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Archive for the ‘Global Warming’ Category

You might think that an industry that manages to reduce electricity prices, create over 23,000 Texas jobs and reduce air pollution all at the same time might have just about universal support.  But no.  Every time the Texas Legislature is in session, there’s an attack on the Texas wind industry.  This session is no exception.

Email your State Senator to keep wind energy growing in Texas.

Texas State Senator Donna Campbell of New Braunfels is leading the charge against wind energy with Senate Bill 277 (SB 277).  The bill would create 35 mile zones around military facilities with aviation operations in which wind farms wouldn’t be eligible for economic development tax credits that are available to many businesses across the state.

The stated reason is to protect military facilities and their operations from any interference from wind farms.  That would mostly be wind towers obstructing flight paths and the spinning wind turbines causing radar to malfunction.  These sound like problems worth fixing until you learn that there’s already a fully functional solution in place.

The Department of Defense Already Has a Solution

The Department of Defense (DoD) is aware of the potential conflicts between wind farms and other energy infrastructure and it’s operations has has developed a process for evaluating and mitigating any impact from such development.  The DoD Siting Clearinghouse examines each proposed wind farm evaluates possible impacts based on it’s specific design and location and the specific activities and infrastructure at nearby military facilities.

Every wind farm doesn’t have the same impact because those details very widely.  If the DoD Siting Clearinghouse determines that there would be an impact, the wind developer either has to find a new location, make changes to the design of the wind farm and/or pay for infrastructure upgrades at the impacted military facility.  DoD Siting Clearinghouse staff made clear in their March 2015 report to Congress that this project by project review is the only effective method of protecting its operations:

Generic standoff distances are not useful.  Due to the wide variety of missions and the variability of impacts on different types of obstructions, it is not possible to apply a ‘one-size-fits-all’ standoff distance between DOD military readiness activities and development projects.

Wind and Military Installations Are Successfully Coexisting

The Clearinghouse process is working.  In Nueces County, Texas, a proposed wind farm was evaluated and a determination made that there would be conflict with Navy training missions in Corpus Christi and Kingsville.  The Clearing house worked with the wind developer and agreement was reached that allowed the installation to go forward.  Turbines were excluded from certain areas and the developer contributed money for studies and infrastructure upgrades.  This kind of win-win outcome is the benefit of a thoughtful policy that respects the variability in each situation.

Texas wind farms within 25 miles of military air bases

Map created by The Wind Coalition

SB 277 gives no consideration to the fact that many wind farms can and do operate within 35 miles of military bases with no conflicts.  It’s also possible that a wind farm further away could have impacts.  Over 39% of existing Texas wind capacity is found within 30 miles of a military facility.  This proposed “buffer zone” is clearly not needed.  SB 277 is a bill with a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Email your State Senator to keep wind energy growing in Texas.

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Yesterday, Tuesday, February 21st, the Bexar County Commissioners (in San Antonio) unanimously approved a resolution opposing transport of high-level radioactive waste and consolidated storage or disposal in Texas or New Mexico.  Here’s the final clause:

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that Bexar County does not support or consent to consolidated interim storage of radioactive waste in Texas and nearby New Mexico, or the transportation of high-level radioactive waste on our railways or highways for the purpose of consolidated storage or permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste in Texas or New Mexico.

The resolution was carried by Commissioner Tommy Calvert, who explained the risks of transportation of high-level radioactive waste through San Antonio and other communities that would be on transportation routes if WCS gets a consolidated storage license.

San Antonio folks who testified were Russell Seal and Meredith McGuire with Alice Canestaro-Garcia and Loretta Van Coppenolle, ready to testify.  Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen led the testimony. Commissioner Paul Elizondo pointed out the history of opposing radioactive waste transport in San Antonio in previous years and seconded the motion to pass the resolution, which passed without further discussion.

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This was an amazing week of organizing in West Texas / New Mexico. Lots of people and organizations came together to work toward halting the radioactive waste dumping threat. Waste Control Specialists (WCS) wants to dump 40,000 tons of this deadly waste, parking lot style, and store it for 40 to 100 years in the desert, where climate extremes and fracking abound. What could go wrong?

This week there were two Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) hearings on the radioactive waste storage license for Waste Control Specialists, one in Hobbs (Feb. 13th) and one in Andrews (Feb. 15th). The message came through loud and clear from local and regional folks – WE DON’T WANT IT!   The Department of Energy (DOE) tried to tell the rest of the country that Andrews wants this waste – but the people in targeted communities never got to vote. The Andrews County Commissioners took action with a resolution that hardly anyone knew about until recently, which is not informed consent.

A local activist who lives just outside of WCS’s site and her family have been speaking up and taking action for years. She spoke to the Mayor and City Council of Eunice on Valentines’ evening, and spoke at both the Hobbs and Andrews NRC meetings – on the 13th and 15th.  Eunice is the closest city to the WCS site – only 5 miles away. The proposed Eddy Lea Energy Alliance (Holtec) consolidated storage project would be nearby as well.

Another concerned citizen has led efforts in Andrews for two years now.  He was joined by an 80 years old newly minted activist who is  full of life and fire. A young Mom from Andrews.  her family and friends have now jumped in and become involved, and others in the community are speaking out now as well. Former State Representative Lon Burnam has made numerous trips to the West Texas region to organize and connect people.

Citizens in Midland and Odessa organized two local meetings and a press conference, and then participated in both hearings. They made a huge impact too, and have raised concerns about the risk of radioactive waste trains and water contamination. A local artist gave a beautiful and empowering speech in Hobbs and brought friends in from Roswell.

A member of the Dallas League of Women Voters got the National League of Women Voters to support her strong statement of opposition to radioactive waste dumping and delivered it beautifully, to the applause, standing ovation and sign waving of an appreciative crowd.

Diane D’Arrigo from Nuclear Information and Resource Service and Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear were invaluable, helping get information out to concerned citizens, speaking powerfully and providing detailed accurate information to reporters. We’re so grateful to them for their key role and for coming all this way to help out.  Tom “Smitty” Smith and Public Citizen were also key in organizing, strategizing and getting materials and information out.

The star of the night in Andrews was young man who took the microphone and spoke boldly, with his mother supporting him with an arm around him. It was moving and powerful.

Reporters from E&E News, the Midland Reporter-Telegram, Odessa American, Andrews County News and 3 television stations came out in Andrews.

WCS had speakers at the hearings, but many were employees or people who seem likely to have had contracts or financial benefit. The usual backers, such as the Andrews Industrial Foundation, went to bat. The WCS folks outnumbered us, but we were strong in numbers, organized, vocal and clear in our message – an amazing feat in towns where this type of organizing hasn’t happened in recent history. It’s been an honor to know and work with everyone involved, and to learn so much from amazing local folks! There will be future organizing meetings going forward and everyone is invited.

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The following sites have had serious radiation leaks:

  • The Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant (PGDP) site in Kentucky listed as a Superfund site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1994.[i]
  • The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State is today America’s most contaminated nuclear site.[ii]
  • The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) had a leak after 15 years of operation that took 3 years and $500 million to clean up.[iii]
  • The Pantex Plant is the primary United States nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility.  Since 2000, $171 million in compensation and medical bills has been disbursed to more than 1,300 workers and families since the energy employees’ compensation program began.[iv]
  • Fernald uranium production facility is the site of one of the largest environmental cleanup operations undertaken in U.S. history.  It was added to the U.S. EPA’s National Priorities List of Superfund Sites most in need of cleanup in 1989.  The cleanup was completed after 28 years and cost $4.4 billion.[v]
  • Savannah River Site (SRS) produced tritium, plutonium and other special nuclear materials for national defense and the space program. Past disposal practices caused site contamination. Cleanup efforts have been underway since the 1980s.  Site cleanup completion is currently scheduled for 2065.[vi]
  • Beatty was the nation’s first federally licensed low-level radioactive waste dump. It opened in 1962 and closed in 1992.  In October of 2015, that site caught fire.  The commercial operator of the closed radioactive waste dump was troubled over the years by leaky shipments and oversight so lax that employees took contaminated tools and building materials home, according to state and federal records. [vii]
  • West Valley Demonstration Project is a nuclear waste remediation project focusing on the cleanup and containment of radioactive waste left behind after the abandonment of a commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in 1980.  Despite over 30 years of cleanup efforts and billions of dollars having been spent at the site, the property has been described as New York’s most toxic location in 2013.[viii]

 

 

Radioactive exposure can lead to birth defects, cancers or deaths.

Radioactive accidents or leaks can lead to water contamination and billions of taxpayer dollars for never-ending cleanup.

 

 

 

Dangerous radioactive waste could be coming to your community soon.  For the health and safety of your children and grandchildren, join us…

Learn more at these Town Hall meetings:

  • Wednesday, February 8th, at 7 pm, at the Outlaw Grill, 1007 Main St. Eunice, NM
  • Thursday, February 9th at 5 PM, at Martinez Bakery, 206 E. Florida Ave.. Midland, TX
  • Thursday, February 9th, at 7 pm, at the Midland Democratic Party,601 S. Main, Midland, TX
  • Saturday, February 11th, at 11:30 am at La Hacienda Cafeteria, 421 W. Broadway St., Andrews, TX

Speak out at one or both of the NRC public meetings and request a public hearing:  (Open House will be at 6 pm)

  • 7-10 p.m. MST, Feb. 13, at the Lea County Event Center, 5101 N. Lovington Highway, Hobbs, N.M.
  • 7-10 p.m. CST, Feb. 15, at the James Roberts Center, 855 TX-176, Andrews, Texas.

Find the WCS License Application at www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2016-0231.

For more information go to: www.NoNuclearWasteAqui.org

[i] https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0404794

[ii] http://strangesounds.org/2014/04/what-if-a-quake-strikes-hanford-nuclear-site-is-defenseless-against-earthquakes.html

[iii] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2017/01/10/wipp-nuclear-waste-repository-reopens-for-business/#2e0681234b5c

[iv] http://www.star-telegram.com/news/state/texas/article49500030.html

[v] http://www.fluor.com/projects/fernald-environmental-remediation

[vi] https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0403485

[vii] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/oct/25/radioactive-waste-dump-fire-reveals-nevada-troubled-past

[viii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Valley_Demonstration_Project

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Public Citizen Honors Tom “Smitty” Smith

 

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After more than three decades of extraordinary work running Public Citizen’s Texas office, “Smitty,” formally known as Thomas Smith, is hanging up his spurs. Smitty is a Texas institution and a national treasure, and on February 1st, we celebrated him right.

Over 200 people attended a retirement dinner for Smitty at the Barr Mansion in Austin, TX on Wednesday evening.  Friends and colleagues from around the state who had work with Smitty on issues over his career that included clean energy, ethics reform, pollution mitigation, nuclear waste disposal, etc came to pay homage to a man who had dedicated his life to fighting for a healthier and more equitable world by making government work for the people and by defending democracy from corporate greed.

Mayor Adler and Council members Leslie Pool and Ann Kitchens

Travis County Commissioner Brigid Shea and Smitty

Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Theresa Daniel and Smitty

During the evening, Austin Mayor – Steve Adler, Travis County Commissioner – Brigid Shea, and Dallas County Commissioner – Dr. Theresa Daniel presented Smitty with resolutions passed by the City of Austin, Travis County Commissioners Court and Dallas County Commissioners Court all of which acknowledge Smitty’s contributions to their communities and the state of Texas.

 

 

 

Adrian Shelley (front left) and Rob Weissman (front right) at Tom “Smitty” Smith’s retirement event.

Public Citizen’s President, Robert Weissman, thanked Smitty for his service to Public Citizen for the past 31 years and introduced the new director for the Texas office, Adrian Shelley, the current Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston.

Smitty’ impending departure fromPublic Citizen will leave a big hole in advocacy for progressive issues here in Texas, but both Smitty and Robert Weissman expressed confidence that Adrian would lead the Texas office forward into a new era of progressive advocacy.  Adrian is a native Texan from the City of Houston. He has served as the Executive Director of Air Alliance Houston since 2013. He first worked with Air Alliance Houston as a legal fellow in 2010, then as a Community Outreach Coordinator in 2012. In that time, Public Citizen has worked closely with Air Alliance Houston through the Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC), a coalition of nonprofits and community groups which advocates policies to improve public health and safety while encouraging economic growth.

So be assured that Adrian and the Texas staff of Public Citizen are committed to carrying on the battle for justice, for democracy, for air clean and  energy and for clean politics. We can and will protect our children and the generations to come. For this, we can still use your help.  You can make a tax deductible donation to the Texas office of Public Citizen to help us continue his vital work on climate, transportation, civil justice, consumer protection, ethics, campaign finance reform and more

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Adrian ShelleyAdrian Shelley, who has served as executive director of Air Alliance Houston, has been named the new director of Public Citizen’s Texas office, Public Citizen announced today.

Shelley replaces Tom “Smitty” Smith, who is retiring after 31 years of championing consumer rights and clean energy policies. Smith’s retirement was announced in September. He has remained at the helm while the organization searched for a new director.

Shelley has run Air Alliance Houston (AAH) since April 2013. Under Shelley’s leadership, the organization made significant progress in the fight for clean air and a healthy future in Houston. AAH is a founding member of the Healthy Port Communities Coalition, of which Public Citizen is a member.

“Smitty is a hero of mine, and I am honored to continue his work in Austin,” Shelley said. “As a native Texan, I look forward to advocating on behalf of all Texans.”

Shelley replaces Smith, widely known around the state Capitol as the man in the white hat. Smith’s work has led to reforms that have improved public health and safety, protected consumers’ pocketbooks and helped curb climate change.

“Texas and America are better places thanks to Smitty’s work,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Smitty’s breakthrough advocacy and initiatives in Texas pioneered achievements in clean energy, renewables and consumer protection that have spread across the nation. There’s no replacement for Smitty, but we’ve found a superstar of the next generation in Adrian, and are looking forward to seeing him innovate new pathways to progress.”

Added Smith, “Adrian is a star in the environmental movement. He has proven to be a strong leader who is smart, dedicated and very tactical. He’ll go far. I am very pleased he has been chosen to be my replacement.”

Shelley will remain in Houston with Air Alliance Houston while that organization finds a new executive director.

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The Press Officer will work with the Director and other staff in the Texas office to develop press strategies that will augment our organizing and policy work, will provide rapid response when events warrant it, and will execute day-to-day press strategy utilizing social and traditional media. The primary topics of most media work will pertain to global climate change, air quality, renewable energy, fossil fuels, nuclear waste, and ethics. Some work will be statewide, while other campaigns are focused on specific cities, counties or regions. A substantial focus will be on using traditional and social media to educate residents of the greater Houston area about air pollution and promote opportunities for people to take action in support of clear air solutions.  Promoting our clean energy campaigns will also be a primary focus. This is a one year grant contingent position and will be based in Austin.

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Reprinted from Appliance Standards Awareness Project

This week, the California Energy Commission (CEC) approved first-in-the-nation energy efficiency standards for computers and computer displays, or monitors (CEC factsheet). These new standards, which reflect several years of collaborative work by the computer industry, California investor-owned utilities, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Consumer Federation of America, other consumer organizations, and regional energy efficiency organizations should help save energy worth billions of dollars each year that would otherwise be wasted by the desktops, laptops and other computer equipment that consumers and businesses use every day.

California’s new computer standards are the latest in a long and very successful history of state level actions, dating back to the original refrigerator efficiency standards in the 1970s. California’s standards often become models for other states as well as the nation. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has begun a process of developing national computer efficiency standards, but has not yet published a proposal.

The computer industry has a good record of improving their products’ energy efficiency and participated constructively in the development of the new California standards. The standards will promote further innovation and the widespread adoption of existing energy-saving computer and monitor technologies. Manufacturers have expressed confidence that they will be able to achieve the new energy efficiency requirements, according to the New York Times.

Of course, computer manufacturers serve national and international markets. Rather than offer computers with different efficiency levels in California, manufacturers may upgrade national product lines to meet the California standards, especially if other states decide to follow suit. Based on the CEC’s estimates for California, we extrapolate that if manufacturers sold only compliant computers and monitors nationally, savings would reach up to 20,000 gigawatt hours of electricity annually by 2027, or enough to supply 1.6 million U.S. homes. NRDC further describes the standards and their benefits for California and the nation in their blog post.

The California computer and monitor standards do not cover tablets, game consoles, televisions, larger servers, or computers used to control industrial machines. Different energy efficiency requirements will come into effect for various product types from 2018 to 2021 with a first tier of energy efficiency requirements for the most common computers becoming effective on January 1, 2019. A second, stronger efficiency level for this equipment kicks in on July 1, 2021.

California’s new standards acknowledge the challenge of setting energy efficiency requirements for rapidly evolving technologies like computers and monitors. Since consumer preferences for additional features and computing power may change over time, the California computer standards are designed to be flexible with allowances and exemptions to support innovation. However, these allowances and exemptions could potentially reduce the expected energy savings under some scenarios. To address this possibility the CEC issued an adoption order directing Commission staff to conduct rigorous market monitoring of “specific features and types of computers and monitors” using the state’s appliance efficiency database system. If the market develops in ways that significantly reduce the expected energy savings, CEC can revise the standards in the future.

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You are invited to attend:

The Ninth Annual Austin Green Holiday Party

 austin-green-holiday-sponsors

The Ninth Annual Austin Green Holiday Party

Dinner, drinks, and dessert are included in ticket price. There will be 4 buffet stations and all 4 have vegetarian options. After dinner, you will be able to make s’mores while listening to live music and get your picture taken with friends at the holiday party photo station.

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 6-10pm
Hosted by Barr Mansion
10463 Sprinkle Rd., Austin, TX 78754 (www.barrmansion.com)

Live music by Seu Jacinto
Advance Tickets $25.00, ($30.00 at door)
Co-Hosted by:

Join us for the Austin green mixer of the year, hosted this year by 17 great organizations! For nine years running, area environmentalists have come together to celebrate, scheme and prepare for the new year.
Experience how our hosts Barr Mansion are at the nexus of a merging of the environmental and food movements while enjoying a buffet featuring a variety of their seasonal, all-organic favorites. Check out Barr’s new “solar amphitheater”! We are also sponsored this year by Hops & Grain BrewingAustin East Ciders and Tito’s Handmade Vodka.

Live music by Seu Jacinto, an Austin-based group interested in introducing and developing traditional Northeastern Brazilian culture to Central Texas. The group pays homage to the masters of the Brazilian folk musical traditions of forró, coco, cavalo marinho, and many other Brazilian Northeast rhythms.

We look forward to coming together with everyone  and “regrouping” for the good fight in 2017!  Click here to buy tickets to this event.   Procedes benefit Austin Earthday.

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Waste Control Specialists – what now?

Waste Control Specialists (WCS) which has applied for a license to accept high-level radioactive waste at its Andrews County, Texas site currently has a license to accept low-level radioactive waste.  At the same time, have been negotiating a sale to EnergySolutions potentially initiating anti-trust intervention in the acquisition.

The Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit on Thursday, November 17, 2016, seeking to block EnergySolutions’ proposed $367 million acquisition of Waste Control Specialists – a transaction that would combine the two most significant competitors for the disposal of low level radioactive waste (LLRW) available to commercial customers in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, the transaction would deny commercial generators of LLRW – from universities and hospitals working on life-saving treatments to nuclear facilities producing 20 percent of the electricity in the United States – the benefits of vigorous competition that has led to significantly lower prices, better service and innovation in recent years.

“Since opening its LLRW disposal facility in 2012, Waste Control Specialists has provided EnergySolutions the only real competition it has ever faced,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Renata Hesse of the department’s Antitrust Division.  “This competition has allowed customers to extract better prices and to receive better and more innovative service in the LLRW disposal industry.  If consummated, EnergySolutions’ proposed acquisition of Waste Control Specialists would make EnergySolutions the only option for customers in nearly 40 states.  And this at a time when projects worth billions of dollars are set to be awarded in the coming years.”

LLRW is the radioactive byproduct of nuclear power generation, scientific research and certain medical treatments.  LLRW includes such items as personal protective clothing, tools, water purification filters and resins, hardware from nuclear power plants, and equipment from medical and research institutions.  LLRW may only be disposed of in a facility licensed by, or pursuant to an exemption provided by, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) or a state acting under an agreement with the NRC.  LLRW disposal is an essential service for operating nuclear reactors, research laboratories and medical facilities.  Additionally, LLRW disposal is a requirement for the safe decommissioning of such facilities when they reach the end of their useful lives.

According to the department’s complaint, EnergySolutions and Waste Control Specialists are the only two significant competitors providing LLRW disposal services to commercial customers in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  After nearly two decades of development, Waste Control Specialists became the only new licensed commercial LLRW disposal facility to open since EnergySolutions, and provided EnergySolutions’ only true competition.  That competition has led to increased innovation and lower prices for customers.  EnergySolutions’ acquisition of Waste Control Specialists would eliminate that competition, with no likelihood of new entry to fill the void.

EnergySolutions Inc. is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rockwell Holdco Inc., also a Delaware corporation.  EnergySolutions is the leading company providing a full range of services related to the disposal of LLRW and the decommissioning of nuclear reactors.  In 2015, EnergySolutions’ U.S. revenues from LLRW disposal were approximately $112 million.

Waste Control Specialists LLC is a Delaware limited liability company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Andrews County Holdings Inc., a Delaware corporation.  It operates the only LLRW disposal facility that is licensed to accept all types of LLRW from 36 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.  In 2015, Waste Control Specialists’ revenues were approximately $45 million.

EnergySolutions Complaint

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The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is seeking comments from the public on the issues to be covered in the environmental review of an application from Waste Control Specialists to construct and operate a facility to store spent nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas. The NRC will prepare an environmental impact statement to document its evaluation of those impacts and is now taking public comments on the scope.

WCS filed its application in April seeking a 40-year license for a facility that would receive spent fuel from nuclear reactors for storage, pending final disposal. The NRC will be conducting two separate reviews – an environmental review to identify potential impacts, and a safety review to determine whether the WCS application meets the NRC’s regulatory requirements. The environmental review will fulfill the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement to do an analysis of environmental impacts for major federal actions.

The agency has not yet accepted and docketed the WCS application. WCS has been providing supplemental information in phases in response to a June 22 NRC request. The NRC will evaluate the supplemental responses before deciding whether to docket the application and proceed with the safety review. If the NRC dockets the application, it will announce in the Federal Register an opportunity to ask for a public hearing and an end date for comments on the scope of the environmental review.

WCS had asked for the environmental review to begin as soon as possible. The NRC has agreed because doing so will allow the agency to engage interested members of the public early in the process. It will also provide additional time to consult with federal, tribal, state and local government agencies, facilitating compliance with the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

“We cannot proceed with the technical safety review until WCS adequately addresses our request for supplemental information, but we do have the information we need to begin the environmental scoping process now,” said NRC’s Mark Lombard, director of the division of spent fuel management. “WCS will bear the cost of staff time devoted to the environmental review, even if we are unable to docket the application in its current form.”

We encourage you to read our earlier post and submit comments.  The comment period opened today (go to – https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=NRC_FRDOC_0001-6227 –  for more information) and, if the application is docketed, will end 45 days after publication of a notice of docketing the WCS application.

Written comments on the scope may be submitted over the federal government’s rulemaking website, www.regulations.gov, using Docket ID NRC-2016-0231; by email to [email protected]; or by mail to Cindy Bladey, Office of Administration, Mail Stop: OWFN- 12 H08, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001. More information can be found in today’s Federal Register notice.

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rrc-who-are-we

UPDATE: By 10 am this morning, the Sunset Commission had already voted on the recommendations they were going to adopt for the report to the legislature. 

All the STAFF good enforcement recommendations were adopted, and the recommendation (proposed by the Public Member on the Commisson, Allen West) on induced seismicity was adopted.

The name change recommendation was dropped as we heard it would be, as were the transfer of contested cases to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).  The new issue proposed by Rep. Raymond, calling for bonding for cleaning up abandoned wells at the last hearing fell by the wayside. Raymond did not even bring up his proposals.

The things we do support on enforcement will be in the bill when it’s introduced during the 85th Legislative session, but we expect that it may be a fight to keep them in.

Thursday, November 10th, the Texas Sunset Commission will meet to vote on recommendations to the 85th Legislature regarding the future of the Texas Railroad Commission.  Three times the Legislature has failed to pass a bill reauthorizing and making changes to this agency. 

We are asking that you contact the Sunset Commissioners and tell them to support staff recommendations plus Raymond and West’s new issues as outlined below.  For Sunset Commissioners’ contact information, click here. or contact your state rep and state senator to urge the Sunset Commission to support these recommendations. Find out who represents you here.

A coalition of environmental groups, including Public Citizen, have been following the Sunset review of the Railroad Commission and they are in agreement about supporting staff recommendations and new issues raised by Texas Sunset Commission Members – Representatives Dan Flynn,  Richard Peña Raymond, and public member LTC (Ret.) Allen B. West – to increase transparency, improve safeguards and protect the public.  It is time for more than a name change on failed agency! 

For a full version of the recommendations click here.

Issue 1 – Continue the Railroad Commission of Texas for 12 Years with a Name That Reflects the Agency’s Important Functions. (Page 11)

Change in Statute

Rec. 1.1 (Page 17) Change the name of the Railroad Commission of Texas to the Texas Energy Resources Commission and continue the agency for 12 years.

We support this change. On the eve of another election where most voters had no idea what the Railroad Commission does, and where industry supplied some 70 percent of the funding to those running, changing the name is a needed first step. We also believe that the Commission should only be continued for 6 years.

Issue 2 – Contested Hearings and Gas Utility Oversight Are Not Core Commission Functions and Should Be Transferred to Other Agencies to Promote Efficiency, Effectiveness, Transparency, and Fairness. (Page 19)

Representative Raymond Proposed Modification

Under this modification to Recommendations 2.1, 2.2, and 2.3, the Commission would contract with the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) to conduct the Commission’s hearings for contested permit and enforcement cases and Gas Utility Oversight would be transferred to the Public Utility Commission (PUC), with potential to contest the rates at SOAH. In conducting hearings, the PUC and SOAH would consider the Commission’s applicable substantive rules and policies.

We are in full support of Issue 2 and the transfer of these functions from RRC to SOAH and PUC, but do agree that the applicable rules and policies related to these issues should be considered in that transfer, as recommended by Representative Raymond.

Issue 3 – Oil and Gas Monitoring and Enforcement Need Improvements to Effectively Ensure Public Safety and Environmental Protection.

Rep. Flynn Modification: Also direct the agency to provide oil and gas production information on its website in a format that is easier for royalty owners to use and understand.

We Support these Sunset Staff recommendations on Enforcement, as well as Rep. Flynn’s proposed modification.

Issue 4 – Insufficient and Inequitable Statutory Bonding Requirements Contribute to the Large Backlog of Abandoned Wells. (Page 43)

We support this change to assure that oil and gas wells pay their fair share in upfront bonding costs.

Issue 5 – Improved Oversight of Texas’ Pipeline Infrastructure Would Help Further Ensure Public Safety. (Page 51)

We support these proposed statutory and appropriations modifications.

Issue 6 – The Railroad Commission’s Contracting Procedures Are Improving, but Continued Attention Is Needed. (Page 55)

We support these proposed management actions.

Issue 7 – The Railroad Commission’s Statute Does Not Reflect Standard Elements of Sunset Reviews. (Page 59)

We support these proposed changes.

Proposed New Issues

Vice Chair Taylor Proposed New Issue 1

Direct the Railroad Commission to study, develop, and implement ways to clean up and revive old oil fields for secondary and tertiary recovery using either the unitization method or other legal means which the Commission may develop or recommend. As part of this recommendation, the Railroad Commission shall consult with the Bureau of Economic Geology. (Management action — nonstatutory)

We have not taken a position on this recommendation.

Colonel West Proposed New Issue 2

Direct the Railroad Commission to incorporate findings from the TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology as they become available into its oil and gas disposal well rules or guidance, as applicable. The rules should seek to prevent any induced seismicity caused by disposal wells. (Management action — nonstatutory)

We are in full support. Utilizing the information that is being collected to develop more protective rules and procedures makes sense.

Representative Raymond Proposed New Issue 3

Amend RRC’s statute to require the agency to publish comprehensive oil and gas enforcement data (complaints, inspections, violations, enforcement actions taken, and penalties levied/collected) online, in a publicly accessible, searchable, trackable format. Make data available by operator and on a well-by-well basis and by bulk download.

We are in full support of this recommendation. We would note this could also be accomplished as a management action by direction of the Director to publish this information on-line.

Representative Raymond Proposed New Issue 4

Management recommendation to direct RRC to: review all relevant rules on spill reporting and response, and make changes to increase environmental protection and cleanup during flooding, such as specifying time frames for responding to spills; clarify its rules, so that both oil and gas spills and other spills like brine, produced water, or fracking fluid are also reported, tracked, and cleaned up; and report these spills and the results of any cleanup effort in an accessible way, either directly on its website or by sharing the information with TCEQ as part of its joint work on spills. (Management action — nonstatutory)

We are in full support. This is considerable confusion about reporting and clean-up requirements, particularly in the event of floods.

Representative Raymond Proposed New Issue 5

Amend Chapter 26 of the Texas Water Code to require operators that treat “domestic wastewater” or “mobile drinking water treatment system wastewater” at oil and gas well drill sites to obtain a permit from TCEQ instead of RRC.

We are in support. TCEQ is the appropriate agency to assure water is cleaned up to the appropriate level.

Representative Raymond Proposed New Issue 6

Improve inspection, regulation, and reporting of injection wells by: either removing the specific permit fee amount in Chapter 27, allowing the Commission to set a more reasonable amount, or raising it to $1,000 (Change in statute); requiring RRC to require monthly reporting of liquid injection in all disposal wells and make the information publicly accessible (Change in statute); and directing RRC to conduct a comprehensive review of its rules and programs regarding oil and gas disposal wells, and consider changes related to casing and cementing, aquifer exemptions, notice and public participation, seismic activity, and wastewater reporting and tracking. (Management action — nonstatutory)

We are in support of both the management and statutory changes. Permit fees for disposal wells are too low and the rules should be reexamined to assure proper notice, and proper safeguards.

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Public Citizen Texas and Common Ground for Texans  are hosting a Railroad Commission Candidate Forum.

Do you know what the Texas Railroad Commission regulates? (And no it is not railways as the name might imply) If not, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to learn about it, and three of the candidates running for Railroad Commissioner, next weekend at a candidate forum with:

  • Grady Yarbrough (Democratic Party)
  • Wayne Christian (Republican Party) – had originally accepted, but had to cancel due to family obligations
  • Mark Miller (Libertarian Party)
  • Martina Salinas (Green Party)

The Railroad Commission is the regulator of oil and gas in Texas which make it a very important office. This forum should be a great chance to get acquainted with these candidates!  This is your opportunity to become a well-informed voter and learn about:

  • the roles and responsibilities of the Railroad Commission and its commissioners.
  • the differences between the candidates running for this important position.

The forum is Saturday, Sept. 10 Hope you can make it!

What: Texas Railroad Commissioner candidate forum
When: Saturday, Sept. 10th from 2 to 4 pm
Where: Yarborough Library, 2200 Hancock Drive, Austin, TX 78756 (see map)

  • You can also join from your computer, tablet or smartphone.

https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/520109357

  • Or you can dial in using your phone.

United States +1 (872) 240-3212

Access Code: 520-109-357

 

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I’m a Texas Voter! ID? No Problem!

Texas legislation and subsequent court rulings have made it difficult to know what you need to vote.  The League of Women Voters has put together this quick video and we have also included additional information about what you need and what constitutes voter harassment around the voter id issue.  So check out the post below and vote in local, state and federal elections.  It’s your right!

Great news for Texas Voters!

New Procedures for Voting in Person All citizens wishing to vote must still be on the official list of registered voters. For the November 8th election, the deadline to register is October 11th.

Voters may still use one of seven (7) forms of photo ID, listed below. IDs may be expired up to four years. (Previously IDs could be expired no more than 60 days.)

  • Driver license
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate (EIC)
  • Texas Personal Identification Card issued by DPS
  • Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
  • US military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • US citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • US passport

ADDITIONALLY, new procedures allow registered voters without photo ID to sign a simple form* and present one of the following documents to vote a regular ballot:

  • Valid voter registration certificate (card)
  • Certified birth certificate
  • Current utility bill
  • Bank statement
  • Government check
  • Paycheck
  • Any other government document with the individual’s name and address
  • *The one-page form is called the “Voter’s Declaration of Reasonable Impediment or Difficulty”

Prohibition of Voter Harassment

  • Election officials cannot question a voter about the use of an ID type
  • Poll watchers may never question a voter about Voter ID issues

  • It was also made clear that the ID address does not have to match the voter registration address.

No Provisional Ballots

Voters who present one of the alternate documents and sign the declaration form “shall be permitted to vote a regular ballot.”

Other Provisions

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