For over six years, the Keystone XL pipeline has been under a long controversial discussion due to its numerous environmental concerns, including jeopardizing clean water along the pipeline all the way from Canada to Texas. Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency has raised even further environmental concerns due to the possible increase of greenhouse gas emissions if the pipeline is built. Plunging oil prices make the alternative of transporting the tar sands oil by rail uneconomical. Building the pipeline would offer a cheaper method of transport and would therefor increase greenhouse gas emissions.
Alberta tar sands operation in 2008. Photo from Wikimedia Commons
EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles’ letter calls for both the Department of State and President Obama’s attention to the EPA’s review of the proposed $7 billion pipeline. Tar sands have significantly greater total greenhouse gas emissions than other crude oils. The emissions equate to 1.3 to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is “equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 5.7 passenger vehicles or 7.8 coal fired power plants,” according to Giles. “Over a 50-year lifetime of the pipeline, this could translate into releasing as much as 1.37 billion more tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”
President Obama has continuously promised citizens that the pipeline’s entire potential climate hazards would be considered during his decision-making for Keystone, further supported in his speech back in 2013 regarding climate change.
Despite Obama’s inferred veto, there is still continued support for the Keystone pipeline. Companies like TransCanada, the energy company trying to build the international pipeline, claims that the drop in global oil prices will soon pass and that there has been a decrease in Canada’s gas emissions, but the company’s other claims, particularly about job creation have proved false.
Despite concerns about the project, the Senate has approved the Keystone Bill to start building the pipeline, further dividing the chamber and highlighting the Senators’ different stances on climate and environmental issues. The Obama administration is currently evaluating the nation’s comments along with the EPA’s review. Because Keystone crosses international borders, President Obama holds the ultimate right to either approve or reject the proposal.
Film screening of Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes.
This documentary follows filmmaker John Ennis’ quest to find a way out from under the Pay 2 Play System, where Politicians reward their donors with even larger sums from the public treasury — through contracts, tax cuts, and deregulation. Along the way, he journeys through high drama on the Ohio campaign trail, uncovers the secret history of the game Monopoly, and explores the underworld of L.A. street art on a humorous odyssey that reveals how much of a difference one person can make. This entertaining film is a layman’s guidebook to taking back our democracy.
Date: Wednesday, January 21
Time: beginning at 6:30 PM
Where: Alamo Drafthouse in the Village Shopping Center at 2700 W. Anderson Lane
Agenda: 6:30-7:00 meet and greet and order dinner
7:00-8:30 show film
8:30-9:30 panel and audience discussion
Panelists Include: Tom “Smitty” Smith, Public Citizen Texas; Craig McDonald, Texans for Public Justice; Sara Smith, TexPIRG; Todd Jagger, Wolf-PAC; and Caroline Homer, Move To Amend
The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards strongly opposes the Regulatory Accountability Act (RAA), which the House passed on Tuesday. They are urging members of Congress to oppose it and The White House has issued a veto threat for the Bill . This innocuous-sounding bill is designed to undermine our nation’s environmental, public health, workplace safety and consumer financial security protections – not improve them.
The RAA would rewrite dozens of laws, including the Clean Air Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act by requiring federal agencies to put corporate profits ahead of the health and safety of American workers and families. Agencies would have to produce highly speculative estimates of all the indirect costs and benefits of proposed rules and do the same for any potential alternatives. What counts and does not count as an indirect cost or a potential alternative? The bill leaves that up to the imagination of industry.
In addition, the RAA would hamstring the work of agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Board, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The bill would subject their work to review by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, which is infamous for delaying, diluting and blocking important new safeguards. Federal agencies already take years to issue health and safety standards. The dozens of cumbersome requirements added by this bill would make that process even longer.
Any high-stakes rule that miraculously made it through these roadblocks would face unprecedented challenges. The RAA would allow industry lobbyists to second-guess the work of respected scientists through legal challenges, sparking a wave of litigation that would add even more costs and delays to the rulemaking process – while putting the lives, health and safety of millions of Americans at risk.
The costs of blocking crucial standards and safeguards are clear: The Wall Street economic collapse, the Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia, the West Fertilizer Company explosion in West, TX, countless food and product safety recalls and massive environmental disasters including the Dan River coal ash spill in North Carolina and the Freedom Industries chemical spill in West Virginia are just some of the most recent examples.
It’s no wonder polling shows that Americans want better enforcement of our nation’s rules and standards. Congress should listen to the public and stop trying to sabotage the safeguards that protect us all.
To learn more about the potential effects of the bill, see the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards’ 2011 report: Impacts of the Regulatory Accountability Act. The latest version of the bill has been partially revised, but the problems at the heart of the bill remain.
According to NOAA and NASA, 2014 was the warmest year on record. A new report names 2014 as the warmest year since records were first kept in 1880.
Across all land and ocean surfaces, the average temperature was up 1.24 degrees Fahrenheit over the 20th century average, according to numbers released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That caused 2014 to pass the previous record-holders: 2005 and 2010. The warmest December since 1880 helped push 2014 into record territory. The same conclusion was reached by NASA, who also called 2014 the warmest year on record in a separate analysis released on Friday.
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.