As the start of the 84th Texas Legislative Session approaches, we’re looking to add a couple more passionate advocates to our team. As usual, we’ll be working primarily on energy, environmental and ethics issues. If you want a good learning experience with an opportunity to make a difference, read on.
Public Citizen’s Texas office seeks an organized and motivated person to provide research, social media and light administrative assistance to a former Texas State Representative that will be volunteering with us for the Legislative session.
Duties will include assisting a former state representative with social media (Facebook and Twitter), Capitol office visits, research, and some light administrative work – mostly helping to keep things organized. This will include research on radioactive waste and fracking, but could include other topics as well. The assistant will help develop factsheets and blog posts based on this research. The assistant will be asked to track bills as they are filed and move through the legislative process and to help distribute materials to state legislative offices.
Qualifications: Ability to commit to 25+ hr/week through June 1; Professional business attire required most days; Desire to make a difference; Great writing and communication skills; Ability to use computer programs, such as Word, Excel, and Power Point; Ability to stay organized; Ability to work with a team; Self-motivation; Desire to learn is a must; Background in energy, environmental issues, politics, economics, or public policy is helpful, but not required
To Apply: Send a cover letter detailing why you want to work with Public Citizen, your resume, and a writing sample to Kaiba White at [email protected]
Environmental/Energy Policy and Advocacy Internship
Interns work with the Texas Legislature, the media, and other public interest groups to change laws and educate the public on environmental issues, especially those relating to energy use. (more…)
A study by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication on the public perceptions of climate change indicates that the majority of citizens grossly misunderstand the repercussions of climate change and its effects on health. The report shows analysis of results from a national survey conducted in October of 2014 and indicates that most US citizens have given little or no thought to the potential health effects of climate change.
Few Americans are aware of any current health consequences of global warming. When asked ‘In your view, what health problems related to global warming are Americans experiencing, if any?’ a majority either didn’t answer the question (43%) – which likely indicates they didn’t have an answer – or answered that they ‘don’t know’ (14%). Only one in four (27%) named at least one health problem related to global warming, and 10% answered, incorrectly, that there are no health problems associated with global warming.
The health effects of climate change are very prevalent and encompass a wide range of issues. According to the World Health Organization climate change affects both social and environmental determinants of health, including clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter. The WHO predicts that:
Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency also states that weather and climate change play a significant role in people’s health. Warmer temperatures lead to heat waves which lead to most heat-related deaths and play a part in spreading diseases and increasing water and air pollutants. Increased frequency in extreme weather poses immediate and severe threats to people in dangerous areas. The consequences can be life-changing and efforts towards solving the issue are dependent on various factors.
The impacts of climate change on health will depend on many factors. These factors include the effectiveness of a community’s public health and safety systems to address or prepare for the risk and the behavior, age, gender, and economic status of individuals affected. Impacts will likely vary by region, the sensitivity of populations, the extent and length of exposure to climate change impacts, and society’s ability to adapt to change.
A variety of factors can increase the vulnerability of a specific demographic group to health effects due to climate change. Graphic from from US National Climate Assessment
(Reuters) – Children whose mothers were exposed to high levels of fine particulate pollution in late pregnancy have up to twice the risk of developing autism as children of mothers breathing cleaner air, scientists at Harvard School of Public Health reported on Thursday.
The greater the exposure to fine particulates emitted by fires, vehicles, and industrial smokestacks the greater the risk, found the study, published online in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Earlier research also found an autism-pollution connection, including a 2010 study that found the risk of autism doubled if a mother, during her third trimester, lived near a freeway, a proxy for exposure to particulates. But this is the first to examine the link across the United States, and “provides additional support” to a possible link, said Heather Volk of the University of Southern California Children’s Hospital, who led earlier studies.
U.S. diagnoses of autism soared to one in 68 children in 2010 (the most recent data) from one in 150 in 2000, government scientists reported in March. Experts are divided on how much of the increase reflects greater awareness and how much truly greater incidence.
Although the disorder has a strong genetic basis, the increasing incidence has spurred scientists to investigate environmental causes, too, since genes do not change quickly enough to explain the rise.
The Harvard study included children of the 116,430 women in the Nurses’ Health Study II, which began in 1989. The researchers collected data on where the women lived while pregnant and levels of particulate pollution. They then compared the prenatal histories of 245 children with autism spectrum disorder to 1,522 normally-developing children, all born from 1990 to 2002.
There was no association between autism and fine particulate pollution before or early in pregnancy, or after the child was born. But high levels of exposure during the third trimester doubled the risk of autism.
Evidence that a mother-to-be’s exposure to air pollution affects her child’s risk of autism “is becoming quite strong,” said Harvard epidemiologist Marc Weisskopf, who led the study, suggesting a way to reduce the risk.
It is not clear how tiny particles might cause autism, but they are covered with myriad contaminants and penetrate cells, which can disrupt brain development.
Last year the Environmental Protection Agency, citing the link to asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular disease, tightened air quality standards for fine particulate pollution. States have until 2020 to meet the new standards.
(Reporting by Sharon Begley; editing by Andrew Hay)
As climate talks in Lima enters its final day there are still long-running issues dividing the parties. Earlier in the week it seemed that the diplomats from 196 countries were closing in on the framework of a potentially historic deal that would for the first time commit every nation in the world to cutting its planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, albeit – still not be enough to stop the early impacts of global warming.
The draft that was circulating among negotiators on Tuesday represented a fundamental breakthrough in the impasse that has plagued the United Nations for two decades as it has tried to forge a new treaty to counter global warming. The key to breaking through the impasse was that the draft did not bind nations to a single, global benchmark for emissions reductions.
Under the terms of the draft, every country would publicly commit to enacting its own plans to reduce emissions — with governments choosing their own targets, guided by their domestic politics, rather than by the amounts that scientists say are necessary.
The plan is to reach a global deal to be signed by world leaders in Paris next year, incorporating 196 separate emissions pledges.
Until recently, the United States and China, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas polluters, have been at the center of the impasse over a climate deal.
Beverages generously provided by Blackstar Coop and Maine Root Sodas.
$30 Advance Tickets – Online Registration HERE
(Tickets include live music, all food and beverages. We will email you for your names and meal choices along with your registration confirmation.)
Join us for the Austin green mixer of the year, co-hosted by 11 area organizations, the Barr Mansion and Shades of Green, Austin’s live green talk radio show. For seven years running, Austin environmentalists have come together for holiday cheer at our Austin Green Holiday Party, a great annual opportunity for “cross-pollination” in the eco-community.
Enjoy a sit-down, family style, “Farm to Plate” dinner at the beautiful Barr Mansion, the nation’s first organic certified events facility, for an evening of great music, food, drink and mingling with leadership, members and friends of a wide variety of environmental and green building focused organizations.
The Menu- Choose from 2 meal options (we will email you for your names and meal choices along with your registration confirmation):
Entree Option #1 (Vegetarian)
Vegan Vegetable Stacks with Cashew Hummus
Entree Option #2
Wine Braised Chicken with Olives, Apricots and Almonds-with-
Milk Punch Cocktails, Beer & Wine
Mt. Tam Triple-Cream and Spicy Pickled Veggie Sourdough Crostini
Artisan Wood-Fired Oven Breads
Black-eyed Peas, Mushrooms and Arugula with Honey Pistachio Vinaigrette
Braised Winter Greens topped with Egg
Smashed Sweet Potato Crowns
House-Made Christmas Candy
After dinner, enjoy music by Don Chani, whose music stays true to the bass-heavy, harmony laden roots reggae sound, while also incorporating rocksteady, ska, cumbia and dancehall.
We look forward to seeing you for a great evening of dancing, food, drink and socializing to kick off everyone’s 2014 holidays!
Earlier today Senators supporting the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday came up one vote short of securing approval for the controversial project.
Fourteen Democrats joined all 45 Republican senators in voting for the pipeline, which needed 60 votes to pass. The finally tally was 59-41.
The House passed their version of the bill on Friday, 252-161-1, with 31 Democrats joining Republicans to pass it.
The Obama administration has said that it wants to wait for a full State Department review of the project’s effects – and it has been skeptical that the project would create the long-term job gains touted by the pipeline’s backers. in fact, during an interview November 16, 2014 on ABC’s “ThisWeek”, Russ Girling, current CEO of TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL Pipeline, conceded a claim by Reuters last year that, once constructed, the Keystone XL would produce as few as “FIFTY permanent jobs” which seems to have played out in the construction of the Southern leg of the pipeline from Cushing, OK to the the Texas Gulf Coast.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released a report yesterday titled “ERCOT Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan” regarding the costs, benefits, and concerns of Texas’ compliance with Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan, put forth by the EPA on June 2, 2014, would set new national carbon pollution standards, in an effort to combat the effects of climate change and air pollution. ERCOT, which operates the electric grid of Texas and manages the deregulated market for 75 percent of the state, concluded that there are reliability concerns and high costs associated with the changes necessary for the electric grid infrastructure and the shift to alternative low-carbon energy sources.
Environmental advocacy organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, and Public Citizen have begun commenting on this report, which they claim overstates the costs of compliance while understating the benefits of solar and energy efficiency. Not only does ERCOT’s report fail to take into account the affordability of solar energy and energy efficiency, it also neglects the steps that electric utility companies have already taken towards clean energy. Various electric utilities in Texas have been retiring inefficient coal plants and gas units in favor of adopting solar and wind energy projects. ERCOT’s own monthly interconnection report shows that more than 30,000 MW of solar and wind projects are in development stages. Texas’ energy storage and demand response capacities are also missing in the report. These two resources provide real-time reactive power when there is turbulence in wind and solar inputs, which would maintain a reliable power grid as Texas transitions to renewable energies.
The Clean Power Plan is a crucial step in reducing climate pollution and our dependency on dirty coal and other fossil fuels. The benefits of clean and affordable energy in Texas cannot be overstated. ERCOT should take the time to reevaluate the role of renewable energies in Texas’ future.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) says that wind-powered generation recently set another record – albeit by 5 MW at 10:39 a.m. on Nov. 2, when instantaneous output reached 10,301 MW, providing 33.4% of the power within ERCOT. The old record, set on March 26, totaled 10,296 MW.
Of the total generation at the time, 975 MW came from wind generators on the Gulf Coast, while 9,326 MW came from other regions. Most came from West Texas, where transmission projects in the Competitive Renewable Energy Zones were recently completed to transport more power from that region to more populated areas of the state.
The United States and China are the two countries with the highest carbon emissions.
This is the first time China has ever committed to reducing emissions. People worldwide are watching to see what the U.S. and China will do to back up this announcement and aggressively reduce emissions from power plants — the largest source of the carbon pollution that could doom our planet.
Here at home, the EPA’s proposed rule on carbon emissions is not strong enough, but the agency is giving everyday Americans a chance to weigh in before it finalizes the rules.
All eyes are on us. This announcement must be the catalyst for immediate, achievable action to prevent climate catastrophe.
graduate from Texas State University, Max has focused his love of film and environmental advocacy on his home state and is currently editing his first documentary film about grassroots resistance in Texas against the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline (Gulf Coast Project).
Last month a major pipeline oil spill near Mooringsport, Louisiana sent oil into a tributary of Caddo Lake, which straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana. Despite assurances from officials that oil has not reached Caddo Lake, the findings from an investigation by a community organization contradicts officials’ statements.
Sunoco Logistics Partners’ Mid-Valley Pipeline ruptured on October 13th and sent thousands of barrels of crude oil onto acres of private property and into Tete Bayou, a waterway that feeds into Caddo Lake. The oil spill prompted the evacuation of three households. Officials say the oil sheen stretches 4.2 miles and stops less than a mile away from the mouth of Caddo Lake, which is the largest natural lake in Texas and a major source of drinking water for thousands that live in the surrounding area.
Sunoco Logistics initially estimated that about 4,000 barrels, or 168,000 gallons, of oil leaked from the 20-inch pipeline, but earlier this week Sunoco revised the amount of oil spilled to 4,500 barrels, or 189,000 gallons. The Mid-Valley Pipeline is 65-years-old and stretches 1,000 miles from Longview, TX to refiners in Ohio and Michigan.
On Monday evening , Sunoco’s spokesperson Jeff Shields put out a statement that doubled-down on the companies position that oil had not reached the lake.
“The US Environmental Protection Agency and Sunoco Logistics today inspected absorbent booms that were placed in Caddo Lake as a protective measure against the spread of oil into the lake. Inspection of the booms by the EPA has found that the absorbent material was stained naturally from lake water but there was no oil in, on or around the booms.”
This statement was a response to allegations by Tar Sands Blockade, an anti-Keystone XL community organization, who visited the area last week and posted photos and video on there website of what appears to be oil stained boom where Tete Bayou feeds into Caddo Lake.
Kathy DaSilva, a member of Tar Sands Blockade, and a colleague canoed to the site last Wednesday to see if Sunoco’s claims about oil not reaching the lake were true, and they were surprised by what they found.
“We paddled in a canoe for 30 minutes to the mouth of Tete Bayou,” said DaSilva. “When we were crossing the lake we didn’t smell oil, but when we got out to cross some boom and walked around in the muck we started smelling it really bad. It was burning our nostrils.”
At the entrance of Caddo Lake, along the tree line, DaSilva documented absorbent booms tied to trees, but she says water was still able to go underneath some of the booms.
“Whether oil is at the top or the bottom, it’s in the lake,” said DaSilva. “The area we were in there were no water bugs, turtles, frogs, nothing. For four hours.”
Sunoco reports that nearly 500 dead animals have been collected. Most of which are fish, reptiles and crawfish. At least 41 animals have been cleaned and released.
“For them to say 500 dead animals, that’s only the one’s they’ve found,” said DaSilva. “The numbers are wildly inaccurate. The animals are not just dying in front of workers.”
One of the main concerns for DaSilva are catfish, because they are bottom feeders and a popular fish among anglers. If oil gets submerged and stuck on the bottom of the lake it could prove deadly for a variety of wildlife. So far, Sunoco has recovered about 3,500 barrels of oil from the bayou, but that number fluctuates because the oil is mixed with water.
The pair also brought a UV light with them that can detect hydrocarbons, DaSilva said, “and we saw bright purplish, blue dots that look like the oil has been broken up. Everything we are seeing is consistent with the use of dispersants.”
I emailed Sunoco’s spokesperson Jeff Shields about whether or not chemical dispersants were used in the clean up process, but he still has yet to reply.
Remediation and restoration of the spill is expected to take months, if not years. Although the majority of the oil has been collected, there’s no doubt that some of the oil has sunk into the mud and crawfish holes, making it extremely difficult to clean.
This is the second major oil spill from the Mid-Valley Pipeline this year alone. A 20,000 gallon oil spill happened near Cincinnati, Ohio earlier this March in a nature preserve. Sunoco is still in the process of remediation for that spill.
Despite the fact that the cause of the spill remains unknown, the Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration, PHMSA, the federal agency that regulates pipelines, allowed Sunoco to restart the pipeline and resume operation at 80 percent of maximum operating pressure.
For DaSilva, Caddo Lake is special. She has been going there since the 1970’s when she was attending college at Stephen F. Austin University, and she says it is her favorite place to canoe.
“They’ve already restarted the pipeline although they don’t know how it leaked,” said DaSilva. “It’s frustrating because regular people like us shouldn’t have to be doing this. We don’t have an agenda other than not seeing a place we love destroyed.”
Click here to see some of the footage Max shot of the spill.
The Texas Board of Education is scheduled to meet from November 18-21, 2014 to vote on the approval of the textbooks proposed by publishers for Texas schools. These Texas textbooks have drawn national criticism for providing blatantly incorrect information about climate change and environmental issues. This isn’t a first for the Texas Board of Education, which has come into the national spotlight multiple times in the past due to internal disagreements about creationism and the causes of the civil war, among others.
Several of the textbooks say that “scientists disagree on what is causing climate change”. The NCSE responds that, “Scientists do not disagree about what is causing climate change, the vast majority (97% of climate papers and actively publishing climatologists (again 97%) agree that human activity is responsible.”
In one instance the position of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change is due to human activities is contrasted with the opposing opinion of two employees of The Heartland Institute, neither of whom are scientists, who claim that scientists disagree on the cause. The Heartland Institute is a conservative think tank that denies climate change, is funded in part by the Koch brothers, and is considered a shill for the oil industries.
The IPCC is a highly regarded international science organization that won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”. The IPCC recently released a comprehensive report linking climate change to greenhouse gas emissions, saying that it is “extremely likely” that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and other anthropogenic drivers are the dominant cause of the observed warming.
A spokesperson for the textbook company, McGraw-Hill Publishing, said that they were simply fulfilling the state education requirements. The errors stem from curriculum standards set in 2010, meaning that they’re unlikely to be corrected. But we should expect more from our Board of Education.
Fellow Texans, please contact your respective Board of Education member and ask them not to teach Texas children misinformation on climate change, as well as the many other inaccuracies in other issue areas. To get involved, the Texas Freedom Network has a campaign to reform the State Board of Education.
SHALL AN ORDINANCE BE ENACTED PROHIBITING, WITHIN THE CORPORATE LIMITS OF THE CITY OF DENTON, TEXAS, HYDRAULIC FRACTURING, A WELL STIMULATION PROCESS INVOLVING THE USE OF WATER, SAND AND/OR CHEMICAL ADDITIVES PUMPED UNDER HIGH PRESSURE TO FRACTURE SUBSURFACE NON-POROUS ROCK FORMATIONS SUCH AS SHALE TO IMPROVE THE FLOW OF NATURAL GAS, OIL, OR OTHER HYDROCARBONS INTO THE WELL, WITH SUBSEQUENT HIGH RATE, EXTENDED FLOWBACK TO EXPEL FRACTURE FLUIDS AND SOLIDS?
There will be legal challenges to the Denton fracking ban, and possibly legislative action to try to roll it back. That’s where the rest of us who care about protecting human health and the environment come in. We can’t leave Denton residents to fight alone. This is not a problem that is unique to them, and it’s one that we all contribute to by using natural gas. Our individual and community decisions are impacting real people in serious ways. Natural gas is not a clean or harmless energy choice. Its use should be minimized as much as possible. That includes moving away from natural gas-fired power plants, not building more of them.
Even if Denton’s fracking ban stands up to legal challenges and avoids legislative destruction, many communities in Texas will continue to suffer the impacts of fracking. Denton has the benefit of being an urban area with a significant student population. The Eagle Ford area, on the other hand, is largely rural and less affluent and residents find themselves powerless against the rampant fracking around them. The community advocates who worked to pass the fracking ban in Denton deserve an incredible amount of credit for their work, as do Denton residents for making the smart decision to protect themselves. Now we must not forget about those left on the front lines of fracking who are less able to organize to protect their health, their land, our shared water resources, and the climate. We need a Sharon Wilson for every fracked community.
Around the country, citizens are demanding action on climate change policies. Recently, Florida’s Clean Energy Future — a coalition of clean energy, business, Hispanic, faith, community and academic leaders throughout the Sunshine State –worked across the state to raise awareness about the threat of climate change and to urge elected officials like Governor Rick Scott “to develop a strong plan for Florida to meet the requirements of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.” And, across the state concerned Floridians have responded. On Monday, that response reached a crescendo when they delivered 92,217 petitions to Governor Rick Scott.
The signatures were delivered to the governor’s office by school children pulling little red wagons filled with boxes of signed petitions and college students and parents — about 30 people in all. Holding signs like “Dirty Power Makes Me Sick,” “Protect Kids,” “Our Health is at Risk!” and “Clean Power Plan Saves Money,” the kids, college and adults made their concerns known and their voices heard on climate change.
Jordan Myatt, a young student from Tallahassee, said: “We’re all citizens and we’re all people, and either way, it’s going to be affecting adults and kids, so I think it’s adults’ and kids’ problem. Global warming caused by pollution is something that is a big problem now and needs to be fixed. We’re just going to keep pushing it and pushing it…We need to stop it now. It’s already the glaciers melting and the sea level rising.”
Adi Chauhan, age 9, of Tallahassee, added: “The weather will be affected too. The summers will get warmer and the winters will get colder, so it’s time to fight against [climate change]…Climate change is happening and it’s real — it’s happening right now.”
Daniel Corbett, a 21-year-old senior majoring in environmental sciences at Florida State University said: “Today’s action, delivering these petitions to our state capitol and legislature made clear to our elected leaders that climate change and energy policy is no longer just an issue for tomorrow. It is an issue for today.” Corbett added: “It doesn’t matter whether you identify as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, what faith you follow, where you call home, what language you speak or how much money you make, because climate change, pollution, whether our energy is dirty or clean, that is all of us.”
Susan McLeod, a mother and pharmacist from Tallahassee, said: “We have now over 91,000 signatures from folks all around Florida who also see the effects of climate change in our state. We ask the governor today to jump on board and help Florida to develop a plan to reduce carbon pollution.”
Clearly, the folks, both young and not so young, quoted above “get it” on what the problem is and what needs to be done.
Make your voice heard, tell the EPA that you support a strong Carbon-Cutting Standard – The EPA recently announced the first-ever standard to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Add your voice in support of cutting carbon from our largest source of climate change-causing pollution.
EPA Workshop for Communities with Environmental Justice Concerns on Rule to Reduce Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants
(online participation available)
October 30, 2014
8:30 am – 5:00 pm ET
7:30 am – 4 pm CT
Crystal Gateway Marriott
1700 Jefferson Davis Highwayz
Arlington, VA 22202
On June 2, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) Proposed rule. This rule proposes state-specific goals for reducing carbon dioxide from the power sector; states will then need to make plans to meet the goal. The proposed rule also promotes clean and renewable energy options. This is a federal rule that will have important implications for state air and energy policies. The EPA welcomes stakeholders who have environmental justice concerns to participate and share perspectives about how the rule can be reflective and responsive to the needs of environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities across the country. Most of us cannot travel to Virginia to attend the workshop, but the EPA will make online participation available and registration information is listed below.
If you are interested in learning how you can help your state achieve cleaner air, reduce the impacts of climate change, and promote renewable energy sources, it is important that you understand the Clean Power Plan. You have an opportunity to help shape this rule…come learn how!
We encourage you to take advantage of this 1-day workshop, which will:
Provide an overview of the Clean Power Plan proposed rule.
Prepare participants to engage effectively in the public participation process.
Provide information about the elements of the CPP that are important to communities with environmental justice concerns.
Provide information about how to participate in the public comment process, which is open until December 1, 2014
To register for this event in-person or online via Adobe Connect, click here
Special Notes about Online Participation:
If you plan to participate in this workshop online, you must register in order to receive the information to participate in the workshop
In your registration, you must indicate that you are participating online “via Adobe Connect”
You will receive the information to participate in the workshop by October 29th, 2014
Only a limited number of webinar slots are available (130 slots) if several of you from your community want to participate, we recommend you gather at a single location and register just for your group.