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Archive for November, 2010

As the Texas Sunset Advisory Committee takes a look at our environmental regulatory agencies this interim, perhaps they should consider Texas’ grade in a new report released by the Institute for Policy Integrity – a “D minus” the lowest possible grade of all the states reviewed because of  inadequacies in  how our regulatory decisions are made. The results of that report point to billions of dollars wasted and inadequate protections for Texans.

Institute for Policy IntegrityThe Institute for Policy Integrity, a non-partisan advocacy organization and think-tank dedicated to improving the quality of governmental decisionmaking and sponsored by the New York University School of Law developed fifteen points of evaluation for an ideal regulatory process.  Among them: regulatory review that properly calibrates rules; review that is consistent and buffered from political influence; and review that provides a balanced treatment of costs and benefits.  The Institute took a look at how states routinely regulate industries whose economic footprints climb into the hundreds of millions.

Nearly twenty percent of the American economy is regulated by state governments. But there are major concerns about how regulatory decisions are made. The results of “52 Experiments with Regulatory Review” point to rules that are often made ad hoc and in too many cases yield inefficient results that limit public benefit, wasting billions of dollars and providing inadequate protections for Americans—earning states an average grade of “D+” with the lowest possible grade being a “D-.”  Seven jurisdictions scored a D-, having met none of the guiding principles: Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas. (more…)

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Regardless of your car needs, a more fuel efficient vehicle is available. But we can do better!

As Texas families prepare for one of the busiest travel holidays of the year, a new Environment Texas report finds that more fuel efficient cars could save Texans over $16 million at the gas pump this Thanksgiving holiday alone. The report was released as new federal fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks are being developed. (more…)

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today announced the opportunity for public participation in a hearing on an Early Site Permit (ESP) application for a site in Victoria County, Texas.

Exelon submitted its ESP application on March 25, seeking the NRC’s determination on whether the site is suitable for a nuclear power facility, contingent on the approval of an additional application for a construction permit or combined license. An ESP is valid for 10 to 20 years and can potentially be renewed for an additional 10 to 20 years. The Exelon application, minus proprietary and security-related details, is available on the NRC website at: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/new-reactors/esp/victoria.html.

The NRC staff has determined that the application contains sufficient information for the agency to formally “docket,” or file, the application and begin its technical review. Docketing the application does not preclude requests for additional information as the review proceeds; nor does it indicate whether the Commission will issue the permit. The docket number established for this application is 52-042.

The NRC has issued in the Federal Register a notice of opportunity for the public to intervene inthe proceeding on the application (http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-29481.pdf), and the deadline for requesting a hearing is Jan. 24, 2011. Petitions may be filed by anyone whose interest may be affected by the proposed license, who wishes to participate as a party in the proceeding, and who meets criteria set out in the NRC’s regulations. Background information regarding the hearing process was provided by NRC staff to members of the public during an April 15 public information session in Victoria, Texas.

A petition to intervene must be electronically submitted in a timely manner to the NRC’s Electronic Information Exchange (EIE) system. The petition to intervene must be filed in accordance with the NRC’s E-Filing Rule that appeared in the Federal Register on Aug. 28, 2007

(http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2007/pdf/E7-16898.pdf). Additional guidance and instructions regarding electronic submissions to the NRC EIE system is available on the NRC web pages at http://www.nrc.gov/site-help/e-submittals.html.

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Texans living around the Victoria region attended a town hall in September to express their concerns about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on a number of different issues, including the proposed White Stallion coal plant in Bay City. On the panel were Sunset Commission Chairman Sen. Glenn Hegar, former TCEQ commissioner Larry Soward, the regional administrator of TCEQ for that area, and a lawyer with Blackburn & Carter who often take on environmental cases.

This town hall was one of a series of events held to provide the people of Texas a way in which to voice their concerns to TCEQ. The official Sunset Commission hearing on TCEQ is scheduled for December 15th in Austin. For more video footage of these town halls check our archives and stay tuned to TexasVOX. For more information on the ongoing Sunset review of TCEQ check out Alliance for a Clean Texas.

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

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In a Republican dominated America with many Republicans deeply skeptical of global warming, it is unlikely the new Congress will do much on the energy front. A broad plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and use the revenue to fund alternative energy — known as cap-and-trade — is dead

Vyng for the leadership post of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce when the Republicans take the reins in January are four interesting contenders:

  • Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill, who last year, while quoting the Bible in a House hearing said, “The earth will end only when God decides it’s time to be over. ‘This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.’”
  • Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who apologized to BP for what he called a White House “shakedown” when it agreed to establishing the $20 billion Gulf oil spill trust fund;
  • Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida, who wants to open up Alaska’s wildlife refuge to drilling; and
  • Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan who is considered the front-runner and probably the most moderate of the bunch.  He has vowed to eliminate an offshoot of the committee, the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and wrote in a recent editorial, “The American people do not need Congress to spend millions of dollars to write reports and fly around the world.  We must terminate this wasteful committee.”

There is one thing the newly empowered Republicans are sure to go after: the Environmental Protection Agency.

Over the past year, the EPA (after classifing greenhouse gases as a public health threat and then being under court order to do so after losing a Supreme Court challenge by the state of Massachusetts while under the Bush administration) has been quietly working on the sidelines to draft up rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Heavily targeted would be power plants, refineries, and heavy industries such as steel and concrete.

Republican lawmakers have made their intent clear and we can expect them to push for  more oversight of the EPA.  Even going as far as to try to pass legislation to limit the EPA’s authority.

Just last week, EPA issued guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions that will take effect this January. The guidelines were not particularly strict, which analysts took as a sign that the agency was willing to work with industry, but also as a sign that it plans on pressing ahead with its plan to regulate these gases

It seems that dealing with EPA is becoming a reality and Republican efforts to reign them in could get ugly.

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Capping and sealing low-level waste

A commission overseeing low-level radioactive waste disposal in Texas voted Saturday to publish proposed rules that would guide the importation of nuclear waste from across the country for burial near the New Mexico line.

The Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission voted 5-2 to publish  revised rules that would guide the importation of nuclear waste from across the country for burial in Andrews County, Texas near the New Mexico line.  The proposed rules, once published in the Texas Registry, will allow for a 30-day comment period.

The vote took place without any public input.  In fact, when Public Citizen’s Texas office director, Tom “Smitty” Smith tried to speak he was told he was out of order and asked to sit down.  Much later, he was allowed to give comment, but the deed had already been done.

(more…)

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In an article by New York Times reporter,  MATTHEW L. WALD  he writes, the outspoken supporters of nuclear power are mostly Republicans, and the Republicans are about to take control of the House of Representatives and gain six seats in the Senate. Is this good news for nuclear power?

Maybe. But the outlook for a new wave of reactors is still mixed at best.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, 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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Testimony in Tom DeLay‘s money-laundering trial ended on Thursday, without the former House majority leader testifying and neither DeLay’s chief political aide, Jim Ellis, nor John Colyandro, who ran Texans for a Republican Majority, testified because they are being tried later as co-conspirators.  Closing arguments are set for Monday and with any luck we will have a verdict by the end of next week.

In the meantime, let’s recap this week.

Prosecutors in the political money-laundering case against former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay continued their efforts to build a circumstantial case, but as the sixth day of testimony ended Tuesday, they still had not directly linked DeLay to the alleged scheme.  However, on Wednesday prosecutors presented the jury with statements DeLay made to investigators in 2005, indicating he knew of a $190,000 money swap before it occurred.

(more…)

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The list of TCEQ Sunset town halls continues to grow with the addition of a town halls in Nacogdoches the week after Thanksgiving.  The Nacogdoches town hall will take place Tuesday, November 30th from from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Parks and Recreation Center.

All are invited to attend these town halls to learn about the current TCEQ Sunset review, and to voice their recommendations for changes that will improve TCEQ. State representatives and senators from the Nacogdoches region have been invited to attend; these town halls provide an excellent opportunity for lawmakers to learn more about TCEQ’s impact in their community.

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For the last few months people who wanted to install solar systems in the Oncore service area have been disappointed as they have been told that the incentive funds are all reserved.

It turns out there is another pool of funds available that has been harder to find. The Oncore website lists all the solar incentive funds as being reserved, but that refers to a batch a funds that was made available as part of the Oncore sale settlement of a few years ago.

There is another source of funds that have not been drawn down and are not easily found on the website, the incentive amount per installed watt is smaller than the settlement fund, but cash of any amount helps the balance sheet and gets that sweet solar solution installed on your roof.

For commercial projects in the Oncore service area give John Hanel a call at 214-486-5886

For residential projects in the Oncore service area the person to contact is Carl Brown 214-486-3244

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For those who missed it, you really should watch our illustrious Governor on the Daily Show, with Jon Stewart, discussing states’ rights, the Constitution and Texas v. California.

Click here to watch the video.

Take our poll, select all answers that apply.

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Congressman Bob Inglis (R-SC) attacks GOP on climate change.  Bob Inglis is the ranking member on the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, 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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Today, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission staff released their report on the Texas Commission on Environental Quality.  The Sunset Avisory Commissioners will meet to take public testimony – December 15th or 16th and will vote on their recommendations to the legislature on January 12, 2011. 

The public can respond to the Sunset staff report up until the Commissioners meet.  To read a copy of the report, click here. To access the form for submitting your comments on the staff report, click here.  You can submit comments to the Commission up to the date that the Commissioners vote on their recommendations to the legislature.  To submit a comment, click here.

Below is a statement from the Alliance for a Clean Texas (ACT).  The ACT partner organizations include: Sierra Club, Public Citizen (Texas office), Environmental Defense Fund, Texas IMPACT, Air Alliance of Houston, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, Environment Texas, Texas League of Conservation Voters, ReEnergize Texas, the Enviromental Integrity Project, Texas Center for Policy Studies, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, Hill Country Alliance, National Wildlife Foundation, Clean Water Action and the Baptist Commission on Christian Life.   

Is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) – the state’s environmental agency – doing a good enough job protecting the health of Texans?  The Sunset Advisory Commission Staff Report on TCEQ, issued today, is a first step in answering that question.  The report contains a number of positive recommendations that, if adopted by the Sunset Advisory Commission and ultimately enacted by the Texas Legislature, will help strengthen the TCEQ in carrying out its responsibilities to protect the environment and public health for all Texans. However, the report failed to make recommendations to resolve a number of chronic problems plaguing the agency. (more…)

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NO RRCPublic Citizen and Sierra Club agreed with many of the recommendations made by the staff of the Sunset Commission that was released yesterday for the Railroad Commission, but more must be done to protect the health and quality of life of all Texans. 

“Overall these recommendations, if adopted, will create a leaner, smarter agency – with a name reflecting its mission – the Texas Oil and Gas Commission. Eliminating the 3 fulltime elected commissioners and other changes would save the state an estimated $23 million a year. Under staff recommendations natural gas rate-cases would be moved to the Public Utilities Commission (also under Sunset this year), and enforcement disputes would be moved from being resolved by a judge beholden to the agency to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). In addition the Commission would end the promotion of propane as a fuel, and rely more on administrative and regulatory fees to pay for their activities, rather than depend on general revenue” said Andy Wilson, a policy analyst for Public Citizen who studies good government, campaign finance, and climate change.

Advocates point out problems that are still likely to occur if staff recommendations are adopted, due to overlapping regulatory authority with other state agencies over issues including oil and gas drilling, coal ash waste, and uranium mining. “Sunset Staff has failed to clearly define which agency (TCEQ or RRC) will deal with what regulatory aspects of oil and gas drilling, particularly in the Barnett Shale,” said Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. He added, “Texans deserve a single agency to regulate coal ash waste and uranium mining, rather than have regulatory authority at two different agencies, which confuses both industry and the general public.”

“Fracking or drilling in suburban areas represents one of the largest environmental issues facing Texas today.  Letting the Railroad Commission and TCEQ continue to share turf here is essentially punting,” added Wilson.

“Moving to an appointed board rather than an elected one is a smart choice, removing the inherent conflicts of interest and partisan politics created by our campaign finance system,” said Wilson.  “According to our analysis, over half of all campaign contributions to incumbent members of the Railroad Commission come from industries they are in charge of directly regulating.”

“However, there is no need to have a 5 person board when a 3 person commission will do.  Changing to this kind of board is already estimated to save $1.2 million— having a three person board will increase savings in this tight budget year,” added Wilson.

Also, according to Texas Open Meetings laws, two members of a five person board may confer with one another in private, while a three person board can only conduct business in public, open meetings.  “That could be a case of two steps forward, one step back,” said Wilson.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, 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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Image by davipt via Flickr

Coal fired power plant

Coal-fired power plants in Texas are responsible for dozens of bad air days in neighboring states each year, according to a new analysis released by the Sierra Club.  The report attributes as many as 64 days of harmful levels of smog in Oklahoma to Texas’ coal plants. It also ties the plants to as many as 20 days of unhealthy air in Arkansas and up to 16 in Louisiana.

The report supports earlier concerns raised by Oklahoma officials about the potential impacts on their state from the nearly 30 coal-fired plants either operating, permitted or proposed in Texas.

The attorney general for Oklahoma asked the federal Environmental Protection Agency in May to require Texas to show that the new plants will not foul the state’s air before issuing permits for construction. (more…)

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