Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2018

Upcoming Texas Primary

The Texas primary for the 2018 general election is just around the corner on March 6, 2018. If you are not already registered, the deadline is February 5, 2018.  If you need to find out how to register or to check to see if you are already registered, click here.

Last month, the Texas Tribune put together a list that lets you easily see who is running in all the primary races in Texas .  This election cycle hundreds of candidates across the state have filed to run for public office for statewide, congressional and legislative offices and the State Board of Education.

Early voting begins Feb. 20. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters will compete in a primary runoff on May 22.

Click here to find out what candidates are running in races you might be interested in.

If you are not sure which campaigns pertain to you, click here and enter your home address to see who currently represents you (includes information on the congressional, Texas state house and senate districts and other information).

Voter attitudes about Climate Change

In 2016, the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication started a survey that maps voter beliefs about climate change by Congressional districts and then by party affiliation.  You can see the results by going to the Partisan Climate Opinion Maps 2016

If you would like to see how candidates running for offices align with voters in your area feel free to ask candidates one or all of the following 8 questions from the Yale survey.

BELIEFS

Recently, you may have noticed that global warming has been getting some attention in the news. Global warming refers to the idea that the world’s average temperature has been increasing over the past 150 years, may be increasing more in the future, and that the world’s climate may change as a result. What do you think: Do you think that global warming is happening?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Don’t know

Assuming global warming is happening, do you think it is… ?

  • Caused mostly by human activities
  • Caused mostly by natural changes in the environment
  • Other
  • None of the above because global warming isn’t happening

Most scientists think global warming is happening.  Which comes closest to your own view?

  • Most scientists think global warming is happening
  • There is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether or not global warming is happening
  • Most scientists think global warming is not happening
  • Don’t know enough to say

RISKS

How worried are you about global warming?

  • Very worried
  • Somewhat worried
  • Not very worried
  • Not at all worried

How much do you think global warming will harm people in the United States?

  • Not at all
  • Only a little
  • A moderate amount
  • A great deal
  • Don’t know

POLICY SUPPORT                     

How much do you support or oppose the following policies?

Fund more research into renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Regulate carbon dioxide (the primary greenhouse gas) as a pollutant

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

Require electric utilities to produce at least 20% of their electricity from wind, solar, or other renewable energy sources, even if it costs the average household an extra $100 a year

  • Strongly support
  • Somewhat support
  • Somewhat oppose
  • Strongly oppose

We hope this information will help you in making informed decisions and participating in the upcoming primary.

Read Full Post »

Public Citizen’s Texas office is engaged with cities across the state in developing Climate Action Plans. We were heavily involved in the development of the Austin Community Climate Plan (pdf download) and now we are participating in a similar effort in San Antonio. We are also looking at efforts to prepare for climate change in Houston and Dallas.

One of the drivers of city-level action on climate change today is the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, sometimes known simply as the “Climate Mayors”. Mayors of six Texas cities—Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, San Marcos, and Smitville—have signed the Climate Mayors letter. Of those six, only Austin has completed a Climate Action Plan.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (far right) is co-chair of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda.

Fortunately for the rest of Texas, the Climate Mayors have provided guidelines on developing your city’s Climate Action Plan. Below, we look at the five big steps in municipal climate planning.

  1. Develop an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions.

An “emissions inventory” is an accounting of all the air pollution emissions a particular source or group of sources. A greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory focuses on the pollutants responsible for climate change, chiefly carbon dioxide and methane. The inventory is important because it provides a starting point for the rest of the plan—a baseline of GHG emissions. As one popular saying puts it, “What gets measured, gets improved.”

Cities have an important choice to make when completing their GHG inventory: will they count all of the emissions within their borders, or just the emissions caused by municipal operations?

What’s the difference? Taking cars in Houston as an example, it’s the difference between the few hundred vehicles that the City of Houston itself owns and the 2 million + vehicles in the city in total. Many cities will lean toward inventorying only their own emissions, arguing that these are the only emissions that they are directly responsible for. But a complete inventory of all of the GHG emissions within a city’s borders can lead to a more comprehensive plan. A city can control its own vehicle purchases absolutely, but it can also enact policies that cause its citizens to buy cleaner vehicles. It could, for example, offer more charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

  1. Establish a target for emissions reductions.

 Once a city has inventoried its GHG emissions, it’s time to set a target for emissions reductions. When the United States initially joined the Paris Climate Accord, it set a target of 26 to 28 percent emissions reductions by 2025, over a 2005 baseline. (Those baseline emissions included 6,132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, so the CO2 target for 2025 would be between 3,267 and 4,538 million metric tons.)

According to the Climate Mayors, many cities have adopted “80×50” goals, committing themselves to reducing GHG emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Interim milestones are an important part of these goals, with most cities establishing their first milestone between 2020 and 2030.

Austin has adopted the goal of “net-zero community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.” Note that “community-wide” emissions means all of the GHG pollution produced by everyone in the city, not just municipal operations.

  1. Prioritize and ‘bundle’ emissions reduction opportunities.

Next a city must identify, prioritize, and bundle its opportunities to reduce GHG emissions. Important considerations include political feasibility, cost, funding opportunities, ease of implementation, and timing. Also important are co-benefits of a given measure. Replacing old school buses, for example, reduces children’s exposure to harmful pollutants such as particulate matter.

A comprehensive plan will take into account existing efforts, ongoing state and federal obligations, and the long timeline (typically several decades) of a climate plan. Emissions reductions opportunities should also provide a reliable way to quantify emissions achieved. Once emissions reductions opportunities are scored and packaged, they should be integrated into a long term plan to achieve the goals set in step two of the process.

  1. Design an implementation plan.

 A city’s implementation plan will dictate exactly how it enacts the measures it has committed to in its Climate Action Plan. The strength of the implementation plan can distinguish “next generation” plans from earlier, less effective ones. It is here, in the details of implementation, that a plan will succeed or fail. The Climate Mayors have provide detailed examples of successful strategies for next generation plans. A common theme throughout its recommendations is “analytical rigor.” The plan should provide methods to quantify emissions reductions and a means to evaluate success.

  1. Establish a framework for monitoring success and refining the plan.

Analytical rigor will enable the final step in climate planning: monitoring success and refining the plan over time. The Climate Action Plan should provide, at its outset, a framework for quantifying the success of a given action. Detailed records should be kept and checked against milestones built into the plan’s reduction targets. If an action is not working, the plan should provide a method to change courses. Because climate action plans set goals decades into the future, regular review and refinement of a plan is essential.

These five steps may seem straightforward, but climate planning is a complex process. Fortunately, cities no longer have to go it alone. The Climate Mayors has aggregated the experience of dozens of cities and developed a robust set of recommendations for new climate planners (for example, 94 percent of cities with an existing plan said that, were they to revise their plan, transportation would be a “very important” area to consider). Public Citizen’s Texas Office offers its help to any city or group of citizens who are interested in climate planning.

Nationwide, 389 mayors have signed the Climate Mayors letter. If all of those cities developed robust plans, the United States could meet its targets in the Paris Accord without federal action. Several cities in Texas have begun the process, and we hope that they see it through to a successful Climate Action Plan.

Happy climate planning!

Read Full Post »

The Texas Tribune has put together a list that will let you easily see who is running in all the primary races in Texas which is fast approaching with only 8 short weeks to decide who you want to see running in the November mid-term election. Texas will be the first state in the country to hold its primaries with an election held on March 6th.  This election cycle hundreds of candidates across the state have filed to run for public office for statewide, congressional and legislative offices and the State Board of Education.

Early voting begins Feb. 20. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote in the primary, the top two vote-getters will compete in a primary runoff on May 22.

Click here to find out what candidates are running in races you might be interested in.

If you are not sure which campaigns pertain to you, click here and enter your home address to see who currently represents you (includes information on the congressional, Texas state house and senate districts and other information).

Read Full Post »

Texas and the Cost of Climate Change

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2017 may set a new record for being the most expensive year for disasters.  Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria combined with devastating Western wildfires and other localized natural disasters caused $306 billion in total damage in 2017, with 16 separate events that caused more than $1 billion in damage each.

The record-breaking year raises concerns about the effects of future natural disasters, as scientists fear climate change could make extreme weather events more damaging.  This is especially concerning to Texas which pays the most out of all U.S. states on events like hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires and many other natural threats according to a leading climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe from Texas Tech University.

There have been 91 disasters in Texas costing more than a billion dollars since 1980.  Hurricane Harvey, which sparked extreme flooding in Houston and the surrounding area in August and September, is estimated to have caused $125 billion in damage, the year’s most expensive disaster.

One key question is to what extent climate change may be driving the U.S. toward more numerous or more severe disasters.

NOAA experts and other climate scientists generally demur on this question, reluctant to apportion how much of the damage could be attributed to a changing climate as opposed to other factors. One key factor also known to be worsening damage is that there is more valuable infrastructure, such as homes and businesses, in harm’s way — along coastlines or in areas vulnerable to wildfire.  Since the population in Texas is expected to nearly double by 2070, one should assume that the infrastructure in vulnerable areas will also increase, meaning the cost of extreme weather disasters to the state will continue to climb.

In the coming year, climate advocates such as ourselves will need to continue to combat the ignorance, misconceptions, and downright falsities that plague climate activism. We are increasingly encouraged to find local communities taking the lead in this battle. Austin has already passed a climate action plan. San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are in the process of developing similar plans. These are large metropolitan areas, but smaller cities and towns can take similar actions. Below are actions you, your business and community can take to mitigate climate change. We encourage you implement what you can, and we will continue to update you on what is happening in the state and in local communities.

Climate Solutions for Your Home, Business and Community

Climate change is a dangerous threat to our communities, but the solutions are ripe with opportunity.

Vote

Climate change is a problem that will require policy changes. Voting and letting elected officials know that you support climate-friendly policies is critically important. Policy changes at all levels and types of government are needed. Pay attention and participate in decisions at your school district, city, county, state government and federal government. Do your research on political candidates – even those in down-ballot races – before going to the voting booth to make sure you are casting educated votes. Many of the solutions below will be most effective with comprehensive policies to support them.

Community Climate Plan

Setting goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and developing a community climate action plan can provide an organized roadmap of actions to take as a community and as individuals. A community climate plan should begin by conducting a full greenhouse gas emissions inventory. The process should be open and driven by public participation.

Energy Efficiency

Reduce the amount of energy it takes to heat and cool buildings by sealing cracks, adding insulation, sealing ducts, and replacing old air conditioning units. Use programmable thermostats to reduce energy waste while buildings are unoccupied.

Co-benefits: Electricity bills will be reduced and comfort improved. Local jobs can be created.

Government: Adopt and enforce the 2015 Energy Code. Retrofit government facilities. Adopt Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) to allow commercial customers to finance energy and water efficiency and renewable energy investments.

Homeowners: When purchasing a home, get an energy audit before closing. Get energy audits for existing homes. Utilize incentives from your electric utility to make efficiency upgrades.

Businesses: Do a full cost/benefit analysis of making energy efficiency improvements. Consider utilizing the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to finance energy efficiency upgrades.

Renewable Energy

Purchase renewable energy for government buildings, homes and businesses.

Co-benefit: Fixed price contracts for wind and solar can protect against future energy price increases. Local jobs can be created.

Government: Buy or contract for wind and solar energy to power government facilities. Create community solar and solar group purchasing programs for residents.

Homeowners: Get a solar energy system installed at your home. Get at least three quotes and inquire about financing options. Or participate in community solar, where available.

Businesses: Get solar installed on unused roof space or on parking shelters. Consider utilizing the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program to finance on-site solar.

Transportation

Reduce vehicle miles driven by utilizing public transportation, and transition to electric vehicles.

Co-benefits: Public transportation increases mobility for low-income residents and reduces transportation costs. Electric vehicles eliminate local air pollution and are cheaper to maintain and operate.

Government: Fund public transportation (rail and busses). Transition your vehicle fleet to all-electric. Even electric heavy vehicles, such as garbage trucks, are becoming available. Make car chargers (including rapid chargers) available in public parking spaces.

Residents: Utilize public transportation, car-pooling, bicycles and walking whenever possible. Purchase an electric vehicle.

Businesses: Transition company fleets to electric vehicles. Provide electric vehicle charging for your employees and customers. Create a company car-pool program and incentivize employees to use it.

Waste

Reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. Composting keeps organic materials out of landfills, where they create methane – a powerful greenhouse gas. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials, which have a carbon footprint.

Co-benefits: Reduce the need for new landfills, which are unpopular in any community. Compost is a valuable fertilizer for lawns, gardens and farms.

Government: Establish a goal for reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills. Establish curbside recycling and composting programs, as well as drop-off locations. Provide recycling and composting receptacles wherever there are trash cans.

Residents: Utilize city composting, create or buy a backyard composter or utilize community composting at local community gardens. Recycle everything you can. Avoid buying disposable products and products with packaging that can’t be recycled.

Businesses: Provide recycling receptacles wherever there are trash cans. In restaurants, provide composting in the kitchen, and also for customers to use, if customers bus their own tables. Phase out products and packaging that are difficult or impossible to recycle. In restaurants, replace plastic straws, utensils and dishes with compostable products (or at least recyclable products).

Read Full Post »

PUC Executive Director Brian H. Lloyd submitted his resignation Wednesday, January 3, 2018, effective March 1st.

He framed his decision to leave as a personal, spiritual decision, and added that the March 1st date was intended to allow the PUC “sufficient time to deliberate” in considering applicants for his position.

Read Full Post »