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Archive for April, 2018

Look for this tear pad display at the register when you check out at any Texas HEB store.  Take this opportunity to make donations when you check out with your groceries.  Donations go to Earthshare, which supports Public Citizen.

Making a donation at the register when you check out with your groceries at any HEB store in Texas funds environmental organizations in the state.  This funds Public Citizen’s Texas office as well as several of our partner organizations, such as EDF, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Air Alliance Houston, and Sierra Club (among many).  If you want to help us and the many other organizations that are working to keep the Texas environment clean and healthy for all Texans, make a donation before Tuesday, May 1st.

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Live from EarthX in Dallas! Our very own David Arkush, managing director of Public Citizen’s climate program discussing the role of the mainstream media in covering the climate crisis. 12 PM CT

The live feed is completed for the day.  Check back in a couple of days if you missed it to watch the whole panel session.

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We will be at EarthX in Dallas this weekend giving a talk on the role of the mainstream media in covering the climate crisis.

Not going to EarthX? No worries – we are live streaming the presentation on our facebook page here on Saturday at 12 pm CT.

@publiccitizentx

 

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April 20-22, 2018 – Fair Park in Dallas, Texas!

 

Join a panel of local DFW citizens as they talk about their experience in getting letters to the editor of the Dallas Morning News printed and DMN’s response to Climate Change on Sunday, April 22nd from 2 to 3 pm on the Discovery Stage in the Automobile Building in Fair Park.  Public Citizen’s Rita Beving will be moderating this discussion.

And stop by and visit our booth.  We will be in the Centennial building in spaces 5317-5319.
If you are planning to attend, you can make navigating the multiple events and exhibits easier with the EarthX 2018 official mobile application which you can get on google play or apple itunes.  We look forward to seeing you at Fair Park for Earthday!

If you are at the Expo on Saturday, be sure to include on your event list one of the speaker series on Saturday, April 21st from 12 noon to 1:00 pm on the Centennial Discovery Stage.  This will feature David Arkush – Managing Director, Public Citizen’s Climate Program – as he participates on a panel moderated by Betsy Rosenberg, an environmental talk show host and producer of The Green Front on Progressive Radio Network.

Wake Up and Smell the Carbon!
The Role of Mainstream News Media in Covering Climate and Environmental News.
Saturday, April 21st from 12 noon to 1:00 pm on the Centennial Discovery Stage

This and much, much more is happening at EarthX.  Check out the Expo Guide here to make the most of your visit to this year’s EarthX event.

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This year, you can still get into the EarthX Expo free by registering.  You can do this at the gate or by filling out the registration online, printing it out and bringing it along with you.  Advance registration will get you into the exhibits and other Earthday activities faster.  Stop by and see us in the Centennial Building, Booths 5317-5319.

Once there, you can make navigating the multiple events and exhibits easier with the EarthX 2018 official mobile application which you can get on google play or apple itunes.  We look forward to seeing you at Fair Park for Earthday!

Attend Mobile

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This story was reprinted from the Texas Energy Report, a subscriber-only news service going into their 10th year of service to Texas energy industries, consultants, legislators, lobbyists and law firms.

The New 500 Feet Rule? New Colorado Study Indicates Living Close To Oil and Gas Sites Can Be Dangerous

Fracking site near homes.

Risks of respiratory, hematological, neurological and developmental health problems increase considerably among those living within 500 feet or less of oil and gas sites.

That’s the conclusion of a new study from the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus at Aurora, CO.

Researchers found that, over a lifetime, people who live 500 feet from an oil and gas site have a cancer risk eight times higher than the limit called “acceptable” by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The problems, those researchers said, are non-methane hydrocarbons such as benzene, which were found at concentrations much, much higher within 500 feet of wells than were found a mile from such sites.

Executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and EnvironmentDr. Larry Wolk said in a statement on Monday that the new study showed increase risk only at distances within 500 feet.

That conclusion confirms current Colorado regulations requiring homes and businesses to be more than 500 feet from petroleum-related sites; 1,000 feet from buildings such as schools and hospitals.

Another problem is the finding that benzene concentrations within 500 feet were higher at night than in the daytime, because benzene and other chemicals disperse at a much slower rate without sunshine.

The study primarily used air emissions found along Colorado’s Front Range.

Wolk said the study emphasizes the need for more comprehensive air quality studies and increased collection of data among those living close to petroleum-related sites so that firmer conclusions can be reached in the future about possible dangers of oil and gas production.

Also see the Austin American Statesman story that says in 116 Texas counties (or 45% of Texas counties), oil- and gas-related air pollutants surpass the EPA’s threshold for increased cancer risk. Those counties are home to 3 million people and make up half of the counties nationally identified as having an elevated cancer risk. Caldwell County is among the high-risk Texas counties.

In Texas, state law grandfathered old well sites, and primitive early permits allowed perpetual new drilling on existing sites as close as 200 feet from residences. 

In November 2014, after an expensive campaign, Denton became the first Texas city to explicitly ban fracking within the city limits, however the Denton victory was short-lived. The next day, the Texas Oil and Gas Association and Texas General Land Office separately sued the city.  But before these issues could be litigated, Texas legislators introduced bills to overturn the Denton fracking ban and prevent similar bans elsewhere. In March 2015, Rep. Drew Darby introduced House Bill 40, which easily passed both houses. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on May 18.2015

  • HB 40 provides that oil and gas “operations” (which expressly include fracking) are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the state;  municipalities may not enact ordinances that ban, limit, or otherwise regulate them. Local regulation is expressly preempted except for measures satisfying a four-part test, which allows a regulation if it: (1) is “limited to above ground activity”; (2) is “commercially reasonable”; (3) does not “effectively prohibit an oil and gas operation conducted by a reasonably prudent operator”; and (4) is not other-wise preempted. The law’s safe harbor provision considers ordinances that have been in effect for at least five years and that have allowed operations to take place during that time to be prima facie commercially reasonable.
In 2016, a 47-page report, titled “Dangerous and Close,” was compiled by Environment Texas, the Frontier Group and the FracTracker Alliance. It examined the locations of 160,000 fracking wells drilled since 2005 in nine states, based on data provided by regulatory agencies and the oil and gas industry.  In Texas, the report found that nearly 437,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade attend one of 850 Texas schools that are within one mile of a fracking site. In addition, 1,240 daycare centers — or 9 percent of the total number — are within one mile of a fracking well.

There is no state-wide setback rule for oil and gas wells or pipelines in Texas.  The state agency charged with governing oil and gas production, the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), has passed no such state-wide regulation.  According to the Texas Railroad Commission website, “The Railroad Commission does not regulate how close a gas or oil well can be drilled to a residential property.”

Instead, the RRC has generally left this authority up to ordinances or zoning laws passed by individual municipalities (which was certainly curtailed by HB40 in 2016).  For example, the City of Ft. Worth passed an ordinance requiring 600 feet between an oil and gas well and a structure.  The City of Denton passed an ordinance requiring a 1,200 foot setback.

Additionally, there is a provision in the Texas Local Government Code Section 253.005 that provides “a well may not be drilled in the thickly settled part of the municipality or within 200 feet of a private residence.”  While the Railroad Commission seems to read this as applicable to any land leased within a municipality, the statutory provision specifically addresses leasing of minerals by a municipality and it could at least be argued this 200 foot requirement applies only to land leased by a municipality and not private landowners.

Also relevant, the International Fire Code requires that wells not be drilled within 100 foot of a structure or 75 feet of a roadway, providing very little protection for landowners and clearly intended to address the issue of flammability near a structure rather than long term exposure to toxic emissions by residents, workers in an office or children in a school.

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April 20-22, 2018

Fair Park in Dallas, Texas!

LOCATED 5 MINUTES EAST OF DOWNTOWN DALLAS, NEAR THE INTERSECTION OF INTERSTATE 30, INTERSTATE 45 AND HIGHWAY 75 (CENTRAL EXPRESSWAY).  Click here to get directions.  Click here for a map of the fairgrounds, we will be in the Centennial building (number 13 on the map) in spaces 5317-5319.
If you are planning to attend, you can make navigating the multiple events and exhibits easier with the EarthX 2018 official mobile application which you can get on google play or apple itunes.  We look forward to seeing you at Fair Park for Earthday!

In addition to hundreds of exhibitors, there is a slate of speakers and panels scheduled throughout the days of the expo in the Centennial and Automobile Buildings.  Be sure to catch David Arkush – Managing Director, Public Citizen’s Climate Program – on Saturday, April 21st from 12 noon to 1:00 pm on the Centennial Discovery Stage as he participates on a panel moderated by Betsy Rosenberg, an environmental talk show host and producer of The Green Front on Progressive Radio Network.

Wake Up and Smell the Carbon!
The Role of Mainstream News Media in Covering Climate and Environmental News.
Saturday, April 21st from 12 noon to 1:00 pm on the Centennial Discovery Stage

This and much, much more is happening at EarthX.  Check out the Expo Guide here to make the most of your visit to this year’s EarthX event.

 

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UPDATE:  Today (April 10, 2018), Public Citizen with a number of local organizations, kicked off an anti-nuclear waste tour in New Mexico.  Protesting Holtec’s proposed license application to accept and create interim storage for high-level radioactive waste on the border of New Mexico and west Texas, this tour will provide media and local citizen’s with information about the dangers of storage of this type of waste.  Watch Halt Holtec‘s live video of the tour kickoff event in Albuquerque, NM.

Since this story was posted, it was announced that after nearly a year of putting it on ice, Waste Control Specialists aims to revive its application for a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission license to build and operate a facility for consolidated interim storage of used fuel from commercial nuclear power reactors (a sort of purgatory before a final storage facility – Yucca Mountain?) . It is doing so in a joint venture planned with Orano USA.

Establishment of the joint venture and a formal request to restart the NRC review are expected in the second quarter of this year.

The plan remains to build a facility on Waste Control Specialists’ property in Andrews County, Texas, to temporarily hold up to 40,000 metric tons of spent fuel until the Department of Energy finds a permanent home for the radioactive waste.

When the NRC receives the WCS request to resume, a new schedule will be developed for continuing the review, publishing a new notice of hearing on the license application, and re-opening the environmental scoping period for 60 days.

Waste Control Specialists first submitted its application in April 2016, in partnership with NAC International and AREVA. The NRC completed its acceptance review of the application in January 2017, but the company in April of that year asked that the regulator halt the full technical review ahead of WCS’ then-pending merger with EnergySolutions. A federal judge blocked that deal on antitrust grounds, and Waste Control Specialists was acquired in January by private equity firm J.F. Lehman.

Orano USA was previously AREVA Nuclear Materials prior to its parent company’s renaming in January

Retired Public Citizen Texas Director, Tom “Smitty” Smith, continues environmental justice fights.  Here’s an update on proposals to dump high-level radioactive waste on the Texas/ New Mexico border region.

TEXAS – WCS
Here’s the latest involving WCS – Waste Control Specialists – the low-level radioactive waste dump company in Andrews County. They’ve been seeking a high-level radioactive waste storage license in addition to their current low-level waste licence, but have temporarily pulled back the license that was under review by the NRC. They could start up again any time, and could move lightning fast if they do.

Meantime, they’re busy working on bringing decommissioned reactors to Texas for shallow burial. The new owners are part of the Northstar Group, which is deep into decommissioning.

In addition, WCS is trying to get licensed for greater Than Class C Waste… it’s not the fuel rods, but is incredibly hot in terms of radioactivity.

NEW MEXICO – HOLTEC
There’s a huge threat from the Holtec proposal for consolidated interim storage of high-level radioactive waste. They want to put the nation’s nuclear reactor irradiated fuel rods at a site in between Carlsbad and Hobbs, NM, not far across the Texas border, and massive rail shipments would likely go through Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/ Ft. Worth, Midland, El Paso and more.

That would be over 10,000 shipments, in a process that would take over 24 years. The DOE expects at least one train accident.

The Texas WCS site wants 40,000 tons of high-level radioactive waste; the Holtec site is for 100,000 tons. Today, that is all that has been produced by U.S. reactors. The likelihood that this waste would ever be moved to a permanent storage facility is nil, making this part of the country the de facto permanent site for the nation’s radioactive waste.

(more…)

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15 Companies and Groups, 60 People Are Backing a new organization, Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance (TxETRA) Kicks Off Electric Vehicle Coalition, With Energy and Momentum. 

The Texas Electric Transportation Resources Alliance (TxETRA) is a nonprofit organization composed of electric energy vehicle manufacturers, industry leaders, developers, distributors, producers, utilities, and environmental and transportation equity groups. Their mission is to guide and accelerate the adoption of electrical transportation in all its forms, in the most cost-effective way, providing maximum benefit to the citizens of Texas. Fifteen companies and groups, and more than 60 people are involved in the formation of TxETRA which launched on Friday, April 6th at the Austin Club in downtown Austin, TX.  You can watch the kickoff on our facebook page – @publiccitizentx.

“Texas – with its huge transportation network – can be a leader or a laggard,” said Bobby Hill, vice president of American Sales for BYD, a global manufacturer of electric vehicles (EVs) and a founder of TxETRA. “Transportation is electrifying at high speeds across the world. We in the industry are joining with the utilities, the researchers and the advocates to create TxETRA and to work together to develop the policies we need to become a world leader in the development of these technologies. Electric vehicles are cheaper to own and maintain, and are far less polluting than a conventional vehicle. A dozen countries have banned – or are considering banning – the sale of gas and diesel engines.”

“TxETRA was formed to ensure we develop policies to make Texas one of the leaders in that transition,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, TxETRA’s interim director. Smith was the director of Public Citizen’s Texas office for more than 30 years and has been a leader in developing renewable energy policies, including in the transportation sector. “If we develop the right policies, we can absorb that increased demand for electricity and lower our electric rates. We want to accelerate the deployment of EVs and make it possible for electric vehicle owners to have enough charging stations, pay fair rates for electricity, have controls in place to reduce unnecessary charging at times when the grid is stressed due to peak demand and get paid when their car batteries are used to provide reliability services to the grid.” (more…)

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Groups Call on Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to End Rule Suspensions, ‘Return to Normalcy’

 

UPDATE: We want to thank Governor Abbott and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for their quick action. The public spoke up about their concerns and the state responded. Environmental rules are there to protect the public and it’s important that they stay in place and are enforced.

We are happy with the announced outcome today, and we thank Governor Greg Abbott and the TCEQ for taking this step to protect the people of Texas.

Generally, we don’t think that rule suspensions are appropriate. The TCEQ always can choose not to fine facilities that pollute during a disaster. But with 46 environmental rules having been suspended across 60 counties for six months, there could be consequences to public health. If TCEQ chose to enforce against any violations that occurred during that time, companies might use the rule suspension as a defense against enforcement. This could limit the TCEQ’s ability to hold polluters accountable. When the next disaster happens, Public Citizen believes the governor should leave our public health and environmental protections in place.

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) should reinstate public health and environmental protections suspended in response to Hurricane Harvey, nine groups said in a letter (PDF) sent to the agency today.

Public Citizen’s Texas office and its allies warned that the public health and environmental harms outweigh any justification for the continued suspension of 46 TCEQ rules ranging from air pollution limits to vehicle fuel standards to wastewater standards. The letter was signed by representatives from Bayou City Waterkeeper, the Coalition of Community Organizations, Environment Texas, Gulf Restoration Network, the One Breath Partnership, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and Turtle Island Restoration Network. Accompanying the letter was a spreadsheet (PDF) listing the 46 rules and explaining why they should be reinstated.

“We believe that many of the rule suspensions were never appropriate. We also believe that, more than six months after the hurricane, there is no justification for continued suspension of these forty-six rules,” the letter reads.

“There may be serious public health consequences to leaving these suspensions in place. If they aren’t needed any more, they should be ended now,” said Adrian Shelley, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, who spoke about the rules suspension at a TCEQ public meeting today.

One rule that should be reinstated limits visible emissions from flares to five minutes in any two-hour period. Pollutants from these flares have been linked to nonfatal heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, aggravated asthma, decreased lung function, coughing, difficulty breathing and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. A suspension of this rule carries grave consequences for public health, Shelley said.

“We are not aware of any companies that are experiencing continued operational difficulties as a result of Hurricane Harvey that would necessitate suspension of this rule,” the letter said.

The groups made three recommendations. First, the TCEQ must weigh the costs to public health and the environment against the value of continuing to suspend the rules. Second, the TCEQ needs to provide more information to the public about the continued rule suspensions. And third, if companies are not taking advantage of rule suspensions, those rules should be reinstated.

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