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Archive for the ‘TCEQ’ Category

Texas always had some natural earthquake activity throughout its history, but that activity seems to be increasing, and despite mounting evidence that oil and gas activity has triggered all of the recent earthquakes in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas regulators have consistently questioned the link.

A study by researchers at the University of Texas and Southern Methodist University argues that humans have been causing earthquakes not just in North Texas but throughout the state for nearly 100 years.  The paper, concludes that activities associated with petroleum production “almost certainly” or “probably” set off 59 percent of earthquakes across the state between 1975 and 2015, including the recent earthquakes in Irving and Dallas.

Another 28 percent were “possibly” triggered by oil and gas activities. Scientists deemed only 13 percent of the quakes to be natural.

Between 1980 and about 2010 there were one to two earthquakes per year in the entire state. Between 2010 and 2015 that rate of seismicity changed to up to 15 small earthquakes per year.  The number of earthquakes continues to rise, with 28 earthquakes recorded in Texas in 2016.

Almost a decade ago, the ground around the densely populated Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex started shaking. As the frequency and intensity of earthquakes increased in a region poorly prepared for the seismic activity, the risk became a priority for the state.

In the 84th and 85th Legislative Sessions, the Texas Legislature tasked the Bureau of Economic Geology in the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin with helping to locate and determine the origins of earthquakes in our State, and, where they may have been caused by human activity, help to prevent them from occurring in the future.  And in June 2015, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and the 84th Legislature authorized $4.47 million for TexNet.

Since then, the Bureau’s TexNet research team has developed the TexNet Earthquake Catalog, a dynamic mapping web page, which provides information on the location of monitoring stations, and recorded earthquakes across the state.  Check it out – http://www.beg.utexas.edu/texnet

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The state of Texas allows industrial facilities to repeatedly spew unauthorized air pollution — with few consequences

For more than two decades, Dennis Gallagher was a proud Shell employee.

During his 22 years working at the energy juggernaut’s sprawling, 80-year-old complex in this Refinery Row suburb of Houston, he learned to oversee different parts of the massive chemical plant and refinery. The facilities manufacture not only oil but a variety of hazardous chemicals that — if mishandled — could easily explode and level the 2,300-acre compound, located less than a mile from residential neighborhoods.

Until two years ago, the Michigan native’s only truly bad day at work was in 1997, when a gas compressor exploded and he was “picked up like a leaf” and blown back 25 feet. Then came what should have been a quiet Sunday in August 2015, when everything went wrong.

A critical pump failed. A small tank overfilled. Then more than 300,000 pounds of 1,3-butadiene — a highly explosive chemical and known human carcinogen used to manufacture rubber — escaped into the atmosphere.

It was the largest malfunction-related air pollution event in the Houston area that year — in less than an hour, the plant spewed 258 times more butadiene into the atmosphere than allowed by state law — and air pollution watchdogs say it was one of the most dangerous they’ve seen.

An internal investigation later noted that the amount of hydrocarbons released that day was more than eight times higher than the amount released during the 2005 fire and explosion at BP’s Texas City refinery that killed 15 people and injured 180 others.

There was no explosion that day. But Gallagher says the incident cost him his job and maybe his health. He struggled with chest pains and balance issues afterward — the latter is a known side effect of butadiene exposure — and had to take a year off. When he came back, Gallagher said he was put on probation for the incident and, after a minor screw-up during a routine re-training, promptly fired.

And yet it cost Shell Chemical, a subsidiary of the fifth-largest company in the world, next to nothing.

State records show the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state’s environmental regulatory agency, fined the company just $25,000 — the maximum allowed for an air permit violation under state law — and required it to execute a “corrective action plan,” which called for mostly refresher training.

It’s a scenario that plays out again and again in Texas when industrial polluters spew noxious chemicals into the air during malfunctions and other unplanned incidents, exceeding the emission limits of their state-issued air permits.

A Texas Tribune analysis of self-reported industry data shows that thousands of such rogue releases occur at Texas industrial sites each year. They are known generically as “emissions events”— a term that refers to both malfunctions or “upsets” and unplanned “maintenance, start-up or shutdown” activities.

Whether they are truly unavoidable is a point of dispute.

Read the full article by the Tribune here.

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Blog Post PicTwo non-profit and non-partisan investigative journalism organizations, the Center for Public Integrity and InsideClimate News, have concluded through their joint investigation that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Railroad Commission protect the oil and gas industry instead of the public whom they claim to serve.

Fred Wright and Morris Kocurek were two oil and gas regulators working for the Texas Railroad Commission who received praise from their supervisors, promotions, and merit raises throughout their careers. But they may have done their jobs too well. They were fired in 2013 for what they believe to be their insistence in making sure oil and gas operators followed the rules and regulations in place to protect the public and the environment.

Wright was responsible for determining whether oil and gas wells were up to code to prevent groundwater contamination. He was often encouraged or coerced by his superiors to bend the rules, to say that operators had met compliance standards when they had not. In 2013, his superiors told him that complaints had been filed against him by the operators claiming he was “unreasonable to work with” and “does not attempt to offer solutions to bring them in compliance with commission rules”, citing that Fred’s methods for compliance would be “costly”. Wright’s boss at the time, Charlie Teague, insisted that Write approve oil and gas wells despite the fact that they were in violation of statewide rules.

As the enforcer of proper toxic waste disposal in the oil and gas industry, Kocurek faced very similar problems. He said his bosses made it clear that he was supposed to go easy on the industry. The violation notices Kocurek filed were usually processed very slowly and follow-up inspections were assigned to the more lenient inspectors. Eventually, Kocurek realized the influence that the industry had on its supposed regulators and his reports were all ignored. Violations would disappear after the right phone calls were made.

Documents obtained from the Railroad Commission through the open-records corroborate the stories of Mr. Wright and Mr. Kocurek. Wright has filed a civil lawsuit alleging wrongful termination. He has also filed a federal whistleblower complaint. Kocurek, on the other hand, hasn’t taken any legal action and would rather forget the whole thing.

According to InsideClimate News and the Center for Public Integrity, the Railroad Commission is controlled by three elected commissioners who have accepted nearly $3 million combined in campaign contributions from the industry during the 2012 and 2014 election cycles, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics. In the case of the Railroad Commission and the TCEQ, money talks and it’s louder than the voice of Texas citizens.

Read their extensive report here: [http://books.insideclimatenews.org/fired]

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Location of the Waste Control Specialists in Andrews Tx for Radioactive Waste Blog post

At Waste Control Specialists radioactive waste disposal pit in Andrews, Tex., space inside goes for $10,000 a cubic foot in some cases. As aging nuclear reactors retire, their most radioactive steel, concrete and other components must be shipped somewhere for burial. Photo by Michael Stravato, The New York Times

Texas is under radioactive waste assault. There is already an existing “low-level” radioactive waste dump owned by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) in Andrews County. Weapons waste from Fernald, Ohio is already buried in one of the three pits there. The facility is now taking nuclear reactor waste from around the country and is accepting Department of Energy waste, including nuclear weapons waste. And there is an adjacent hazardous waste pit, which can accept some 2000 chemicals, many of the toxic or corrosive. WCS expects to make some $15 billion off the site, although Texans bear the risks of contamination and financial liability.

All of this is at a site for which Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) staff originally recommended denial of the license due to concerns about water contamination. There are 2 water bodies are present at the site, the the most significant of which is the southern tip of the massive Ogallala Aquifer.  Although some maps have been drawn to show that the aquifer doesn’t extend as far as the WCS disposal site, water has been present in up to 40% of the monitoring wells on the site, indicating that a hydrological connection could exists.  The site is supposed to be dry for safety reasons, but that hasn’t stopped the TCEQ from granting permits or WCS from burying radioactive waste there.

Now two new threats have emerged, including storage of very hot transuranic waste – which includes plutonium, neptunium, and americium from the failed national repository known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site.

Carlsbad Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Carlsbad, NM Nuclear Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Texas is getting the transuranic waste unexpectedly. The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) site in Carlsbad, New Mexico, is a disposal site for transuranic waste that is buried half a mile underground. The site had a fire on February 5th and a major radiation leak 9 days later. At least 21 workers were exposed to radiation. The New Mexico facility has been closed since the accident and the WCS radioactive waste dump in Andrews County, Texas is now taking this same highly radioactive waste and storing it above ground in steel sided buildings, raising concerns about what would happen if there were tornadoes, floods or wildfires.

In addition, now Governor Perry is actively campaigning to bring spent nuclear fuel to Texas for storage. This the hottest, most dangerous of radioactive waste, the kind that was to be sent to the failed Yucca Mountain site in Nevada.

It is so dangerous that  shielding is required to protect humans from a lethal dose as a result of exposure to spent nuclear fuel. Even 10 years after this waste is removed from a spent fuel pool, the radiation field at one meter away is 20,000 rem/hour. It only takes a quarter of that amount to incapacitate a person immediately and cause the person’s death within one week.

The spent fuel is currently cooled and then kept in dry casks at the sites where it was generated. Storing the waste at the power plant sites raises the risks for people living in those areas, but transporting the waste to a central location increases risks for those living along transportation routes and those near the disposal site. There is simply no safe way to deal with the amount of radioactive waste we are producing in the long term.

The Texas House Environmental Regulation Committee will soon address an interim charge on how to bring this high-level waste to Texas and how much economic benefit there could be. Discussion of the risks isn’t on the agenda. It seems that the committee may be blinded by potential profit for their campaign donors.

Stay tuned and learn more at www.NukeFreeTexas.org (more…)

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Oil drilling site, with pond for fracking water, Cotulla, TX  Photo by Al Braden

Oil drilling site, w/ pond for fracking water, Cotulla, TX
Photo by Al Braden

The Eagle Ford Shale play in south Texas is the 400-mile-long area that has become home to one of the country’s biggest energy booms in the past six years. The thousands of oil and gas wells producing in the region have brought dangerous air pollution to residents.

The Center for Public Integrity, InsideClimate News and The Weather Channel released a new exposé titled, “Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil & Bad Air on the Texas Prairie,” last week. Their eight month investigation reveals the dangers that come with fracking in the form of toxic chemicals released into the air as a result of the complicit culture of the government of Texas. In case you just want to read the highlights of the report, the team was nice enough to summarize their major findings:

  • Texas’ air monitoring system is so flawed that the state knows almost nothing about the extent of the pollution in the Eagle Ford. Only five permanent air monitors are installed in the 20,000-square-mile region, and all are at the fringes of the shale play, far from the heavy drilling areas where emissions are highest.
  • Anadarko Brasada Cyro Gas Plant, Phase 1 of 3, Cotulla, TX. Photo by Al Braden

    Anadarko Brasada Cyro Gas Plant, Phase 1 of 3, Cotulla, TX.
    Photo by Al Braden

    Thousands of oil and gas facilities, including six of the nine production sites near the Buehrings’ house, are allowed to self-audit their emissions without reporting them to the state. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which regulates most air emissions, doesn’t even know some of these facilities exist. An internal agency document acknowledges that the rule allowing this practice “[c]annot be proven to be protective.”

  • Companies that break the law are rarely fined. Of the 284 oil and gas industry-related complaints filed with the TCEQ by Eagle Ford residents between Jan. 1, 2010, and Nov. 19, 2013, only two resulted in fines despite 164 documented violations. The largest was just $14,250. (Pending enforcement actions could lead to six more fines).
  • The Texas legislature has cut the TCEQ’s budget by a third since the Eagle Ford boom began, from $555 million in 2008 to $372 million in 2014. At the same time, the amount allocated for air monitoring equipment dropped from $1.2 million to $579,000.
  • The Eagle Ford boom is feeding an ominous trend: A 100 percent statewide increase in unplanned, toxic air releases associated with oil and gas production since 2009. Known as emission events, these releases are usually caused by human error or faulty equipment.
  • Residents of the mostly rural Eagle Ford counties are at a disadvantage even in Texas, because they haven’t been given air quality protections, such as more permanent monitors, provided to the wealthier, more suburban Barnett Shale region near Dallas-Fort Worth.

(more…)

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Neighbors for Neighbors (NFN), an organization of residents near Luminant Mining’s Three Oaks Mine, filed late Monday for a contested case hearing on an EFH subsidiary’s request to renew the mining operation in Lee and Bastrop counties.

In its filing, NFN asks the Texas Railroad Commission, the agency that administers mining law in Texas, to require Luminant Mining to post cash or an outside bond to cover the estimated  $60 million cost of cleaning up the strip mine. The group points out since EFH, the parent company of Luminant Mining, is expected to file for bankruptcy by the end of this year, there may not be funds to cover the cost of cleanup.  Click here to see a copy of the filing.

“Does a company have to go bankrupt and walk away from its mines in order for regulators to step in?” asked NFN president Travis Brown. “It would be the height of irresponsibility for Texas to allow a company going bankrupt to say, ‘Trust us, we’re good for it.’ We want Luminant Mining to post real bonds to assure that the mining restoration gets done.”

Russel Bostic, a local rancher and NFN member, said “I live next to the mine, and the company has condemned and is planning to use my land. My family wants our land to be restored to its original condition so we can return.”

Lignite coal mined at Three Oaks is used to supply Luminant’s two coal-fired power plants near Rockdale.

Under federal and state law, mining companies are required to restore mined areas to their original condition.  Those companies must also set aside money so resources will be available for the restoration, even if the company abandons the mine.  The law was created because many U.S. mines were abandoned when companies went bankrupt, leading to contamination of surface water and groundwater.

In Texas, Luminant Mining is responsible for the operation and cleanup of eleven active strip mines. If EFH goes bankrupt and sufficient cash has not been set aside for cleanup, taxpayers could end up with the estimated $1.01 billion cost of cleaning up all the mines.

Instead of requiring that $1.01 billion be set aside in cash or a real bond, the Railroad Commission allowed Luminant to “self-bond,” which means the company is relying on a “guarantee” that their own assets will cover the bonds without having real cash bonds set aside that the state can readily access.  In recent years, EFH has shifted to third party guarantee of the bonds, but the third party is another subsidiary of EFH, so still them.

In its current request for a mining permit for Three Oaks, Luminant Mining is again asking to post a self-bond for cleanup.

Brown said, “The company recently said in a community meeting at the mine that they intend to pledge assets for the cleanup bond. They said they need to operate the mines and coal plants to generate revenues to pay the new debt.  But nowhere in their most recent 8K [financial statement to SEC] do they make that commitment.”

Brown added, “This is especially disturbing since the company also says – in the same 8K – that they expect the price of gas to go up and coal to stay low. That’s the same poor business plan that has led to this bankruptcy.”

Michele Gangnes, an NFN member and a bond attorney, said “The law is clear, and Texas regulators should take immediate action to demand a cash bond so taxpayers and the environment are protected.”

Gangnes added, “In many states, Luminant Mining would be required to put up a cash bond before allowing the Tree oaks mine to expand. But EFH has been playing a shell-game, and state regulators have allowed it. We are asking the Railroad Commission to guarantee that EFH has to set cash aside or post a third-party bond specifically for cleanup of the mines in this bankruptcy deal.”

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Instead of taking action to clean Texas air, as requested by the Dallas County Medical Society, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Bryan Shaw and Commissioner Toby Baker voted today to deny the petition for rulemaking and further postpone needed air quality improvements for East Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas.

The DFW area has struggled with unhealthy levels of ground-level ozone pollution – caused emissions from vehicles and power plants mixing in the sunlight – for decades.  While improvements in air quality have been made, they have lagged behind tightening air quality standards set by EPA to protect public health.  Asthma rates – particularly among children – have continued to rise, as well as hospitalizations due to asthma.

Martin_Lake

In addition to contributing to ozone problems in East Texas & the DFW area, Luminant’s Martin Lake coal plant emits more toxic mercury than any other power plant in the nation, ranks 5th in carbon dioxide emissions & is responsible for $328,565,000 in health impacts from fine particle emissions.

Meanwhile, Luminant continues to operate three coal-fired power plants with a total of eight generating units in East Texas that were build in the 1970’s.  These outdated facilities emit nitrogen oxides (NOx) – which is one of the two ingredients in ozone creation – at twice the rate of new coal plants in Texas.  The rule changes recommended by the Dallas County Medical Society would have required those old coal plants to meet the same standards as new coal plants by 2018 – giving the plant owners more than ample time to make the upgrades or arrange to retire the facilities.

Instead of focusing on whether or not reducing NOx emissions from those old coal plants in East Texas would lead to reductions in ground-level ozone in the DFW area, the Commissioners persisted in questioning the science that shows that exposure to ground-level ozone results in increased and worsened incidents of asthma.  Never mind that the research has been vetted by the EPA and reaffirmed by health organizations including the American Lung Association.  The mindset at TCEQ, as at many of our agencies and with far too many of our elected officials, is that Texas knows best and industry must be protected at all costs.

We appreciate the more than 1,400 Public Citizen supporters who signed our petition in support of reducing emissions and protecting public health.  All of those comments were submitted into the record and I read a few of them allowed at today’s hearing.

We will continue to fight for healthy air as TCEQ moves forward with developing a updated State Implementation Plan (SIP) to bring the DFW area into attainment with ground-level ozone air quality standards.  That process will be ongoing in 2014, so stay tuned.

 

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Get tough on environmental crimes

Texas law requires that the our state environmental agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), consider a facility’s past compliance when making decisions regarding permits or inspections.  In fact, a facility’s Compliance History score affects every bit of its business with the TCEQ.

New rules currently proposed by the TCEQ to the Compliance History program would possibly bump up thousands of previously categorized “poor” performers to an “average” classification without having removed an ounce of pollution from our air and water.  The TCEQ has introduced even more limitations which will only further serve to keep every facility average.  These changes include increasing the score by which a performer falls into the poor category, separating repeat violations by media (i.e. administrative violations vs specific emissions violations), giving the TCEQ Executive Director extraordinary authority to change a facility’s classification, and handing out bonus points for ill-defined and unregulated voluntary measures that a facility can implement.

If the Compliance History program reforms go forward as currently written, we will be missing out on two major opportunities by continuing to pretend that all facilities in this state are average.

  • First, we miss a chance to implement the type of regulation that a lot of people in our state prefer.
  • Second, and most importantly, we miss a huge opportunity to try to clean up the air and water around our state in a business friendly manner.

At a time when the challenge of grappling with an increasing array of environmental and health threats to our state and its population gets harder every day, we cannot afford to let such opportunities pass us by.  We urge the TCEQ to reconsider its Compliance History rules, and deliver a program that works to the people of the state of Texas.

The public has a chance to weigh in on these rules and we ask you to consider coming to the public hearing on March 6th or sending comments to the TCEQ by March 12th.  Tell them:

  • Don’t pardon the polluters by increasing the threshold for being declared a poor performer
  • Don’t give the executive director the right to pardon polluters
  • Don’t give polluters a get out of jail free card for signing up for “defensive polluting” classes

As we know from our criminal justice system, swift sure and certain punishment deters crime.  We should apply these lessons to environmental crime too

Public Hearing : TCEQ will hold a public hearing on this proposal in Austin on March 6, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. in Building E, Room 201S, at the commission’s central office located at 12100 Park 35 Circle.

Comments can be submitted  by March 12, 2012.

Tips on Commenting Effectively

You will be providing comments for the rulemaking – 2011-032-060-CE: HB 2694 (4.01 and Article 4): Compliance History

  • Identify who you are and why the regulation affects you;
  • Explain why you agree or disagree with the proposed rulemaking;
  • Be direct in your comment; and
  • Offer alternatives, compromise solutions, and specific language for your suggested changes.

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TCEQ will soon be making some big decisions on how to implement reforms passed during the last legislative session, especially on its penalty policy–and your input is needed quickly:

  • Comments are due on August 30th

Last session, Public Citizen worked with a partnership, The Alliance for a Clean Texas (ACT), and thanks to the efforts of thousands of citizens who joined forces with ACT, the Texas Legislature made some very important improvements to TCEQ’s laws regarding enforcement policies and penalties for polluters.

Lawmakers raised penalties to $25,000 per violation and told TCEQ to minimize the economic benefit to polluters of breaking the law. Now, to make these new policies work, TCEQ commissioners must adopt rules that address:

  • The economic impact of decisions to pollute (The state auditor has previously found that fines are 1/8 of the economic value gained by violating the law.)
  • How to assess fines for repeat violators.
  • Whether to assess a separate fine to each permit violation or just one per overall incident, called speciation. (This can make a huge difference in the size of the fines and the incentive for companies to not pollute.)
  • Whether to put TCEQ’s enforcement policies into the rules or just adopt them as general guidelines. (Putting the policies into rule makes them stronger and harder for the TCEQ to let polluters off with inadequate penalties.)

Comments are due August 30th on these rules. To sign on to ACT’s draft comments, go here. You may also use them to develop for your own comments. You can find tips about writing comments here. Go here for the TCEQ Sunset Process hub on the ACT website.

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Statewide organizations support youth as they appeal TCEQ decision
denying petition to reduce carbon emissions and prevent climate catastrophe

Three Texas youth and one young adult filed for judicial review today of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) denial of their petition to force action on climate change. Specifically, the rulemaking petition requests TCEQ to require reductions in statewide carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels consistent with what current scientific analysis deems necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

“TCEQ and the Texas government have failed to live up to their responsibility to protect my future and take the urgent action needed to halt climate change,” said 15 year-old plaintiff, Eamon Umphress. “My generation will be hurt the most by climate change, but instead of taking action, Texas is putting short-term profits for corporations above a livable planet for me and future generations.”

As part of the iMatter Campaign, a petition was filed on May 5th in conjunction with legal actions in 47 other states, the District of Columbia, and against the federal government on behalf of youth to compel reductions of CO2 emissions in an effort to counter the negative impacts of climate change that these youth expect to manifest in their lifetime.

The petition relies upon the long established legal principle of the Public Trust Doctrine that requires all branches of the government to protect and maintain certain shared resources fundamental for human health and survival. Science, not politics, defines the fiduciary obligation that the government, as the trustee, must fulfill on behalf of the beneficiary—the public.

“Dr. James Hansen, a prominent and widely respected climate scientist, has warned that our window of opportunity is quickly closing to take serious action to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “Since 1991, TCEQ has had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases but has lacked the political and moral will to do so. The moral failure of the leadership of Texas, particularly Governor Perry and TCEQ Commissioner Shaw, is shameful and betrays future generations. We urge the courts and TCEQ to follow the science and take action to protect the climate and future generations by reducing CO2 emissions now.”

“The Public Trust Doctrine requires TCEQ, as a trustee, to protect and preserve vital natural resources, including the atmosphere, for both present and future generations of Texans,” said Adam Abrams, an attorney with the Texas Environmental Law Center. “TCEQ’s fiduciary duties as trustee of the public trust cannot be disclaimed.”

TCEQ’s decision states that any reduction in CO2 emissions will not impact the global distribution of these gases in the atmosphere. “But as the largest emitter in the United States, reductions in Texas can make a difference in overall reductions,” said Dr. Neil Carman, Clean Air Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Every ton of carbon contributes to global warming, and fewer emissions means less heating in the pipeline and a better chance of reversing Earth’s current energy imbalance.”

“Texas is not only the largest contributor of greenhouse gases in the U.S., the state is also reeling from severe impacts of climate change right now—namely heat waves, droughts, and wildfires,” said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas. “The U.S. Global Change Research Program states in its 2009 report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, that with rising high temperatures, droughts and heat waves will become more frequent and severe, and water supplies are projected to become increasingly scarce. Just last month, the federal Department of Agriculture declared 213 counties in Texas disaster areas, due to ‘one of the worst droughts in more than a century.’” Texas has “sustained excessive heat, high winds and wildfires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres,” and many farmers and ranchers “have lost their crops due to the devastation caused by the drought and wildfires,” USDA stated in its press release. “We call on Texas government officials to take these impacts seriously and act now to reduce CO2 emissions from the burning of fossil fuels,” stated Metzger.

To protect Earth’s natural systems, the best available science shows that average global surface heating must not exceed 1° C and concentrations of atmospheric CO2 must decline to less than 350 ppm this century. We are currently at around 390 ppm. To accomplish this reduction, Dr. Hansen and other renowned scientists conclude that global CO2 emissions need to peak in 2012 and decline by 6% per year starting in 2013. The rulemaking petition seeks a rule that would require a reduction of statewide CO2 emissions at these levels. Click here to read Dr. Hansen’s recent paper.

“The Texas government continually claims that any kind of regulation on CO2 is a regulation that would hurt business and the economy. This does not have to be the case,” said Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “The shift to an economy based on energy efficiency and renewable energy instead of fossil fuels is not only technically but economically feasible, and with the right policies in place, our economy could flourish in new green jobs from this shift. Wind energy is comparable in price to coal and the cost of solar is falling, as San Antonio’s recent investment in a 400-megawatt solar project demonstrates. While touting the possible negative impacts on the economy that reductions in CO2 emissions could have, Texas consistently fails to consider the negative economic impacts of climate change—such as the increased weather extremes of heat waves, drought, and hurricanes—already felt by many Texans.”

“We have a moral duty to provide our children and our children’s children with a livable planet,” said Brigid Shea, mother of 15 year-old plaintiff, Eamon Umphress, and former Austin City Council member. “The Texas government must live up to its responsibility to protect and preserve our planet and our atmosphere. We need to end our reliance on fossil fuels and live as if our children’s future matters.”

###

By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit focused on protecting earth’s natural systems for current and future generations. We are here to empower and support youth as they stand up for their lawful inheritance: a healthy planet. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers. We are adults, part of the ruling generation, and we care about the future of our childrenand their children’s children. www.ourchildrenstrust.org/

iMatter is a youth-led campaign of the nonprofit group, Kids vs Global Warming, that is focused on mobilizing and empowering youth to lead the way to a sustainable and just world. We are teens and moms and young activists committed to raising the voices of the youngest generation to issue a wake-up call to live, lead and govern as if our future matters. www.imattermarch.org/

 

 

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Yesterday, the Senate named its conference committee members (conferees) for the important TCEQ Sunset Bill (HB 2694).

The Senate version of the bill that the conference committee is considering was significantly better than the bill that came out of the House.  Please call the senate conferees this week and tell them you want them to pass out the Senate version of the bill as it is, without any of the House amendments If you have not already done so, also call the house conferees and if you live in the district of any of the House conferees, do let them know that you are a constituent when you call.

The Senate conferees named were:

  • Joan Huffman (Chair) of Southside Place (District 17) – 512-463-0117
  • Troy Fraser of Horseshoe Bay (Distict 24) – 512-463-0124
  • Glenn Hegar of Katy (District 18) – 512-463-0118
  • Juan Hinojosa of McAllen (District 20) – 512-463-0120
  • Robert Nichols of Jacksonville (District 3) – 512-463-0103

The House conferees named were:

  • Wayne Smith (Chair) of Baytown (District 128) – 512-473-0733
  • Dennis Bonnen of Angleton (District 25) – 512-463-0564
  • Lon Burnam of Fort Worth (District 90) – 512-463-0740
  • Warren Chisum of Pampa (District 88) – 512-463-0556
  • Charlie Geren of Fort Worth (District 99) – 512-463-0610

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Yesterday, the Texas House refused to concur in the Senate amendments to HB 2694 – the TCEQ sunset bill.  The bill has been sent to Conference Committee and the House has named its conference committee members (conferees).  Importantly, no instructions were made to the conferees by the House (in other words no motion was made to make sure that the House conferees support any particular provisions that were in the House-passed version of the bill – many of which were bad for the environment and for the rights of Texas citizens).

The Senate version was significantly better than the bill that came out of the House.  Please call the house conferees this week and tell them you want them to pass out the Senate version of the bill as it is, without any of the House amendments If you live in the district of any of the House conferees, do let them know that you are a constituent when you call.

The House conferees named were:

  • Wayne Smith (Chair) of Baytown (District 128) – 512-473-0733
  • Dennis Bonnen of Angleton (District 25) – 512-463-0564
  • Lon Burnam of Fort Worth (District 90) – 512-463-0740
  • Warren Chisum of Pampa (District 88) – 512-463-0556
  • Charlie Geren of Fort Worth (District 99) – 512-463-0610

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says if an amendment to HB 2694 remains on the TCEQ Sunset bill, undermining federal regulations at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, TCEQ could risk losing its permitting authority and EPA might have to intervene directly in Texas permitting cases.

Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Southside Place), whose sunset legislation for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality won unanimous Senate approval Thursday, said she stripped out all House amendments, including one that prompted a letter from the EPA.

The most controversial House amendment, added by Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa), would shift the burden of proof in a contested case from the company applying for a permit to a citizen challenging the permit.

In an April 29 letter from EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Lawrence E. Starfield to the Sunset Advisory Committee Chairman Sen. Glenn Hegar,  the EPA said House changes could affect how federal requirements apply to federal permits issued by TCEQ and that “jeopardizes EPA’s approval and/or authorization” for Texas permitting programs.  The letter also specifically addressed the shifting of burdens to a person contesting a permit, saying that affects “Texas’ public participation process.”

While contested case hearings are not required by federal law, Chisum’s change would warrant federal review to make sure the legislation doesn’t conflict with federal law.

The EPA letter to Senator Glenn Hegar can be found here.

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The Texas Senate just unanimously approved House Bill 2694, the sunset bill for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Senate sponsors Huffman and Hegar fought to pass a clean TCEQ sunset bill and Senators Watson and Huffman clarified the intent of Senators to keep this bill clean in an anticipated House-Senate conference committee.

In the months leading up to the 82nd Texas legislative session, Public Citizen and numerous other organizations who are members of a coalition, the Alliance for Clean Texas (ACT) worked to alert the public to their opportunity to participate in the Texas Sunset process, turning out thousands of Texans at local town hall meetings to ask the Sunset Commission to make the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality do its job better — to more strongly protect our environment and communities from pollution.

The Sunset Commission heard the public and recommended that TCEQ be continued and that its powers to enforce pollution control laws be strengthened.   House Bill 2694 as introduced in this session reflected those sunset recommendations.   Although the bill was not perfect, it was a decent bill that would further environmental protection.  The partner groups in the Alliance for a Clean Texas have supported it on that basis.

Unfortunately, the bill was hijacked on in the House floor by pro-polluter interests and amended to limit the rights of Texans to challenge permits to polluters for air emissions, wastewater discharges, hazardous waste disposal, and other pollution and to weaken the enforcement improvements in the original bill. 

Fortunately the Texas Senate came to the rescue and jettisoned those pro-polluter amendments before passing the bill on the Senate floor today. Texans should express their thanks to the Senators and support the position of the Senate in conference committee.

 We will update this blog with the names of the conference committee members as soon as they are named and encourage all who are concerned to call the conference committee members and ask them to pass out the senate version of the bill.

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Public Citizen was lucky enough to have been invited to the release of the new study Flowback: How Natural Gas Drilling in Texas Threatens Public Health and Safety.  We had to split the press conference into three different pieces to get them uploaded, but here we get started with Sharon Wilson and State Rep. Lon Burnam of Ft Worth.

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5byZatNW85o]

After that, several other folks dealing with the health impacts of hydraulic fracturing stepped up to the mic: Calvin Tillman, the Mayor of Dish, TX, a city at the heart of the frack debate, Tammi Vajda a resident of Flower Mound and Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger who lives on the Eagle Ford Shale, who absolutely brought the house down.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcnFpnARVV4]

The final clip features my remarks, which you can mostly fast forward through to get to  Alyssa Burgin of the Texas Drought Project.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dziPeOX36xE]

We heartily recommend you read the report and call your legislators about the problems Texas faces with fracking. And special thanks to Donna Hoffman at the Sierra Club who took this video.  You can check out their blog at texasgreenreport.wordpress.com

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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