Archive for February, 2018

This week marks the six month anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, a catastrophic storm that killed 88 people and caused about $125 billion in damages. Scientists have shown that Harvey’s strength was fueled in part by climate change.

Houston Mayor Turner has voiced concerns about climate change and pollution, recently through an op-ed published in the Huffington Post entitled “Cities Must Get Creative In The Fight Against Air Pollution.” In this piece, Turner says that cities must address the poor air quality that too often disproportionately impacts low-income communities. Specifically, he states that he will protest permits for new concrete batch plants. Turner also plans to address climate change through using renewable energy to power city operations and through electric vehicle adoption.

Yet, the city of Houston can do more. The Houston Climate Movement came together last year before Harvey because we know that Houston is at risk for the impacts of climate change. The Houston Climate Movement advocates for a community-wide climate action and adaptation plan.

In response to Turner’s op-ed, we penned this letter to him:


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New research by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis details how nine major power markets around the world have achieved an outsized share of wind and solar generation while assuring the security of supply, and are providing compelling examples of the fast-moving evolution of electricity generation. 


California, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, South Australia, Spain, Tamil Nadu, Texas, and Uruguay are markets where they are embracing renewables.  The following was reprinted from IEEFA’s press materials on the new report.


The report, “Power-Industry Transition, Here and Now,” includes case studies of markets—ranked by relative share of reliance on variable renewables—that include Denmark, South Australia, Uruguay, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Texas, California, and the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

“The report shows that on the ground now and in a variety of markets these renewable-energy leaders have raced ahead of much of the rest of the world in proving how power grids can be readily sourced with up to 50 percent of their energy from wind and solar,” said Gerard Wynn, a London-based IEEFA energy finance consultant and lead author of the report.

“As we speak, renewables are being integrated into these states and nations at levels in excess of 10 times global averages by using a menu of options and actions to integrate these clean, low-carbon power sources into electricity markets,” Wynn said. “The tools exist now to spectacularly grow the global generation of wind and solar power worldwide.”

“We draw attention to actions that system operators can consider immediately, all of which can help ease the integration process and assure the security of supply,” Wynn said. “Other states and countries can follow the lead of these policymakers, investors, and regulators, according to their circumstances, and so avoid radical redesigns of their power markets,” he said.

Power outage data indicates that major cities in the national case studies have not suffered grid problems and that, to the contrary, suggests that they have among the world’s most robust electric grids and are performing better than peers.

The report details integration of wind and solar power equivalent to 14 to 53 percent of total net generation, depending on the market studied and describes a reality that stands in stark contrast to recent energy policies put forth by the U.S. government.

“The case studies in our report make clear that the Trump administration’s rhetoric on electricity generation is not grounded in market reality,” Wynn said. “Our research shows that the growing uptake of variable renewables can preserve energy security.”


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Reprinted from a blog post by Andrew deLaski, Executive Director, Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP)

With a little more than a year elapsed since President Trump’s inauguration, progress on federal appliance standards has slowed to a crawl, while state efforts are picking up steam. Although the administration affirmed or completed several important Obama-era standards during its first months, others remain in limbo. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has now missed multiple legal deadlines and, in December, released a regulatory plan that puts the government on track to miss many more in 2018 and beyond. State policy makers have not wasted any time stepping into the breach; this year is already shaping up as a big one for state standards.

Status of standards at risk

With President Trump and Congress both focused on cutting regulations, 2017 opened with all eleven standards finalized during the last year of the Obama administration on the chopping block. Some good news: seven of these standards are now safe from rollbacks and efforts to protect the other four are underway. Here’s the rundown:

  • Manufacturers, consumer groups, and environmental advocates all urged preservation of four major standards developed through the negotiated rulemaking process. In spring 2017, after reviewing public input, the administration affirmed new standards for central air conditioners and heat pumps, beverage coolers, swimming pool pumps, and walk-in coolers.
  • Three standards developed through the more common, non-negotiated rulemaking process were on some target lists for repeal by Congress. But deadlines for Congressional repeal passed with no action to remove the new standards for ceiling fans, battery chargers, and dehumidifiers.
  • Four other standards remain in limbo. Although signed and issued in late 2016, final standards must wait 45 days for publication in the Federal Register to allow stakeholders to identify errors, and this error-correction period spanned the change in administrations. The only error correction request filed was non-substantive, yet a year later the Trump administration has still not officially published standards for portable air conditioners, air compressors, commercial boilers, and uninterruptible power supplies.

In mid-2017, state attorneys general and consumer and environmental groups sued DOE to compel publication of the four standards in limbo. In addition several states are considering their own standards for some of these products. More on that below.


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The following is from a story at the Texas Emergy Report (www.texasenergyreport.com)  For all the energy news in Texas, consider subscribing.

Like the Sierra Club. Public Citizen is pleased about this announcement and has long advocated that these old highly polluting plants be retired completely.  See the story below.

Big Brown is shutting down.

The two-unit coal-fired electricity generation plant in Freestone County between Palestine and Corsicana began phasing out operations on Monday.

It’s the third of three Texas coal-power plants being shut down by Luminant, dropping more than 4,600 MW of power capacity in Texas, and the effects are being felt around the nation.

Because of related pollution, the Sierra Club estimates that the closing of Big Brown alone will save “an estimated 163 lives every year, prevent nearly 6,000 asthma attacks, prevent tens of thousands of lost work and school days, and save $1.6 billion in in annual public health costs, according to analysis conducted with EPA-approved air modeling.”

The other two plants, the Monticello about 130 miles east of Dallas and the Sandow Steam Electric Station in Milam County east of Round Rock, are already phasing out and ceased operations last month.

Coal-fired plants can no longer compete with cheap natural gas, and as Vistra Energy subsidiary Luminant put it when announcing the shutdowns, “sustained low wholesale power prices, an oversupplied renewable generation market” and other factors joined in making poor investments of the plants.

Mine operations are also affected.


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an example of battery storage for a wind farm.

Texas Waves consists of two 9.9 megawatt (MW) short duration energy storage projects using lithium-ion battery technology and are an integral part of the wind farm facilities near Roscoe, Texas.  The storage project was designed to provide support to the primary operation of the wind farms by responding to shifts in power demand more quickly, improving grid system reliability and efficiency.

The company that developed Texas Waves, E.ON, has developed, built, and operates more than 3,600 MW of solar and wind renewable energy generation across the U.S., with more on the way.

Storage combined with renewable energy generation projects, like wind and solar, is the next step in making renewables more reliable and better able to replace polluting fossil fuel generation like coal as older plants are retired.

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This year, Public Citizen was proud to be a sponsor of Air Alliance Houston’s State of the Air Gala.

A partner in Public Citizen’s Healthy Ports Community Coalition, Air Alliance Houston (AAH) focuses on creating a healthier Houston by preventing pollution before it happens. Right now, Houston currently has 24,000 lane-miles of roadways which carry more than 465 million tons of goods each year. With the expansion of the Panama Canal, freight traffic is expected to increase by 56% over the next 20 years. And if we don’t do anything about it now, pollution is going to get a whole lot worse. Despite improvements over the past few decades, Harris County still receives an “F”  from the American Lung Association for ozone pollution!  We thank all of you who joined us in celebrating the work of Air Alliance Houston at the State of the Air Gala.

Funds raised through this event will support AAH’s programs, allowing them to continue their research, education, and advocacy work to advance the public health of Houston area communities by improving air quality.

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The Texas House Committee on County Affairs will meet at 9:15 AM on Tuesday, February 06, 2018 at The University of Houston – Downtown Campus, Welcome Center Building, Milam and Travis Rooms, 201 Girard Street, Houston, TX 77002 to consider the following interim charges:

  1. Examine how emergency response activities are organized, funded, and coordinated. Review the impact of natural disasters on county finances. Identify any deficiencies in authority for the most populous counties related to infrastructure planning, emergency response, and recovery. Explore ways to improve efficiencies and manage costs while protecting public safety. Additionally, study the relationship between the state, counties, non-governmental organizations, and churches in preparing for and responding to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, and determine if preparedness plans are adequate.
  2. Evaluate whether counties have the necessary ordinance-making and enforcement authority to deal with flood risk in unincorporated rural and suburban areas of Texas. Additionally, examine whether counties have adequate resources and authority to ensure that new development in unincorporated areas is not susceptible to flooding.
  3. The Committee will also discuss the implementation of SB 1849 otherwise known as the “Sandra Bland Act” (relating to interactions between law enforcement and individuals detained or arrested on suspicion of the commission of criminal offenses, to the confinement, conviction, or release of those individuals, and to grants supporting populations that are more likely to interact frequently with law enforcement).

Prior to the hearing, Committee Members will take a tour of the areas affected by Hurricane Harvey at the University of Houston- Downtown.

The hearing will be live-streamed.  To view the hearing, please copy and paste the following link into your web browser: uhdhml.uhd.edu/Player/Live/4.

The Committee will hear invited and public testimony.  Public testimony is generally limited to 3 minutes so prepare accordingly.

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The Texas Senate Committee on Natural Resources held its hearing at Houston’s City Hall.

The Texas Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development held a hearing in Houston Thursday, February 1st on two interim charges, the first being on hotel occupancy taxes and the second on regulatory barriers.

The second interim charge reviewed at the hearing states: Identify options to maintain our state’s competitive advantage and make recommendations to remove or reduce administrative or regulatory barriers hindering economic growth, including permitting or registration requirements and fees.

Public Citizen’s Houston-based organizer, Stephanie Thomas, was one of six people to provide invited testimony. Others included representatives from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Texas Chemical Council, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the National Energy Association.

Our role at the hearing was to comment on specific aspects of regulation, including the issue of expedited permitting. Public Citizen recommended sufficient funding to the regulatory agencies like TCEQ to thoroughly and effectively review permits. Public Citizen also brought forth issues in reducing public participation that may come from the expedition of permits.

Public Citizen also provided comment on Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s use of exceptional events for determining National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) designation, i.e. whether a location is in attainment or nonattainment for levels criteria pollutants. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, exceptional events “are unusual or naturally occurring events that can affect air quality but are not reasonably controllable using techniques that tribal, state or local air agencies may implement in order to attain and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Exceptional events include wildfires, stratospheric ozone intrusions and volcanic and seismic activities.”

Public Citizen argued that the TCEQ should not use exceptional events to make it seem as though an area is in attainment of an air quality standard when it is not. This practice of using exceptional events to avoid nonattainment status is particularly dangerous because people still have to breath air pollution regardless of whether it comes from a refinery or it comes from agricultural fires in Mexico.

Many of what seems like regulations to industry are public safeguards, with tangible benefits to human health and quality of life.

To read Public Citizen’s written testimony, click here: Regulatory Barriers hearing comments – Public Citizen.docx.

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