Archive for the ‘Toxics’ Category

The chemical spill into West Virginia’s Elk River, which left more than 300,000 people without water for over five days (many are still without water), comes in a state with a long history of lax regulatory standards over the coal and chemical industries that form a major part of its economy. The chemical spill is yet another example of how lax regulations are setting the stage for disasters, and the concerns are being felt all the way in Texas.

Photo Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/iwasaround

The chemical at the center of this disaster is 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, also known as MCHM, and it is used to wash coal. About 7,500 gallons of the chemical leaked from a storage tank, owned by Freedom Industries, and into the Elk River. The leak happened about one mile upstream from the West Virginia American water plant, which supplies drinking water to the local population. State officials are urging citizens to use bottled water for drinking, washing and cooking. Authorities say that at least ten people have been admitted into three hospitals, and 169 patients have been released from emergency rooms. Although MCHM is considered toxic, it is not lethal to humans. The effects on humans range from skin irritation, nausea, vomiting or wheezing.

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for nine counties, including the state capital of Charleston. President Obama also issued an emergency declaration. West Virginia has received water from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for its residents. It may be days before the water is safe enough for anything other than flushing a toilet or firefighting. Authorities are waiting until the chemical level meets 1 part per million, set by the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, before they lift the ban.

The coal and chemical industries, which make up a large part of West Virginia’s economy, exercise great political influence in the state. They have long railed against federal safety, health and environmental standards. The West Virginia chemical spill is yet another example of what can go wrong when you have an inept polity that is influenced by big business. Texas also suffers from a similar affliction as West Virginia, except in addition to coal, we also have the petroleum and chemical industries.

Texas has had its fair share of industry related disasters. An explosion last April at the West Fertilizer Co. in West, Texas killed 15 people. In 2005, an explosion at the BP refinery in Texas City killed 15 workers and left 170 others injured.

With the West Virginia chemical spill making national headlines, let us remember that this kind of disaster is preventable. What we need is stronger safety standards and improved enforcement to make for a safer environment.

Sign our petition asking EPA to improve chemical safety and protect our communities.

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Today the Dallas County Medical Society filed a petition with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality asking the agency to adopt rules to reduce the pollution from three old coal-fired power plants that contribute disproportionately to high ozone levels in Dallas-Fort Worth and East Texas.

“Evidence is overwhelming that our high ozone levels are causing increasing numbers of area children to develop asthma, and are contributing to the many asthma attacks, chronic lung disease exacerbations, and heart attacks we see every day in our emergency rooms, clinics and hospitals,” said Robert Haley, MD, a Dallas internist and epidemiologist. “A large body of medical research shows that more people of all ages develop respiratory illnesses and die prematurely in cities with high ozone levels, and we have among the highest ozone levels in the country.”

To address this issue, DCMS and the Texas Medical Association sponsored a study by Daniel Cohan, PhD, an environmental engineering scientist at Rice University, to review all the scientific information about ozone pollution in North Texas and identify ways to reduce ozone levels without compromising the state’s energy grid or jobs. Click here for study. 2013 white paper august 1 2013

“The Cohan Report identified these three very old coal-fired power plants south and east of Dallas, built in the 1970s, that have never been required to meet current emission limits and which contribute disproportionately to ozone levels in the Dallas-Fort Worth area,” according to Cynthia Sherry, MD, DCMS president. “With the impending bankruptcy of the plants’ owner, Energy Future Holdings, the plants likely will change hands.” The petition asks that the TCEQ require these plants to meet the same low emission levels for ozone-forming gasses that are required of the company’s two newer lignite-fired power plants. “This is the time to require that the plants lower their emissions to protect the health of North Texans,” Dr. Sherry said.

The three power plants are Big Brown near Fairfield, Martin Lake near Longview, and Monticello near Mount Pleasant.

“Because of their age, these three plants emit large amounts of pollution for a relatively small amount of electricity produced,” said   Cohan, the report’s author. “Today’s technologies offer economically more attractive alternatives that would be far less polluting.”

According to the report, a combination of natural gas, geothermal, coastal wind, and solar production could replace the energy production capacity — and the East Texas jobs — of the three old coal plants at equivalent prices to Texas ratepayers. East Texas, where the three coal plants operate, has uniquely amenable geologic characteristics that make geothermal power generation unusually attractive.

Energy Future Holdings, an investment group that purchased the power plants from TXU, is facing bankruptcy because the drop in energy prices from the boom in natural gas production has reduced the profitability of coal. It also faces new requirements to control mercury emissions, and the Environmental Protection Agency is formulating additional requirements for controls on CO2 emissions.

“The financial press is predicting bankruptcy or restructuring of Energy Future Holdings,” according to Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen’s Texas office.  “The petition by the physicians and environmental groups will put the company or new owners on notice that they can’t keep running these old, polluting plants without investing in new pollution controls. Concerned citizens can add their names to the petition by visiting PETITION WEB SITE.”

The petition can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/tceq-please-clean-up-northeast-texas/

To comment on the petition, go to  http://www10.tceq.state.tx.us/epic/efilings/ . To submit comments, use Docket No. 2013-1612-RUL, which was assigned to this Petition for Rulemaking (Dallas County Medical Society Petition: EPA-Compliant Pollution Control on Old Coal Plants).

The scientific report can be found at www.dallas-cms.org/news/coalplants.pdf.

“Bad air day: Report details power plant dangers,” Texas Medicine, June 2013, pp. 45-49, accessed at: http://www.texmed.org/Template.aspx?id=23977


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Comment Period Extended to March  23rd

The Texas Commission for Environmental Quality is the second largest environmental agency in the world—with a budget to match. Help hold TCEQ accountable for taxpayer’s interests and stop them from implementing rules that favor polluting businesses.

TCEQ’s Mission Statement and Agency Philosophy includes a commitment to “ensure meaningful public participation in the decision-making process.”  Frankly, that did not translate into practice last week.  At the public hearing on Tuesday, March 6th, Public Citizen testified about our experience attempting to gain access to an agency analysis of the proposed changes to Chapter 60 (Compliance History) rule on a previous report that is accessible on TCEQ’s website as an ASCII file which can be imported into an excel spreadsheet. (more…)

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Austinites rally outside campaign headquarters in solidarity with 12,000 in DC

Protestors spell out their message. “SAY NO TO TARSANDS!” – Photo by Don Mason  (http://ow.ly/7nbjY)

AUSTIN, TX – Campaign staff and volunteers working for  President Obama’s re-election got an earful from environmentalists in Austin on  Monday, one day after 12,000 people encircled the White House in Washington DC to protest the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.

“He has given every indication that this decision is his to make,” said Hope Philips, one of the protestors at the rally. “So we’re here to  tell him to stick to his campaign promises and ‘end the tyranny of oil.’”

Many of the signs at both protests featured quotes from President Obama’s 2008 campaign when he made bold claims about reducing oil dependence to the delight of young voters and environmentalists.

Protestor holding the President to his own words

Between chants protestors celebrated signs their actions are making headway in the fight against the tar sands pipeline.

“Just today the inspector general of the US State Department agreed to investigate the environmental assessment process. The relationships between TransCanada and the State Department were too cozy resulting in a deeply flawed process,” said Chris Wilson, a retired chemical engineer who recently authored a report criticizing the State Department’s environmental  impact study.

The Austin protest drew out about 50 people who directed
their voices towards the campaign’s offices inside a small building on the  corner of East 6th and Navasota St. During the protest two representatives from the group were invited in to speak with Hector Nieto, Texas director of  Obama for America.

“It was a good conversation and I think the local and state leaders get why this is an important issue,” said Adam Hammick, one of the two representatives and a volunteer with 350.org. “They promised to take our message straight to the top of the campaign food chain, so we hope the message gets through to the President.”

Monday’s protest comes only a week after a widely reported “oil zombie” themed Halloween protest at City Hall, and organizers show no signs of slowing down. On Saturday November 12th they plan to join forces with Occupy Austin to hold a march on Citigroup who they accuse of helping to fund tar sands giant TransCanada. Then on November 28th they plan to return to the campaign headquarters along with organizers in all 50 states who will be demonstrating outside of local campaign offices.

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Election season is imminent and advocates for environmental welfare and public health need not look very far for the hyper-political red tape and drawbacks to pollution legislation. Like many of her colleagues in the Democratic Party, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has been campaigning nationwide for the regulation of toxins such as mercury from coal burners which, in effect, could prevent thousands of related deaths and stimulate the job market. Just two weeks ago, Jackson even made an appearance on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” encouraging viewers to exercise vigilance in the fight against toxic emissions and to demand personal protections for clean air and water.

Her sentiments were met with grand applause due to their pertinence in 2011 where it is estimated that 72% of all toxic mercury air pollution in the United States is attributable to coal plants in violation of the Clean Air Act. Just to add some perspective to this statistic, such a figure indicates that 386,000 tons of hazardous compounds are being emitted into the atmosphere per year at an unprecedented rate.

Jackson’s apparent support for tightened environmental regulations was short-lived however, when just one week following her Comedy Central interview the EPA halted essential protections for controlling exposure to air-borne mercury, arsenic, lead, and a plethora of acid gases. The basis for these laws were established in 1990 when President H.W. Bush signed Clean Air Act amendments into law thus making it the EPA’s responsibility to establish emission standards for industrial facilities. Originally, these plans operated on a permit system designed to pinpoint power plants, factories, and additional sources of ground level ozone that had exceeded allowable limits for what was deemed “requisite to protect the public welfare.”

One of these statutes created under H.W. Bush’s administration, called Boiler MACT, monitored emission caps from boilers that produced power sources specifically like those found in large to small coal plants. As of February 2011, under a court issued order, the EPA was also charged with the task of enforcing this body of legislative action. And now, a mere two years after the Obama administration vowed to protect the interests of public health and respect the law, this regulation is one of many that Jackson’s post at the EPA has indefinitely delayed.

Historically, the EPA has acted as an outspoken critic of the industrial “Powers that be” and their habits of ignoring Clean Air Act restrictions with economic impunity. In fact it was the EPA’s records that first indicated that more than 4,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 1,600 cases of acute bronchitis and an excess of 313,000 missed work and school days could be avoided if these laws were enacted properly- and this doesn’t even account for the upwards of 6,600 toxic related deaths. But the EPA strayed its course due to the fast-approaching 2012 elections. They managed to place re-election aspirations above environmental necessities on the hierarchy of political agendas, caved to industry pressures, and watered down many of their contingencies to begin with.

In lieu of this regressive blow to mandatory emission guidelines, Lisa Jackson and the EPA as a whole have endangered countless vulnerable Americans by casting a blind eye to the Boiler MACT legislation. Not only are these steps in reverse potentially (almost certainly) disastrous, people living near industrial giants and coal-fired power plants are now at serious odds with their own health and well-being.

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Infamously dubbed by Dallas Magazine “Dallas’ Most Evil Genius”, socialite and energy tycoon Harold Simmons is no stranger to Texas lobbying.  As this blog previously reported in January, Simmons has contributed $1.12 million from 2001 to September 2010 to Rick Perry significantly increasing his contributions between 6/25/2009 and 9/30/2010 totaling $600,000 in a 15 month period or more than doubling his previous contributions. Now why did Simmons increase his campaign contributions? Perhaps it’s been used to grease the wheels on his  recently passed radioactive waste bill SB 1504 allowing Simmons’ company Waste Control Specialists a monopoly on Texas low-level radiation waste disposal.

Simmons’ money didn’t stop at Perry. According to the Texans for Public Justice, Simmons paid $182, 350 in the 2010 election cycle to 92 members of the House, 94% Republicans and 6%  Democrats. Obviously, all of this is significant because of the recent vote in the House on bill SB 1504. 76% of the members who received Simmons contributions or $138,350 voted with the money, yea, while only 13% or $24, 500 voted nay and 11% or $19,500 abstained from voting. Contrary to a damning report by Public Citizen addressing the dangers of nuclear waste disposal , 84% of the House members who took Simmons’ money voted following the company line while only 16% or 15 members abstained from voting or voted nay.

Simmons granted a rare interview to the Dallas Business Journal in 2006 offering an eerie outlook on his lobbying efforts “It took us six years to get legislation on this passed in Austin, but now we’ve got it all passed. We first had to change the law to where a private company can own a license [to handle radioactive waste], and we did that. Then we got another law passed that said they can only issue one license. Of course, we were the only ones that applied.

Most House Members Who Took Simmons’ Money Voted To Grant Him A Monopoly to Import Nuclear Waste

Simmons BillVote in House No. of Members Percent of Members Total Amount From Simmons Average Amount from Simmons
Yea 108 72% $138,350 $1,281
Nay 36 24% $24,500 $681
Not Voting 6 4% $19,500 $3,250
Totals 150 100% $182,350 $1,216

House Members Taking Simmons’ Money but Bravely Went Against Their Benefactor

House Member Dist. Party Simmons Amount in 2010 Cycle 2nd Reading Vote 5/17 3rd Reading Vote 5/18
Anderson, Charles 56 R $2,000 Absent Absent
Carter, Stefani 102 R $2,000 Nay Nay
Coleman, Garnet 147 D $15,000 Yea Nay
Davis, Sarah 134 R $500 Yea Nay
Dukes, Dawnna 46 D $1,000 Nay Nay
Farrar, Jessica 148 D $500 Absent Nay
Gallego, Pete 74 D $15,000 Nay Nay
Giddings, Helen 109 D $1,000 Nay Nay
*Howard,  Donna 48 D $500 Nay Nay
Hunter, Todd 32 R $2,000 Absent Absent
Issac, Jason A. 45 R $1,000 Nay Nay
Kolkhorst, Lois 13 R $1,000 Nay Nay
*Martinez Fischer, Trey 116 D $1,000 Nay Nay
Reynolds, Ron 27 D $500 Nay Nay
Straus, Joe 121 R $15,000 Not Voting Not Voting
Villarreal, Mike 123 D $1,000 Nay Absent

*Member of House Natural Resources Committee that first approved bill.

Note: If you are interested to see  if your representative voted with the money or even received 2010 campaign contributions from Simmons please visit this link provided by TPJ, Bankroll Call: Correlating Simmons Contributions To Texas House Votes.

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If you live in the Houston area, you may be in the danger zone of a toxic chemical facility, and oil and chemical industry executives are trying to keep it that way. These toxic chemical facilities are vulnerable to accidents or terrorist attacks, even though safer alternatives are available. Now Congress is considering industry-backed legislation (HR 908) that would deny the Department of Homeland Security authority they have requested to require high risk facilities to prevent chemical disasters by using safer, available alternatives.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee could be voting on this within days, and your representative, Congressman Gene Green, is a critical vote.

Call Congressman Green’s office today and ask him to VOTE AGAINST HR 908. (202) 225-9903

If you can eliminate the risk of chemical disaster or the consequences of a terrorist attack, you should, right? Well if Congress passes this legislation, that common sense thinking will be held hostage for up to seven years.

This legislation also contains huge loopholes. It would exempt 500 port facilities including 125 refineries, as well as 2,400 water and waste-water treatment facilities. These facilities put millions of people at risk and will not be covered if this bill is passed.

Disaster prevention should be the heart of any chemical plant security legislation. A comprehensive approach should be taken that closes the current loopholes, requires the highest risk facilities to switch to safer alternatives, and gives workers and communities the ability to hold these facilities accountable.

An independent analysis of comprehensive legislation passed in 2009 showed that the bill would create jobs and provide a stimulus for local governments.

Congress should stop wasting its time and risking our lives with seven more years of delay, and should focus on constructing a comprehensive approach that focuses on preventing chemical disasters in Houston, and around the Country.

Call Congressman Green’s office today and ask him to VOTE AGAINST HR 908. (202) 225-9903

After you call his office, send him an email through our main website.

Not sure if you’re in Congressman Green’s district (district 29)? Check out the map. Still call even if you aren’t in his district. Though voices of his constituents are the most effective, anyone living in Houston should be concerned with this issue and you have every right to let him know your concerns.

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World News with Diane Sawyer is airing a segment tonight on the Bokoshe fly-ash dump in Oklahoma. Public Citizen first worked with the people of Bokoshe and others throughout Oklahoma back in 2008 to oppose the expansion of the Shady Point coal plant in Poteau, OK – the plant that dumps its coal ash in Bokoshe. In one of the swiftest coal plant battles in US history the expansion was defeated, but the people of Bokoshe continue to deal with the problem of toxic coal-ash from the existing coal plant.

The main problem is that coal ash is almost completely unregulated despite the fact that coal ash contains heavy, metallic neurotoxins like mercury and lead as well as other toxins like selenium, cadmium, arsenic, and can even contain radioactive isotopes. Though the EPA is attempting to initiate new, stricter regulations on this toxic and hazardous waste product there is a large push back from the coal industry to weaken these standards, and the implementation of those standards has been continually delayed. (more…)

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After residents report green and yellow-colored well water near an oilfield company’s operation in the spring of 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigated and formally designated an area in Midland as a national Superfund site when the presence of the highly toxic solvent hexavalent chromium was found in groundwater supplies.  The Superfund list is made up of sites so contaminated that they require long-term, complex and expensive cleanups.

These reports from residents led to testing that found that 46 of the more than 230 wells in the area had levels of the toxin in them that were above safety limits. Filtration systems have been provided to the owners of the contaminated wells.

Breathing airborne hexavalent chromium may cause lung cancer, can irritate or damage the nose, throat and lungs, and can also damage eyes or skin. Exposure to hexavalent chromium in drinking water can lead to an increased risk of stomach tumors.

While Texas has been at war with the EPA over the last couple of years, cleaning up sites that pose such a major threat to public health is one of the most vital aspects of the agency’s mission, and I for one, would not like to see the agency hobbled so that they can no longer protect communities from dangers posed by chemical contamination.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality first confirmed hexavalent chromium at more than 50 times the acceptable federal levels in early April 2009 in a well near West County Road 112.

Since then, 234 water wells have been tested by the TCEQ; chromium was found at above safe levels in 34 of them. The plume extends 1.25 miles from the center of the site and it covers about 260 acres, according to the EPA.


Using the EPA document's description, this is about where the superfund site is centered

According to an EPA document, the Site consists of a contaminated ground water plume originating from an unidentified source. The contaminant plume is located along County Road 1290, between Interstate 20 to the south, and Interstate Business 20 to the north. The Trinity and Ogallala aquifer is the only ground water source for drinking water in the site area. The water table has been reported at depths as shallow as 30 feet below the ground surface and the base of the aquifer is approximately 95 – 105 feet below ground surface. The Triassic red beds form the base of the aquifer. Ground water flow in the aquifer is expected to be generally to the south-southeast.

As part of the National Priorities List, the EPA will take the lead at the site and federal funds will be available for identifying the source of contamination and providing a method of cleanup.

Until a source of contamination is identified, EPA officials said in a release sent out Tuesday that the plume of contamination will continue to grow and affect additional water wells.

City of Midland officials have said, at this time, the city is unable to provide water to residents in that area. A group is working to put together a water district that would serve county residents, including those in the contaminated area, but a source of water has yet to be identified.

If a water source were available, EPA staff have said they could consider funding pipelines as part of the remediation process.

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Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano)

A bill filed by Senator Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) – SB 468 – purports to promote “flexibility of the board of trustees of a school district in the management and operation of public schools in the district,” and makes several changes to the law, including class sizes and the repeal of Section 1951.212 of the Occupations Code, the section of state law entitled “Integrated Pest Management Programs for School Districts”.

In 1993, Texas became one of the first states to require schools to use the least toxic methods to control pests. Children are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposure as they take in more pesticides relative to their body weight than adults and have developing organ systems that are less able to detoxify toxic chemicals.

According to the group Beyond Pesticides, of the 40 most commonly used pesticides in schools, “28 can cause cancer, 14 are linked to endocrine disruption, 26 can adversely affect reproduction, 26 are nervous system poisons and 13 can cause birth defects.” Texas has been a leader in this area and is one of fifteen states to require least toxic methods (known as “integrated pest management”) at schools to protect our children from exposure to these chemicals.

It’s unclear what the motivation is behind this repeal. In a 2005 Texas AgriLife Extension survey of over 500 Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Coordinators, “53% felt that the IPM requirements had actually reduced long-term costs of pest management. Fifteen percent believed there was no change in cost to the district. Only 18% of districts said that they felt the school IPM regulations had increased the long-term costs of pest control to their district.” Furthermore, “schools were 75% more likely to be satisfied with their pest control program compared to 1993, before the law went into effect. In addition, the study found that 75% of school IPM coordinators believe that the state IPM requirements have resulted in more effective pest management in their districts.”

To read a copy of this bill, click here.  To read the section of the code this bill repeals, click here.  

This bill is expected to be heard in the Senate Education Committee tomorrow.  If you are concerned, please contact committee members to let them know of your concerns. 

Senate Education Committee

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The Senate is about to hear legislation pertaining to coal ash waste regulation. There is an amendment proposed to slash EPA’s funding so that they cannot enforce safeguards at coal ash waste landfills. The following is a message from our friends with Environmental Integrity Project. Please take a few moments to contact your senator and let them know you want enforcement of regulations on these very hazardous and dangerous waste sites.

Dear Friends,

Thank you for helping to influence 183 Representatives in the US House to vote against Congressman McKinley’s amendment to eliminate EPA’s funding to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste.  Eighteen Representatives were Republicans switching ranks to vote against their party’s leadership and for safe water.

Within one week we MUST defeat this amendment likely to be proposed to the budget bill (Continuing Resolution) that is brought to the floor of the Senate, or this egregious proposal to slash EPA’s funding could become a reality – leaving EPA unable to enforce basic safeguards at toxic coal ash dumps such as liners, covers or monitoring and thousands of American communities nearby in harm’s way.

Nearly a half million Americans submitted comments on the EPA’s proposed coal ash rules with a majority of them in support of safeguards.   More than a thousand concerned citizens who traveled to 8 day-long EPA hearings supported these safeguards.  Clearly, Americans have voiced their support FOR protection of our drinking water and public health by the US EPA.

Please call your Senators today and urge them to vote NO to any amendments to cut the US EPA’s authority to protect our health from toxic coal ash.
Use this link to find phone numbers for your Senators – you just need to type in your zip code: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/

1.  Tell your Senators you want them to respect the rule-making process and the comments that their constituents submitted on the EPA coal ash regulation.

2.  Tell them to let the US EPA to do its job and protect public health.

3.  Ask them if you can count on their support for basic safeguards to protect public health from toxic coal ash.

After you make your call, please let us know you’ve made the calls and what their offices said.  Send your responses to: [email protected].

Please let your US Senators know today that Americans throughout the country want to be protected – call them immediately and tell them to uphold our right to safe drinking water.

Thanks for your continuing help and please spread the word.


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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Air pollution

Image via Wikipedia

In the face of the changes in the political dynamic in Washington, the Obama administration is retreating on long-delayed environmental regulations.  The new rules were set to take effect over the next several weeks, but this move will leave in place policies set by President George W. Bush while it pushes back deadlines to  July 2011 to further analyze scientific and health studies of the smog rules and until April 2012 on the boiler regulation.
Environmental advocates fear a similar delay on the approaching start of one of the most far-reaching regulatory programs in American environmental history, the effort to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The delayed smog rule would lower the allowable concentration of airborne ozone to 60 to 70 parts per billion from the current level of 75 parts per billion, putting several hundred cities in violation of air pollution standards. The agency says that the new rule would save thousands of lives per year, but saving lives now seems to have taken a back seat to saving the costs to businesses and municipalities of having to meet those standards.

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Barnett Shale

The Texas Railroad Commission (RCC) will hold a special hearing January 10th to look into the complaints of methane in two Parker County drinking water wells that prompted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week to order a natural gas drilling company to take steps to remediate the problem.  The RRC has not yet  posted the starting time or place but we will let you know as we hear more.

Both the Railroad Commission and Range Resources, which drilled the Barnett Shale gas wells near the two homes affected by the methane-laden water, accused the EPA of acting in haste when they issued an order of remediation late Tuesday.  Both the RRC and Range Resources claimed there was insufficient evidence to blame drilling operations for the situation.  But critics of the drilling operations in North Texas suggested that the Railroad Commission was acting more as a booster than a regulator of the natural gas industry.

In its emergency order, the EPA said that its testing suggests that the gases found in the water and gases from Range’s wells “are likely to be from the same source.” The EPA also pointed out that there were no reports of methane in either of the two water wells that were drilled in 2002 and 2005 until after Range sunk its nearby gas wells in 2009.

In the Railroad Commission’s response to the EPA order, all three commissioners suggested the federal agency was needlessly overstepping its authority. And the commission included a detailed timeline showing the progress of its own investigation into the affected drinking water wells.

If you live in the Barnett Shale region and are concerned, we urge you to attend this hearing.  We will post details about the hearing as soon as they are available.

If you are concerned that the RailRoad Commission is not being protective of the health and well-being of Texans, consider attending the Sunset Advisory Commission‘s hearing on the RRC and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality next week, December 15th.  See our earlier blog for details.


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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Clean drinking water...not self-evident for ev...

Is your drinking water safe? -Wikipedia

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is ordering a natural gas company in Fort Worth to take immediate action to protect people living near one of its drilling operations who have complained about flammable drinking water coming out of their home faucets.

Read some of our earlier blogs about the process that is suspected of causing these kinds of  problems:

Read other recent posts about our regulatory agencies’ failure to adequately insure the safety of Texan’s drinking water:

Natural gas drilling (or fracking) near homes in Parker County west of Fort Worth has caused or contributed to the contamination of at least two residential drinking water wells, and the EPA  has confirmed that extremely high levels of methane in local water supplies pose an “imminent and substantial risk of explosion or fire.” The agency also found other contaminants including benzene, which can cause cancer, in the drinking water.

The EPA has issued an imminent and substantial endangerment order under Section 1431 of the Safe Drinking Water Act and has ordered the company to step in immediately to stop the contamination, provide drinking water and provide methane gas monitors to the homeowners.  EPA has given the company 24 hours to assure them that it will comply with the order and 48 hours to provide alternative water supplies to affected residents.

To see the EPA’s letter to the company, click here.


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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The Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant.

Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant -by Wikipedia

In an article by the New York Times that focuses on Vermont‘s concerns about losing space to waste from generators in other states, Matthew Wald writes:

Waste disposal is so difficult, says the company, Waste Control Services, that power plants and other generating sources have reduced their volumes sharply. And Vermont and Texas together produce so little that, the company adds, it would have to charge huge amounts per cubic foot and per unit of radioactivity to get its investment back.

Yet, the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition’s research shows the Waste Control Specialists site is currently licensed for 2.3 million cubic feet of water and 3.89 million curies. Texas’ existing four reactors and Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor would require 6 million cubic feet of capacity.

Tom “Smitty” Smith, the director of the Texas office of Public Citizen tells the New York Times that he believes, “They’re trying to get it done before the new governor takes office.”

To read the New York Times article, click here.

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