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Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

Six years ago, Public Citizen and our partners founded the Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC), which advocates for the health and well-being of residents of communities on the Houston Ship Channel. The coalition also includes Air Alliance Houston, the Coalition of Community Organizations, and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services.

Recently, we had an opportunity to convene the HPCC in Houston to discuss our work. One purpose for the trip was to introduce our new Press Office, Angel Amaya, to Port Houston. Port Houston is the largest exporting port in the nation and the center of Houston’s petrochemical industry.

We started at Morgan’s Point Cemetery, the oldest continually operated cemetery in Harris County. It is the small green square in the middle of the photo above. Surrounding the cemetery is the Barbours Cut terminal and turning basin. This is one of two container terminals at Port Houston. Goods from all over the world come into Barbours Cut on very large vessels packed with shipping containers. One ship can carry as many as 4,500 containers. (There are even larger ships, the so-called “Post-Panamax” ships, that can carry as many as 9,000 containers, but they are too large to enter Barbours Cut.) The containers are offloaded by cranes (top of photo) and moved on to trucks and trains to be shipped around the country. Many of the engines that operate at a terminal like Barbours Cut–including marine vessels, cranes, short-haul equipment, drayage trucks, and locomotives–use polluting fossil fuels such as diesel. The Healthy Port Communities coalition advocates for replacement of these polluting vehicles with newer, clean technologies. Many funding opportunities are available for these replacements, including the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act and the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan.

A container terminal like Barbours Cut is probably what most people think of when they think of what goes on at a port. There is plenty of container traffic at Port Houston, but in fact this represents only about 15% of the total traffic.

The rest of the traffic consists of bulk products, most of them petrochemical. We visited many of the industrial facilities that produce these petrochemical products. One of the most infamous petrochemical facilities on the Houston Ship Channel is the Pasadena Refinery, owned by the Brazilian national oil company Petrobras.

Pasadena Refinery is notoriously troubled. In recent years, its woes have included explosions with injury, protests by environmental groups and concerned neighbors, lawsuits by environmental groups, and international bribery scandals. It was recently announced that Petrobras is trying to sell the refinery, although it is unclear who would want to buy such a dangerous liability.

We also visited Hartman Park in the community of Manchester, sometimes referred to as “Houston’s most polluted neighborhood.” Our friends at t.e.j.a.s. have advocated for years for the people of Manchester. When our new Press Officer Angel visited Hartman Park, she was struck by this mural:

Created by children living in Manchester, the mural perhaps unintentionally shows how intrusive polluting facilities are in the lives of people living on the Houston Ship Channel. An idyllic scene of children playing in a park is flanked by industrial stacks spewing pollution into the air. The mural is a stark reminder of what life is like for some of our most vulnerable neighbors in certain parts of Texas.

The Healthy Port Communities Coalition is advocating on the behalf of those neighbors who live in Houston. We finished our trip to Houston with a meeting of HPCC member groups. One topic of discussion was the Chairman’s Citizens Advisory Council (CCAC). The CCAC was created after the Port of Houston Authority Sunset Review in 2013. Public health advocates had asked for representation on the Port Commission itself, with the addition of a new seat representing community interests. That recommendation was rejected by the state legislature, although certain other reforms were implemented. After the sunset review was complete, some advocates continued to call for more representation of community interests at the port. Longtime port community advocate Sen. John Whitmire joined this call, asking the new Port of Houston Authority Chairman Janice Longoria to act. Chairman Longoria responded by creating the Chairman’s Citizens Advisory Council.

The Healthy Port Communities Coalition has had members and allies on the CCAC since it was created. Although we appreciated the move, in the years following we have not seen the CCAC be an effective body advocating for public health protections. This is in part due to the manner in which it was created and operates. In order to improve the CCAC, we have compiled a list of recommendations:

 

  1. The existence of the Chairman’s Citizens Advisory Council (CCAC) should be codified in statute, regulation, or by memorandum.
  2. The chairs on the CCAC should be designated for particular constituencies or neighborhoods, including the chair already designated for the Healthy Port Communities Coalition.
  3. The representative for each chair should be selected by each corresponding constituency, via a process of their choosing.
  4. The CCAC should have the authority to set agenda items for CCAC meetings.
  5. CCAC members should be given time to make presentations at CCAC meetings. Port Houston should be required to formally respond to any presentations and answer any questions posed.
  6. The CCAC should have the authority to make information requests and pose questions to Port Houston. The Port Commission should be required to respond.
  7. The CCAC should be given monthly opportunities to report on its work to the Port Commission.
  8. The CCAC should be able to recommend studies to be conducted by Port Houston. If Port Houston declines to undertake a recommended study, it should clearly state its rationale for doing so.

To her credit, Chairman Longoria did implement #7 above at the request of one of the CCAC members (a t.e.j.a.s. employee). But for the most part, the CCAC still functions as an isolated body whose members serve at the pleasure of the chairman. We believe that the above reforms would make the body a more effective advocate for portside community residents. This would lead to a port that took better care of its neighbors and served as a better steward of public health and the environment.

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Texas cities are stepping up to take on the climate change crisis.  Austin was an early leader, but now San Antonio, Dallas and Houston are in the game too.  Instead of waiting for leadership at the federal or state level, these cities are taking action.

Taking action at the city level makes a lot of sense.  Cities are responsible for over 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions.  When cities choose to act, they are often able to reduce emissions quicker than federal or state governments.  Cities can tailor solutions to address specific local challenges, while also stepping up to support broader changes that are needed.

So how do cities take action?  Any policy or program that reduces emissions is helpful, but the most effective way for cities to reduce emissions as much as possible is to develop a community-wide climate action plan.

There are several steps to this process:

  • GHG Inventory: Conduct a greenhouse gas inventory, following the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. This is an accounting of all emissions that the community is responsible for.  At least scope 1 and 2 emissions should be included, and ideally scope 3 emissions as well.
  • GHG Reduction Goal: Establish a goal for reducing greenhouse gases. Establishing interim goals is helpful.
  • Stakeholder Process: Establish a community stakeholder process to develop recommendations. This should include outreach to the community at large.
  • Identify Actions: Identify actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions throughout the community to meet the goal. Estimate expected emissions reductions, cost and time needed to implement for each action item.  Identify co-benefits.  Prioritize the list based on these factors.
  • Schedule Reports & Updates: Establish a schedule for progress reports and updating the climate action plan.
  • Release Draft Plan: Release the draft climate action plan for public comment.
  • Adopt Plan: Adopt the climate action plan.
  • Implement: Begin implementation of the plan, starting with priority items.
  • Report & Update: Report on progress made, as well as challenges at least as frequently as scheduled. Update the plan as scheduled, or more frequently, if needed.

 

Let’s take a look at where each of these Texas cities are in this process: (more…)

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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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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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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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A new study by an SMU geophysical team found alarming rates of ground movement at various locations across a 4000-square-mile area of four Texas counties. (Zhong Lu and Jin-Woo Kim, SMU) Credit: Zhong Lu and Jin-Woo Kim, SMU. This shows where WCS is locating their proposed high-level radioactive interim waste storage facility in relation to the area in the SMU study.

 

A geophysical team from Southern Methodist University, near Dallas, TX is reporting that various locations in large portions of four Texas counties (Winkler, Ward, Reeves and Pecos) are sinking and uplifting with significant movement of the ground across a 4000-square-mile area—in one place as much as 40 inches over the past two-and-a-half years.

The scientists made the discovery with analysis of medium-resolution (15 feet to 65 feet) radar imagery taken between November 2014 and April 2017 which cover portions of four oil-patch counties where there’s heavy production of hydrocarbons from the oil-rich West Texas Permian Basin.

The imagery, coupled with oil-well production data from the Texas Railroad Commission, suggests the area’s unstable ground is associated with decades of oil activity and its effect on rocks below the surface of the earth.

The SMU researchers caution that ground movement may extend beyond what radar observed in the four-county area. The entire region is highly vulnerable to human activity due to its geology—water-soluble salt and limestone formations, and shale formations.

And right on the edge of the study area sits WCS’ proposed interim storage site for high-level radioactive waste. One of the geophysical team conducting the study, Zhong Lu, a professor in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences at SMU and a global expert in satellite radar imagery analysis, told reporters, “These hazards represent a danger to residents, roads, railroads, levees, dams, and oil and gas pipelines, as well as potential pollution of ground water. Proactive, continuous detailed monitoring from space is critical to secure the safety of people and property.”

With the NRC license application now going forward again, this is a new development about which Texas should be very concerned.  We hope NRC will have SMU expand the scope of their study to include the area immediately surrounding the WCS site near Andrews, Texas and the Holtec site just across the border in New Mexico.

You can read about the findings in Phys.org or see the study in Nature.

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Two people were injured and another is missing in Cresson, TX (near Fort Worth) after an explosion and fire on Thursday at 9:45 a.m. The plant appears to belong to Tri-Chem Industries, a chemical blending facility. Some reports have identified it as a fertilizer plant.

Update:   Officials recovered human remains about 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 21st and they are believed to be those of Dylan Mitchell, 27, the one worker who has remained missing since the March 15 fire and explosion, according to officials.

At least one more large explosion was captured by cameras and posted to Twitter. Plumes of black smoke from the plant closed a nearby state highway.

Texas has been the scene of other plant explosions in recent years, including the Arkema facility in Crosby after Hurricane Harvey and a massive fertilizer plant fire in West in April 2013 that claimed 15 lives.

In the minutes after such chemical disasters, knowledge can save lives. Twelve first responders to the Arkema explosion were injured by exposure to unknown contaminants in the fire. In today’s explosion, first responders were held back for their safety.

For surrounding communities, knowing how to react–whether to evacuate or shelter-in-place–is a matter of survival. Texans living near chemical plants and refineries know this all too well, but it can still be impossible to make the right decision without accurate and timely information.

Last legislative session, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez filed HB 1927, which would have establish a system to alert neighboring communities when a facility releases toxic chemicals or experiences a chemical disaster.

Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of of the House Committee on Environmental Regulation. But each time a disaster such as this occurs, it underscores the need for such legislation.

The bill would have directed the State Emergency Response Commission to develop a statewide system to inform the public of chemical emergencies in a timely manner using a multi-media approach, including traditional media, social media, and wireless emergency alerts.

This statewide system would have eliminate patchwork local approaches and relieve local governments of the burden of developing and maintaining their own systems. Residents would be directed to a hyperlink, which would provide:

  • The geographic area impacted by the release
  • Information on symptoms that could require emergency medical treatment,
  • Directionality of plume movement,
  • The chemicals involved in and toxicity of the release,
    and
  • Instructions for protection from exposure to the release.

Just like the Amber Alerts for missing persons and emergency weather alerts available on our phones, a Chemical Emergency Alert System should be available to keep our communities safe.  Call your representatives or candidates and ask them to support chemical emergency alerts.

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CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, runs the global disclosure system that enables companies, cities, states and regions to measure and manage their environmental impacts. CDP has the most comprehensive collection of self-reported environmental data in the world. Of the 570 plus global cities reporting to CDP, over 100 now get at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind.

Data on renewable energy mix is self-reported via CDP’s questionnaire.  These cities report at least 70% of their electricity is from renewables. Because this is a self-reporting survey, some cities (such as Georgetown, TX) may noy appear on the list.  Cities reporting they are powered by renewable energy are ‘city-wide’, not just municipal use only.   Read on to see the whole list. (more…)

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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:

(more…)

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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.

(more…)

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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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