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Archive for December, 2009

Once again it’s time for the Texas Progressive Alliance to bring you the highlights from the blogs.

Xanthippas at Three Wise Men airs out some thoughts on the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and some painful lessons learned blogging about the war in Iraq.

Bay Area Houston claims The Race for Houston Mayor is Now About Race.

Texas is the first state to conduct testing of citizens to determine if their health symptoms are caused from exposure to drilling toxins. But TXsharon is not sure this is such a great idea. Find out why on Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

BossKitty at TruthHugger sees a political disconnect between incarceration and rehabilitation within America’s “big business prison system”. Follow through and accountability are casualties of creative budgeting in the criminal justice system with furlough programs, commutations and pardons BACKLASH. Maurice Clemmons was but a single example of a mentally unstable felon. Where was his follow up? Where was his parole officer? Where was the mental health infrastructure that could have defused this violent explosion?

Neil at Texas Liberal asked who are the Democrats running for Houston municipal offices in the runoff election, and who among the Democrats is someone a liberal can support. The post also features pictures and paintings of scenes of gambling as any election is little more than a spin of the wheel.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme sees tea parties and general batsh*t craziness in Nueces County with Club for Growth guy leading the Republican Party.

Teddy at Left of College Station covers the political maneuvering in local Republican primaries, and writes about Obama’s War: Choosing Escalation and Occupation. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

nytexan at Bluebloggin clearly states “I’m Sick of War.” As I listen to Obama’s speech to increase troops in Afghanistan, all I can think of is, the US has been in some kind of war my entire life. Just so you know, I was born between the Korean War and the Vietnam War. We are a war nation. No way to get around it.

WCNews at Eye On Williamson posts about a conversation over Thanksgiving weekend with two Houston Republicans, or Why Bill White can win.

This was Dickens on the Strand weekend in Galveston and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs took a break from politics and spent the weekend on the island. Here are a few photos from the festival.

Charles of Off the Kuff spent much of the week engaged in an email debate on the Texas Tribune with conservative blogger David Benzion over the merits of Bill White as Mayor of Houston and potentially Governor of Texas.

liberaltexan reports on Political Maneuvering Begins in Republican Primaries. It seems that the race for Texas State Senate District Five is gettting compicated. Check it out at TexasKaos.

The Texas Cloverleaf offered it’s prediction on whether Bill White would run for Governor. 1-0! Yes!

WhosPlayin thinks the Texas Railroad Commission is on a ‘power trip’, intervening in the placement of power lines bringing renewable energy to Texas population centers – ostensibly because the lines might cross over abandoned oil and gas wells, or land that might be used for oil and gas wells in the future. *** Citizen Sarah says, an excellent read!!

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Join us next Thursday, December 10th to help stop Texas from becoming the nation’s radioactive waste dump!

Please Come:

Texas Compact Commission Stakeholder Meeting
Thursday, December 10th at 9am
Texas Capitol, Extension Auditorium, E1.004

You are invited to attend the press conference as well, held by the SEED Coalition, Public Citizen, and Sierra Club, on stopping Texas from becoming the nation’s radioactive waste dump, the inadequacies of the west Texas dump site and the corruption surrounding the permitting process.

Thursday, Dec. 10th at 12:30 pm – Texas Capitol, Speaker’s Committee Room, 2W.6.

* Show your presence and that the public interest matters.

* Tell the Compact Commission not to allow import of radioactive waste into Texas from the rest of the country!

All of the State TCEQ scientists who worked on the permit for the West Texas dump site, owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS), determined the site to be inadequate because of the possible radioactive contamination of our aquifers and groundwater. Corruption and politics led to the permitting of the site anyways, ignoring the entire TCEQ technical team’s recommendation against issuing the permit. 3 TCEQ employees quit over the decision.

Now the Compact Commission is putting rules in place, to let nuclear power waste from across the country into Texas, making this site the nation’s radioactive waste dumping ground. The Texas Compact Commission, appointed by Governor Perry, and responsible for managing so-called “low-level” radioactive waste generated within its boundaries, is developing rules for importation of radioactive waste from outside the compact (TX and Vermont), AGAINST the original intent of the law, which was for only the 3 states of the compact to be able to dump there.

The Commission is taking comments from stakeholders on the development of the import rule. We want to let them know that the generators of nuclear waste and the dump company that is profiting from taking the waste are not the only stakeholders in this process. Please come help make the voices of the public, Texas taxpayers, and water drinkers heard LOUD and CLEAR.

Learn more at:

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Please join the Energia Mia Coalition
including the Esperanza Center, Southwest Worker’s Union

No Nuclear! Platica Tonight

a discussion with local activists and visiting energy expert Arjun Makhijani

FRIDAY, Dec. 4th – 7pm
at the Esperanza Center (210)228-0201
922 San Pedro Ave, SA, TX 78212

Marisol Cortez

currently works as the climate justice organizer for the Southwest Workers’ Union, where she helps lead a campaign calling for greener, more just energy policy in San Antonio. Born in Corpus Christi and raised in and around San Antonio, Marisol worked with local environmental and EJ networks around the PGA issue, which inspired her to study environmental justice issues as a graduate student at UC Davis. She recently completed her Ph.D. in Cultural Studies at UC Davis, and has returned to San Antonio to hopefully put her knowledge and passion to good use!

Arjun Makhijani

President of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), holds a Ph.D. in engineering (specialization: nuclear fusion) from the University of California at Berkeley. He has produced many studies and articles on nuclear fuel cycle related issues. Most recently, Dr. Makhijani has authored Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy (RDR Books and IEER Press, 2007), the first analysis of a transition to a U.S. economy based completely on renewable energy, without any use of fossil fuels or nuclear power. IEER’s website is: www.ieer.org

Genevieve Rodriguez

is a grassroots community activist and labor organizer who has been working to organize students and young people of color in San Antonio around the nuclear issue. Genevieve works on campaigns addressing multiple issues of labor, poverty, reproductive health/ health care, queer issues, public space & sexism/racism /homophobia. Genevieve’s work includes moving and being moved through music, writing & art. She is part of many organizations including Esperanza Center, Planned Parenthood, LIPS (UTSA feminists) & the broader progressive, mujerista, music, and art communities.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON NUCLEAR POWER, visit:

www.energiamia.org

www.nukefreetexas.org

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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By Kirsten Bokenkamp

From office paper, to toilet paper, paper towels, paper coffee cups, newspapers, paper bags, magazines and catalogs, notebooks, napkins, and packaging, we cannot escape our dependency on paper products. Check out some of these crazy facts related to paper manufacturing and use:

  • Deforestation causes more global warming pollution than all forms of transportation combined.  A single forest tree absorbs 26 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, an acre of trees can remove 2.4 to 5 tons of carbon dioxide per year, and there are 728 million forested acres in the United States that remove more than 1.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year.
  • 50-75% of the pulp used to make toilet paper comes from old growth forests, which are valuable ecosystems and also play a huge role in absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere.
  • Americans consume more paper than any other country on earth. Each American, on average, uses 741 pounds of paper per year.  Furthermore, The United States is the largest market for toilet paper, and only 2% of sales are from 100% recycled toilet paper.
  • In addition to contributing to the detriments of deforestation, the pulp and paper industry is the third largest industrial emitter of global warming pollution (coming in after the chemical and steel industries). To make things worse, CO2 emissions from the paper industry are expected to double by 2020.
  • 36% of the average landfill is comprised of paper. Americans discard 4 million tons of office paper each year, which is enough to build a 12-foot wall from Los Angeles to New York City.
  • The pulp and paper industry is the single largest industrial consumer of freshwater.

As last week’s blog recommended, there is a lot we can do to reduce our use of paper: reusing shopping bags, printing on both sides, refusing junk mail, using cloth napkins, reusing coffee cups, and by buying products with less packaging.  But, sometimes, even when we are doing all of these things, it is still easy to forget the most simple of tasks: buying recycled paper products, especially toilet paper!

Sure, it is not as fluffy – but let’s not exaggerate – the recycled stuff does the trick and it is far from sandpaper.  And, wouldn’t you rather have a future where we have curbed climate change, still have forests, and have clean water to drink?  I don’t mean to sound extreme – but that is what we are dealing with. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: as consumers we have tremendous power to change the world.  The day we no longer demand the plushy, soft, and tree-killing kind of toilet paper, the market will no longer produce it. So next time you are faced with the choice – make the earth friendly one. I’m sure your skin will forgive you. If you are having trouble taking the plunge, just think that if every household replaced just one roll (500 sheets) of virgin fiber toilet paper with a 100% recycled one, we would save 423,900 trees!

Buying recycled office paper is also important. Ask your manager to green-up the office! How much of a difference can it make? According to the Public Works Department of San Mateo County, California:

Every 20 cases of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 390 gallons of oil, 7000 gallons of water, and 4100 kwh of energy. It also eliminates 60 pounds of air-polluting emissions and saves 8 cubic feet of landfill space.

While it is not always the first thing on our minds as we strive to green-up our lives, buying recycled toilet paper is an important step.  In addition to saving old-growth forests, it gives recycled newspaper and office paper an afterlife to look forward to.  In addition to 100% recycled, also buy the brand with the highest percentage of post-consumer material and make sure the bleaching process is elemental chlorine free.  Check out one of the many buyers guides here.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Citizens aware of extreme drought conditions point to potential serious conflict over water if coal plant were built

(Abilene) – The Multi-County Coalition, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and individuals from the West Texas areas of Sweetwater and Abilene raised questions about how a proposed Tenaska coal plant would affect water availability and water quantity in the region.

Water Availability

The Tenaska coal plant project, still in the early permitting stages, would obligate between one million to ten million gallons of water per day for a cooling process.

“Particularly in West Texas, we are aware of how any period of drought puts great stress on our basic water resources,” said Professor Jeff Haseltine. “The city of Abilene is taking extraordinary steps to ensure a safe and reliable water supply far into the future, and it simply makes no sense to tie up massive amounts of water to cool a coal plant. We need to continue to find ways to use all of our water resources for the direct benefit of our own community, not for the profit of an out-of-state corporation.”

Next to municipalities, power plants – both coal and nuclear use the largest volumes of water in the state.

Water Quality

The groups at Thursday’s Abilene City Council hearing spoke about mercury that the proposed Tenaska coal plant would emit if built.

“The Tenaska plant would pump 124 pounds of mercury per year into the atmosphere and that mercury from Tenaska would fall onto the rivers, streams, and lakes in the region,” said Ryan Rittenhouse of Public Citizen. “West Texans do not want to stand by and allow that fate for their vital water resources and wildlife.”

According to chemist Neil Carman with Sierra Club, (more…)

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As a student at Austin Community College, I have witnessed the school adopt many environmental programs and truly set a great example to its student as to how be good stewards of our environment.

The college has been recently featured in the Times magazine to recognize its new Renewable Energy Program,

When Austin’s semiconductor industry started tanking in 2000, ACC quickly stripped down its chip-development courses and soon repurposed clean rooms for emerging green technologies. These days, it generally takes about six months of weekend classes to get qualified to be a solar installer, a job that can pay up to $16 an hour. But starting in August, a compressed weekday program — catering to the recently unemployed — will allow students to cram the same courses into just two months.” - Times Magazine

The college also just celebrated the opening of its first green building. The parking garage of the Rio Grande campus was recently opened to provide five hundred more parking spots for student, staff, and faculty. The building has received a 3-star green building rating from Austin Energy recognizing the building’s design, construction, and operation. The school also provides parking spots for energy-efficient cars. If you are a student who drives one of these cars, you get to park closer to your class.

ACC also encourages its students to recycle. I have yet to be in an ACC facility that didn’t have a blue recycling bin or many of them. I see most students and staff recycle.

At the beginning of the Spring semester of 2010, the college will supplement its commitment to cutting emissions by handing out bus passes to every student, faculty, and staff member. The pilot of the ACC Green Pass program will begin on January 5th, 2010.

The libraries at the college also encourage students to print PowerPoint documents in handout format, save documents on external devices such as jump drives, and to preview before printing in order to avoid wasting paper and ink.

ACC sets a great example for many other institutions in Texas and across the United States to adopt such sustainability programs that will have a positive impact on our environment.

To learn more about the ACC Sustainability initiatives, visit the Sustainable ACC website.

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As early as the time of Socrates, people have identified money as a corruptive influence in politics, specifically in democracies.  Elections now cost double and triple what they used to, which means more and more of our Senators’ and Representatives’ time is spent dialing for dollars.  The average member of the House of Representatives will want to raise and spend over a million dollars (that’s $1,000,000) to insure victory on Election Day.  In a competitive race, it can be much, much more than that.

So why do we subject our leaders to this grueling and wasteful misuse of their precious time and energy? And why are we surprised when Big Money holds more sway than the Common Good and Reasoned Argument? Ultimately, we get the government we deserve- because we force our politicians to raise money this way, and so we shouldn’t be surprised when campaign “donors” think that their “donations” mean that they should get special favors or special access.  More than ever, voters feel dissillusioned and cynical about government and feel disconnected from their leaders. (And can you blame them?)

So what is the answer? Why not allow those who represent us to circumvent this whole process?  One piece of legislation designed to do this is the Fair Elections Now Act.

What is the Fair Election Now Act? This bi-partisan bill was introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (IL) and Arlen Specter (PA) in the Senate, and by Representatives John Larson (D- CT) and Walter Jones, Jr. (R- NC)  in the House of Representatives. It will provide public funding for office seeking political candidates who qualify, in addition to small private donations up to $100 dollars. Also, all qualifying candidates get a reduction rate on media fees for campaigning purposes, as well as media vouchers that they can exchange for cash if they prefer.

This bill will provide an equal playing field for political candidates, as money differences will play less of a role in the campaign, and therefore provide lesser-known candidates a more fair chance to compete in political races. Public Funding has already been successfully tested in several states, and it can hopefully achieve the same success on a federal level.

Who will qualify for Public Funding? The amount of public funding that each individual candidate receives will depend on the office they are seeking or holding, but each candidate must first qualify by raising a set amount of small donations. For example, House Members running for office must receive 1,500 contributions from their state, and $50,000 altogether. All candidates must therefore prove that they have the ability to raise money for their campaign and thereby demonstrating their competitive ability in the race before they can receive public funding.

Why you should support this bill and how to help get this bill passed! Simple: the status quo is broken. Everyone understands that lobbyists and corporate institutions (PACs, bundlers, etc)  benefit from the current system where big money buys big access.

Voters will first and foremost benefit, because they can be sure their Representatives are ONLY representing them, and basing their votes on what is best for their constituents, not what makes their donors happy.  Furthermore, we will have a fair and wide range of politically qualified candidates to choose from in each election– areas that have enacted public financing, such as Maine and Arizona, have seen a more diverse group of candidates run, resulting in representation that looks more like the population.

The candidates themselves will also benefit, because they can focus more on policies that their constituents favor and their political message instead of constantly raising money for their campaign. In addition, the main contributions are increasingly coming from big donors that come with strings attached. With the Fair Election Now Act, the people have the chance to take back the power of democracy and away from corporate interests!

It is the responsibility of each citizen to ensure our freedom and democracy,and YOU can help the pass this bill for the sake of those crucial values. If you are interested in supporting this bill, you can take one easy step and click here to sign up for a petition. For more detailed information about the bill, please click here.

You can also call your member of Congress and ask them to co-sponser this bipartisan piece of legislation.  Click here to get contact info for who represents you.  As of now, six members of the Texas Congressional Delegation have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.  If you’re lucky enough to be represented by one of them, call their offices and express your thanks for standing up to Big Money interests.

Gene Green (Houston)

Sheila Jackson-Lee (Houston)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (Dallas)

Solomon Ortiz (Corpus Christi)

Silvestre Reyes (El Paso)

Lloyd Doggett (Austin)

By Harrison

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Statement of David Power, Deputy Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Seemingly out of concern that competitive renewable energy will damage Big Oil’s bottom line, the Texas Railroad Commission wants to block renewable energy transmission lines that would put affordable energy from west Texas wind farms on an even playing field with the historical titans of Texas energy – oil and gas companies.

A new investment in these transmission lines would save ratepayers $2 billion a year, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16 percent and create more than $5 billion in economic development benefits for Texas. Ratepayers, companies and organizations with an interest in seeing the further development of renewable energy and green jobs should contact the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) and tell them to deny the Railroad Commission’s request to intervene.

The Texas Legislature authorized these transmission lines in 2008 to address the lack of available transmission lines to deliver wind energy from the panhandle and west Texas to the major metropolitan areas in central Texas where demand is higher. This renewable energy helps reduce costs for ratepayers by providing abundant and inexpensive clean energy that helps offset the volatile price of natural gas.

In its filing with the PUC, the Railroad Commission inappropriately expressed concern for current and future oil and gas development in Texas. In doing so, the commission stepped outside of its regulatory role to promote the interests of Big Oil. While the commission’s stated task is “primary regulatory jurisdiction over (the) oil and natural gas industry,” in this case, it is attempting to pick winners and losers in regards to Texas’ energy future. It is also questionable whether Michael Williams, who sits on the Railroad Commission and who is currently in the running for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s U.S. Senate seat, is acting in the best interest of the public or doing favors for potential campaign contributors.

This is another example of outrageous overreaching by the Railroad Commission on behalf of the same industries it is supposed to regulate. The commission is charged with regulating the oil and gas industries, not with protecting their interests with taxpayer dollars. The Railroad Commission and Mr. Williams need to stick to their own jurisdiction, rather than making an inappropriate power play to earn favors with Big Oil.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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