals for reducing carbon dioxide from the power sector; states will then need to make plans to meet the goal. The proposed rule also promotes clean and renewable energy options. This is a federal rule that will have important implications for state air and energy policies. The EPA  welcomes stakeholders who have environmental justice concerns to participate and share perspectives about how the rule can be reflective and responsive to the needs of environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities across the country.  Most of us cannot travel to Virginia to attend the workshop, but the EPA will make online participation available and registration information is listed below.

If you are interested in learning how you can help your state achieve cleaner air, reduce the impacts of climate change, and promote renewable energy sources, it is important that you understand the Clean Power Plan. You have an opportunity to help shape this rule…come learn how!

We encourage you to take advantage of this 1-day workshop, which will:

  • Provide an overview of the Clean Power Plan proposed rule.
  • Prepare participants to engage effectively in the public participation process.
  • Provide information about the elements of the CPP that are important to communities with environmental justice concerns.
  • Provide information about how to participate in the public comment process, which is open until December 1, 2014

To register for this event in-person or online via Adobe Connect, click here

Special Notes about Online Participation:
  • If you plan to participate in this workshop online, you must register in order to receive the information to participate in the workshop
    • In your registration, you must indicate that you are participating online “via Adobe Connect”
    • You will receive the information to participate in the workshop by October 29th, 2014
    • Only a limited number of webinar slots are available (130 slots) if several of you from your community want to participate, we recommend you gather at a single location and register just for your group.


Big Buy Poster

The Big Buy

October 28, 2014 at 8PM

When an elected Republican Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled earlier this month that Tom Delay’s flooding of corporate contributions into state elections for the purposes of manipulating Congressional redistricting was “wheeling and dealing (that) was a tad shady, but legal,” it brought to an end an almost decade-long criminal case, but it didn’t end the controversy surrounding the Former Majority Leader.

Prosecutors claimed the ruling undermines the fairness and integrity of Texas elections, while Delay said the verdict gives him fresh impetus to run for elected office again. An October 28th national online screening of the only documentary made about the Delay case will allow viewers to look at the original evidence and make up their own minds.

Filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck are using the court decision to team-up with online screening room 2ndLine.tv to host an October 28th live internet screening of the “The Big Buy,” their 2006 investigation of the scandal that forced Delay to resign from Congress.  Viewers will be able to vote via a Google Docs link on whether they think Delay knowingly broke Texas law when his Political Action Committee solicited corporate donations for Republicans running in state House races.
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melting earthEarth is now on pace to tie for the hottest year ever recorded. The first nine months of 2014 have a global average temperature of 58.72 degrees, tying with 1998 for the warmest first nine months on record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.  Last month the globe averaged 60.3 degrees Fahrenheit making September the hottest in 135 years of record keeping and the fourth monthly record set this year,that includes May, June and August.

So we are on track for  2014 to break the record for hottest year.  Earth hasn’t set a monthly record for cold since December 1916, but all monthly heat records (and there have been a few) have been set after 1997.

satellite-image-of-the-methane-hotspot_1_NASA and University of Michigan scientists have discovered a massive cloud of methane that spans 2500 square miles (about the size of Delaware) located above the the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

The atmospheric methane concentration of methane in that area is equivalent to 1.3 million pounds of emissions a year, which is 80% higher than EPA estimates.  This is the largest concentration of methane in the United States.  It was so large in fact that scientists “weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” but they recently verified the levels of methane in the affected area.

Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor attributed the dramatic methane emissions to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin.  The San Juan Basin is the most active coalbed methane production area in the US.  The coalbed methane covers the pores and cracks in coal.  As this methane seeps out from underground coal mines, it causes fatal explosions almost yearly.

While the methane concentrations in that area are not an immediate health risk to the local inhabitants, it has significant implications for climate change.  As a greenhouse gas, methane is 86 times more potent in its atmospheric effect than carbon dioxide in the first two decades after release.  25% of human-induced global warming is caused by methane emissions in the environment.

As the U.S. considers transitioning from coal to natural gas as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is critical that accurate assessments of leaking methane are accounted for in all calculations.  If leakage of natural gas isn’t greatly reduced, switching fuels may make little or no difference in combating climate change.  This methane hot spot should serve as a warning that other undiscovered leaks are probably out there and having a significant impact.

China Heat Wave- US China Daily Australia experienced record-breaking temperatures and many other countries are experiencing uncharacteristically intense heat waves. Whether or not these events are related to climate change has been questioned in the past, but has recently come to light as something that is very probable.

Recently, researchers and scientists come up with the phrase “extreme event attribution” which acts as a unit of measure for the extent to which these weather events are human-caused. For instance, according to extreme event attribution, the heat wave in Korea was 10 times more likely due to human caused climate change. Scientists want extreme event attribution to be in real-time by the end of 2015.

The American Meteorological Society recently released a bulletin based off of 22 case studies. It concluded saying that high temperatures made heat waves more intense and more likely and that the emission of greenhouse gases is causing these extreme weather events. Recent heatwaves in Australia, Korea, Japan, China, and Western Europe are all judged to be due to climate change. The National Climate Assessment also made a connection between climate change and the drought in Australia.

The impact of climate change seems clear, with China experiencing its biggest heat wave in 140 years August of 2013, during which at least 40 people died. Health effects of heat waves range from heat strokes to aggravated chronic diseases. The heat also increases ground-level ozone levels, causing lung injury and increasing the severity of respiratory diseases.
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Texas Tribune will present a daylong symposium, in partnership with the University of Texas at San Antonio, on the impact of the shale boom in Texas. Topics of discussion will include the transformation of the state economy, the energy sector, and physical and social infrastructure in cities and counties across Texas.


  • 8 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
    Various panel times. Schedule to be announced soon.

Confirmed panelists include


  • State Sen. JUDITH ZAFFIRINI, D-Laredo;
  • State Sen. CARLOS URESTI, D-San Antonio;
  • State Rep. JIM KEFFER, R-Eastland;
  • State Rep. MIKE VILLARREAL, D-San Antonio;
  • State Rep. MYRA CROWNOVER, R-Denton;
  • State Rep. PONCHO NEVÁREZ, D-Eagle Pass;
  • State Rep. JOSÉ MENÉNDEZ, D-San Antonio;
  • DAVID PORTER, Texas railroad commissioner;
  • IVY TAYLOR, mayor of San Antonio;
  • JERRY MORALES, mayor of Midland;
  • BEN SHEPPERD, president of the Permian Basin Petroleum Association;
  • LEODORO MARTINEZ, executive director of Middle Rio Grande Development;
  • SHERYL LYNN ROBERTS, research economist for the Center for Community and Business Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio;
  • OMAR GARCIA, president of the South Texas Energy & Economic Roundtable;
  • THOMAS TUNSTALL, research director for the Institute for Economic Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio;
  • DON TYMRAK, city manager of Karnes City;
  • JOEL RODRIGUEZ, LaSalle County judge;
  • DARYL FOWLER, DeWitt County judge; and
  • Sister ELIZABETH RIEBSCHLAEGER, environmental advocate.

Full schedule announced soon.

RSVP:  click here.

The day-long symposium will be held at the UTSA Downtown Campus in the Buena Vista Theatre (BV 1.326). Complimentary parking for attendees will be available in UTSA’s Lot D3. A light breakfast and lunch will be provided. The event is free and open to the public.


  • UTSA Downtown Campus
    501 César E. Chávez Boulevard, San Antonio, TX 78207 (map)


This event is generously sponsored by UTSA, CPS Energy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, The University of Texas at Austin, Permian Basin Petroleum Association, Texas A&M University and Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas.



2014-09-29 Austin Mayoral Candiate Forum on AE Issues - YouTubeOn Monday, we concluded our series of Austin City Council and mayoral candidate forums.  Over the course of two and a half weeks, we heard a variety of views on Austin Energy issues from an astounding 54 candidates.  On top of that, 49 candidates submitted responses to our questionnaire on Austin Energy issues.

Many of our Austin supporters joined us in person for the forums, but for those of you who weren’t able to make it out to your district forum or the mayoral forum, we have posted all of the videos on a special Austin Elections page of our blog. Or you can view them directly on the Public Citizen’s Texas Office YouTube channel.

If you care about climate change, shutting down polluting power plants, expanding the use of solar energy, energy efficiency, preserving our water, or keeping electric bills affordable for low-income customers, you’ll want to check out the Austin Council candidate forum videos for your district and the mayoral race.  Get the information you need to make an educated vote on November 4.

Public Citizen didn’t host these forums on our own.  We were joined in this effort by the SEED Coalition (Sustainable Energy and Economic Development), Sierra Club, Solar Austin, Texas ROSE (Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy), Clean Water Action, Austin Climate Action Network, Texas Drought Project, First Unitarian Universalist Green Sanctuary Ministry, and the Wildflower Unitarian Universalist Church.  Many thanks to everyone who helped with the forums, especially former Austin Mayor Will Wynn for moderating the mayoral forum, Progress Texas deputy director Phillip Martin for moderating the districts 6 and 10 forum, and Treehouse for donating their space for the districts 5 & 8 forum.

Wildlife Decline Graph - from The GuardianResearch published in a new report by the World Wildlife Foundation and the Zoological Society of London found that the population of wild animals on Earth is now half of what it was in 1970. Freshwater species have seen an even more dramatic decline of 75%.

The researchers concluded that the decline in wildlife populations is due to human activity: unsustainable hunting, pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change.

Though climate change in this report accounts for 7% of the loss of wildlife in the past 40 years, climate change’s impact on the Earth’s ecosystem is expected to dramatically increase.  Some experts estimate that a-fourth of the Earth’s species could be extinct by 2050 due to the effects of climate change.

Climate change will also have negative impacts on humans.  Global temperatures are projected to rise 4 degrees by 2100.  In the hotter months of the year we can expect exposure to temperatures above 38 degrees Celcius (100ºF) on a common basis, which can cause organ damage and death.  Crops and livestock will struggle with the rising temperatures and water shortages.  Humanity’s staple crops, corn, rice, wheat and soybeans have a temperature limit of 40 to 45 degrees Celcius (104ºF to 113ºF), “with temperature thresholds for key sowing stages near or below 35 ºC (95ºF).”

The current human consumption of natural resources is unsustainable.  Climate change exacerbated by human activities at this rate is detrimental to both wildlife and the human species.  At this rate, we can expect to see the collapse of ecosystems on which we depend for our survival.   The scientists behind these various reports hope that these statistics and projects will serve as a wake-up call to ramp up conservation efforts and mitigate the effects of climate change and our exploitation of the environment and its resources.

Former Austin Mayor Will Wynn will host a candidate forum for the current Austin mayoral candidates tonight.

The focus of the forum is Austin Energy issues.  Questions will cover topics including climate change, solar energy, affordability, and the retirement the city’s portion of the coal-fired Fayette Power Project.

When: Tonight (Monday, September 29), from 7:15 to 9:30 p.m (program from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.)

Where: First Unitarian Universalist Church (4700 Grover Ave., 78756)

Like almost all of the City Council races this year, the mayoral race features long list of candidates.  6 have committed to participate in tonight’s forum.  They are:

  • Mike Martinez (Current Council Member)
  • Sheryl Cole (Current Mayor Pro Tem)
  • Steve Adler
  • Randall Stephens
  • Todd Phelps
  • David Orshalick

While there are many forums in Austin this election season, this is the only one to focus on the city’s largest asset, Austin Energy.  Find out what the candidates have in mind for Austin’s energy future.

river water75% of Texas streams could remain vulnerable to pollution due to House Bill 5078 passed by the House of Representatives on September 9th. HB 5078 would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from applying the protections of the Clean Water Act to more than half the nation’s rivers and streams. This includes 143,000 miles of Texan streams that flow into vital waterways such as the Edwards Aquifer, the Trinity River, Caddo Lake, Galveston Bay, and the Rio Grande.

Texas waters are already considered the 2nd most polluted in the nation, according to a report by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. Data from 2012 showed the Lower Brazos River watershed as ranking first for the highest amount of toxicity released with 33,475,464 toxicity-weighted pounds. Over 80,000 pounds of carcinogenic chemicals were discharged into Texan waterways. These chemicals persist in the environment and have the potential to cause birth defects, infertility, cancers, and developmental problems in children.

“Texas’ waterways should be clean – for swimming, drinking, and supporting wildlife,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas Research and Policy Center.  “But too often, our waters have become a dumping ground for polluters.  The first step to curb this tide of toxic pollution is to restore Clean Water Act protections to all our waterways.”

Renewable RoundupThe Renewable Energy Roundup & Sustainable Living Expo is a full 3 day event on September 26th, 27th, & 28th at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, TX.

Booths will feature products and information on:
• Renewable energy resources; solar, wind, biomass and other resources and services – The Public Citizen booth will offer information on solar energy.
• Smart Grid solutions available to homeowners now
• Green Building and remodeling
• Sustainable transportation solutions
• Tips for improving health and well-being
• Insights on organic gardening and cooking, tree care and soil care
• Climate Change innovation
• Texas water conservation and drought solutions
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Save Antiboitics for Medicine, Not Factory FarmsFood and Water Watch, which works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced is hosting a campaign kickoff event in Austin this Thursday (9/16).

The focus of this campaign is the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming.  80% of antibiotics are used on factory farms, mostly as part of routine feeding, not for treating any specific illness in the animals.  This is done to help the animals overcome the deplorable conditions they are raised in.

Antibiotic overuse poses a health risk to people by allowing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics to develop.  The few bacteria that survive an antibiotic dose reproduce quickly and create a strain of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. This leaves some human infections with no cure. According to the CDC:

Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Because the FDA and Congress haven’t done enough to deal with this urgent problem, cities across the country are acting by passing resolutions telling Congress we need legislation now to save antibiotics and stop their misuse on factory farms. This event is the beginning of this effort in Austin.