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Lobby day group photo 2

Citizen lobbyists working to defend local control on March 2 at the Texas Capitol. Photo courtesy of Candice Bernd, www.truth-out.org.

In an effort to defend local control, known as home rule, a group of North Texan activists traveled to Austin on Monday to lobby lawmakers at the Texas Capitol. Earthworks hosted the event, providing the transportation, education and guidance for the participants as they made plans to speak face to face with elected officials. They were joined by allies from Frack Free Denton, Public Citizen, Clean Water Action, and Environment Texas.

Defend local controlThe citizen lobbyists focused on speaking to legislators belonging to the House Energy Resource committee, House Environmental Regulation committee and the representatives and senators from their districts about defending the home rule rights of municipalities.

Texas has traditionally been a strong home rule state that allows local governments to pass laws to go beyond state laws. Some of the home rule issues included: fracking bans, bag bans, and tree preservation ordinances. Citizens are particularly concerned about several bills that would work to limit home rule:

House Bill 540: (Phil King) This bill would require cities to get approval from the attorney general’s office before putting a citizen’s initiative up for a vote.

House Bill 539: (Phil King) This bill would essentially require cities to pay the state for lost revenues resulting from local oil and gas regulations.

House Bill 1556: (Miller) This bill would limit certain regulations in a county, municipality, or other political subdivision

Senate Bill 440: (Konni Burton) This bill would prohibit cities or counties from banning hydraulic fracturing.

Senate Bill 720: (Konni Burton) This bill would prohibit Extraterritorial jurisdictions (ETJs) from banning hydraulic fracturing.

Senate Bill 343: (Don Huffines) This bill would effectively eliminate home rule for Texas cities by requiring local laws to conform to state laws.

Senate Bill 360: (Estes) This bill would significantly lower the bar for what is considered a regulatory taking, remove the ability of local governments to regulate development to ensure health and safety in a variety of ways, and expand the timeframe for bringing suit when regulations are adopted. Among other impacts it would limit the ability of local government to adopt local drilling ordinances.

Senate Bill 710: (Burton) This bill would establish the parameters of a municipal government designated as a Liberty City (a new form of a general-law municipality)

Lobby day group photo 1

Texans gathered to defend local control on March 2. Photo courtesy of Candice Bernd, www.truth-out.org.

Thus far, there have been many bills filled this session that could take away a city’s right to pass rules to protect the public. As a result, it is important for constituents to make their elected officials know what their concerns are when it comes to local control and how the citizens’ efforts can be better represented in the legislature.

If you are interested in learning more about local control issues, you can visit Local Control Texas for more information.

texas tribune symposium on waterOn Tuesday, March 10, the Texas Tribune will host a one-day symposium on water in partnership with Texas State University.

 

 

 

Panel topics will include:

  • Life After Proposition 6
  • The Battle Over Groundwater
  • How Much More Can We Conserve?
  • Why Water Along the Border is Undrinkable

And at lunchtime, Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith will sit down with Brian McCall, chancellor of the Texas State University System, for a special conversation.

Register Now

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
8 a.m. – 2:45 p.m.

See the full program for panel details.

Texas State University
J.C. Kellam Administration Building
Reed Parr Room (11th Floor)
601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666

This event is free and open to the public, but please register at trib.it/WaterSymposiumInvite so they can save you a seat. Hourly paid parking will be available in the Edward Gary Street Garage.

Can’t make it in person? Tune in to the livestream, and join the dialogue on Twitter with #TTEvents.

Have colleagues or friends who are interested in water issues? Please forward this invitation to them! All are welcome.

This event is generously sponsored by Texas State University, Texas A&M University, the Meadows Center for Water and Environment, SouthWest Water Company, the Texas Farm Bureau and the Meadows Foundation. Tribune events are also supported through contributions from their founding investors and members.

Disclosure: Though donors and corporate sponsors underwrite their events, they play no role in determining the content, panelists or line of questioning.

NEJAC Public Teleconference Meeting, March 19

Date: Thursday, March 19, 2015
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Public comment: From 3:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time

The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) will host a public teleconference meeting. The primary topics of discussion will be:

  • Chemical Safety Policy
  • Farmworker Protection Standards
  • Definition of Solid Waste Rule
  • Refinery Rule
  • Clean Power Rule
  • Title VI

Registration

Pre-registration is required. You can pre-register at http://nejac-teleconference-march2015.eventbrite.com.

  • Registration closes at Noon, Eastern Time on Monday, March 16, 2015
  • Deadline for public comment period sign-up, is also Noon, Eastern Time on Monday, March 16, 2015

When registering:

  • Please provide your name, organization, city and state, email address, and telephone number for follow up
  • Please also state whether you would like to be put on the list to provide public comment, and whether you are submitting written comments before the Monday, March 16, 2015, noon deadline
  • Non-English speaking attendees wishing to arrange for a foreign language interpreter may also make appropriate arrangements using the email address or telephone/fax number listed below.

Public Comment

  • Members of the public who wish to provide public comment must pre-register by Noon, Eastern Time on Monday, March 16, 2015
  • Individuals or groups making remarks during the public comment period will be limited to seven (7) minutes
  • To accommodate the number of people who wish to address the NEJAC, only one representative of a particular community, organization, or group will be allowed to speak
  • The suggested format for individuals providing public comments is as follows: name of speaker; name of organization/community; city and state; and email address; brief description of the concern, and what you want the NEJAC to advise EPA to do

Written comments can also be submitted for the record:

For Further Information

Questions or correspondence concerning the teleconference meeting should be directed to Jasmin Muriel by email at [email protected] or telephone at 202-564-4287. Information about the NEJAC is available at: http://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice/nejac.

Climate Skeptic Industry Shill, Wei-Hock 'Willie' Soon

Climate change skeptic, Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, revealed as an industry shill.

A climate change denying scientist working for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has been accused of taking money from the fossil fuel industry and subsequently publishing research without disclosing his funding sources and potential conflicts of interest. According to documents obtained by Greenpeace through the Freedom of Information Act, Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon received $1.25 million from the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and Southern Company.

Around the issue of climate change, there is a 97% consensus amongst climate scientists and the research literature that humans are responsible for global warming, mainly through the emission of greenhouse gasses. Soon’s “research” leads him to claim that climate change is caused by the sun [An idea that U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change dismissed in its 2013 report]. Being a climate skeptic, Soon has become very popular in certain political circles. He was praised by Senator James Inhofe, the Republican from Oklahoma who called climate change a hoax. Soon was also called by Republicans in the Kansas state legislature to testify against measures to promote wind and solar power. The Heartland Institute even gave him the “Courage in Defense of Science Award” for his work.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics released a statement saying that Soon is “a part-time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,” and they are “greatly concerned about the allegations surrounding Dr. Willie Soon’s failure to disclose funding sources for his climate change research.” The institute also added: “Scientific evidence has demonstrated that the global climate is warming as a result of increasing levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases generated by human activities.”

Of the 58 “experts” listed by the Heartland Institute as heroic deniers of climate change, The Daily Beast found that only three out of the 58 have credentials in climatology or atmospheric science. One of these three certified scientists, Patrick Michaels, has already admitted that 40 percent of his funding is from the fossil fuel lobby. Over time, we can expect that more climate change skeptics and “truthers” will be exposed as paid mouthpieces for fossil fuels.

Rail Transport of Oil and AccidentsIf the fatal, Lac-Megantic oil train derailment in Quebec in 2013 did not raise concern for Americans, especially those in towns with railroad lines, the derailment in West Virginia certainly has. Carrying about 3.2 million gallons of crude oil, the CSX train that went off the tracks sent fireballs 300 feet into the air and spilled crudes into the river.

Like many trains nowadays, the CSX train was carrying Bakken oil, a particularly flammable type of crude. Yet the high-risk nature of Bakken oil has not stopped its transportation across the United States.

“With crude oil and gas traveling through towns in our state with ever-increasing frequency, safety must be paramount. Accidents involving toxic chemicals can have serious health and safety implications,” U.S. Sen. Cory Booker told NJ news. Booker is a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. “We were fortunate that there were no fatalities in either of these accidents, but next time we might not be so lucky.”

Public concern also stems from the growing number collisions. In 2013 alone, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, reported 166 oil train accidents. In response to the rise of oil train accidents, manufacturers have increased the production of crude oil to mitigate the oil loss. The National Transportation Safety Board stated that the transportation of crude oil by rail has increased by 400% within the past decade.

The combination of the increase in oil train accidents and crude oil production results in an overall escalation of pollution, water contamination, and safety hazards. Crude oil trains are especially dangerous because shipments come in 100 or more cars, increasing the possibility of accidents. The CSX train in Virginia itself had 109 cars, and the company is still unsure about the extent of the oil spill and the number of cars derailed.

Due to recent events, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has received pressure to expedite new safety rules. In response, the DOT proposes new initiatives for a new standard for cars, safer protocols, and new operational standards.

A projection from a previously unreported analysis by the Department of Transportation (USDOT) that reviewed the risks of moving vast quantities of both fuels across the nation and through major cities predicts that trains hauling crude oil or ethanol will derail an average of 10 times a year over the next two decades, causing more than $4 billion in damage and possibly killing hundreds of people if an accident happens in a densely populated part of the U.S.  Specifically the USDOT analysis projects:

  • Based on past accident trends, anticipated shipping volumes and known ethanol and crude rail routes, the analysis predicted about 15 derailments in 2015, declining to about five a year by 2034.
  • The 207 total derailments over the two-decade period would cause $4.5 billion in damage, according to the analysis, which predicts 10 “higher consequence events” causing more extensive damage and potential fatalities.
  • If just one of those more severe accidents occurred in a high-population area, it could kill more than 200 people and cause roughly $6 billion in damage.

The derailments have evidently stood as a warning sign for the United States to enhance the safety of transporting hazardous crude oil by rail. However, the newly proposed regulations may take months to be implemented, so it is important for the public to not lose its momentum for the campaign for safer crude oil shipment transportation.

Solar Worker (small) - photo from Solar Foundation

Solar Foundation, National Solar Jobs Census 2014

Solar industry jobs are expanding rapidly in Texas, despite a lack of supportive statewide policies. The Solar Foundation’s recently released Texas Solar Jobs Census 2014 shows that, solar jobs grew by more than 68% in Texas last year with over 2,800 new jobs created. That’s 3 times faster than solar job growth nationally, which is still impressive at almost 22% from 2013 to 2014. In contrast, overall job growth in the Texas economy was 2.8% from 2013 to 2014 – solar jobs grew 24 times faster.

Nearly 7,000 Texans are now employed in the solar industry, putting the state in 6th place nationally for total solar jobs. Solar job creation is benefiting people of all different backgrounds, in a wide range of professions, including solar panel installation, electrical, roofing, managing, sales, project development, solar factory workers, finance, investment, insurance, consulting, human resources, administrative, engineers, research, marketing, media relations and communication.

Workers earn an average of $20-24/hr in the fast growing solar installation sector. Solar designers and sales people and other professionals earn more.. Although women and African Americans are still under represented in solar jobs, hiring has increased among Latinos, Asians, African Americans, women and veterans. Solar jobs are generally skilled jobs that pay living wages.

The solar industry will play a big role in growing and strengthening our economy in the years ahead. Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy:

Texas’s abundant land, ample sunshine, and extensive transmission network make the state one of the top solar industry growth markets in the U.S. In addition, years of decreasing costs and growing scale are now enabling solar power to successfully compete against conventional energy to meet the growing demand in ERCOT.

Despite the rapid increase in solar jobs, solar isn’t getting a lot of love in the Texas Legislature. Representative Stanford actually filed a bill that would entirely do away with Texas’ renewable portfolio standard. At a time when Texas oil and gas companies are laying off workers, shouldn’t state officials be commending industries that are adding good jobs at such a rapid rate, not trying to slow their progress?

There are a couple rays of sunshine in the Texas House. Representative Farrar (D- Harris) has filed one solar-friendly bill – HB 706 – which would change the exemption application by a property owner of solar or wind powered energy to a one time application. Current law requires an annual application for an exemption, even though the exemption can be taken for the lifetime of the solar installation. HB 706 would reduce paperwork and administrative expenses.

Representative Dawnna Dukes (D-Austin) is working with consumer advocates, developers, property owner associations, and the solar industry to develop legislation that will more fully protect property owners’ rights to install solar on their properties. Currently, builders can prohibit homeowners from installing solar for years while the rest of a development is built and sold. After that, property owner associations aren’t supposed to deny solar installations, but the law contains a loophole that some property owner associations exploit.

Texas lawmakers should focus on finding ways to building on the existing momentum in the solar industry by solar options for individuals and businesses and not placing any extra barriers for utility scale solar to participate in the market.

China's worsening air pollution has exacted a significant economic toll, grounding flights, closing highways and keeping tourists at home. Photograph from STR/AFP/Getty Images

China’s worsening air pollution has exacted a significant economic toll, grounding flights, closing highways and keeping tourists at home. Photograph from STR/AFP/Getty Images

Back in November 2014, America and China joined hands to fight global climate change, including a plan to decrease China’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Although there has been a lot of doubt about their plan, China has shown results. According to the China Coal Industry Association, China’s coal production decreased by 2.5% last year, marking the first reduction that the country has seen in years.

As the world’s primary emitter of greenhouse gases, the Republic of China’s decision to create new environmental policies allows China to be a global example in leading the way to reduce CO2 emissions. The global negotiations are also receiving praise because of their economic benefits. The solar power market has seen increases since November, further strengthening industrial market growth and enhancing public health.

However, a recent measure of Beijing’s Air Quality Index brings concerns about the toxic air the Chinese are breathing. Despite the country’s efforts to fight pollution, the consequences of being the world’s number one consumer of coal has caused Beijing to experience another airpocalypse just a few weeks ago. The city reached smog-levels that were, literally, off the charts.

A recent Greenpeace study stated that most cities in China are “failing to meet China’s own national standards”, regardless of the country’s initiatives to combat pollution. Additionally, a Peking University and Greenpeace study shows that more than 200 thousand Chinese could die from pollution-related diseases if there is no further caution taken by the Chinese government. The recent “airpocalypse” further raised the concerns of the Chinese government, who are more driven to push the country to continue its initiatives to combat climate change.

The city’s Air Quality Index of over 600 and new Greenpeace studies should stand to be an example to the rest of the world. The high levels of coal consumption, power plants, and fracking that China has experienced in less than a decade has proved to be dangerous. Although the country is taking action now, the effects evidently will linger for a long time. As the United States continues its high consumption of coal, building of power plants, and fracking, it is important to look at China as an example and as a reminder that we need to start taking action before it is too late.

Energy Star LoveNow, for the first time, you can purchase an ENERGY STAR certified clothes dryer. Clothes washers have seen a 70 percent drop in energy use since 1990, but until now, dryers have largely remained inefficient. Dryers that have earned the ENERGY STAR use 20% less energy and deliver $245 in lifetime savings.  So look for the energy star logo next time you purchase a new dryer.

Click here to go to EPA’s energy star page on clothes dryers.

 

2014-11-02 Plastic Bags in Tres - Public Domain ImagesOn January 8th, Governor Abbott announced his intention to rollback regulations that ban fracking for oil and gas, ban the use of plastic shopping bags, and limit which trees property owners can cut down on their land. Unfortunately, although many Texas cities have local control laws in place, Abbott appears to have the support of much of the Texas Legislature in this effort to restrict home rule. With the opening of the Legislative session last month, we have seen the opposition to local control begin to mount.

Representative Phil King, (R- Weatherford) has introduced two bills that, if passed, would restrict cities from adopting municipal ordinances. Specifically, HB 540 would give the Attorney General the right to review local petitions before they are placed on the ballot. In other words, Attorney General Ken Paxton would decide whether local petitions or referendums in cities across Texas would break federal or state laws. Cities would not be able to place items on the ballot if the Attorney General found them to violate any of these laws. King’s second bill HB 539, relates specifically to the banning of oil and gas activities, and would require cities to pay the state back for any lost in revenue due to the passage of a city ordinance. If passed, both HB 540 and HB 539 would make it very difficult for cities to ban practices such as fracking in their own backyards

On the Senate side, Senator Konni Burton (R – Tarrant) introduced SB 440 that would restrict a county or municipality from prohibiting hydraulic fracturing treatment of oil and gas wells. Even worse, Senator Don Huffines (R – Dallas) introduced SB 343, that expressly bans local governments from implementing an ordinance, rule or regulation that conflicts with an existing state statute. In other words this bill would effectively end local control and have far reaching consequences way beyond environmental ordinances.

Governor Abbott and his Texas oil and gas industry backers argue that allowing local control over fracking risks creating a patchwork of regulations in different cities instead of a comprehensive solution to solve an issue that is paramount in our state.

Conversely, towns advocating for local control to solve environmental problems say they, not the state, should be able to decide the terms of matters that affect the health and well-being of their residents. And they are well within their rights to do so. Texas is a state with a long standing proud tradition of home rule and when our state agencies don’t do the best job of protecting Texans and taking responsibility for the clean- up cost of industrial operations, local governments should have the power enact home rule.

One of the targets for the attack on local control is the ban on plastic bags currently in place in ten Texas cities including Austin and Dallas; an ordinance Governor Abbott calls overregulation. However, these bans reflect the fact that the majority of residents in these ten cities simply want to make an effort clean up their cities and it’s cheaper to stop using so many single-use plastic bags than to pay people to pick them up. If people don’t want to see bags in their trees, they should be able to take action.

The Legislature this session wants to crack down on municipal ordinances passed by local governments around the state. However, these are ordinances that have been deemed necessary by the cities and have the support of the majority of their residents. As the attacks mount in the Legislature, it will be important for local leaders and citizens to show their support for local control or else risk that right being taken away.

ozone-moleculeThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to reclassify the Dallas-Fort Worth area (DFW) as being in severe nonattainment of the original 8-hour ozone standard of 84 parts per billion. The proposal will be published for public comment in the Federal Register in seven to 10 days. Upon publication, a 30-day public comment period will begin.

EPA has been coordinating closely with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), North Central Texas Council of Governments, elected officials and statewide environmental organizations in preparation for today’s proposed action. While DFW’s air quality has steadily improved as its population grows, the area missed a June 2013 deadline to attain the 1997 ozone standard. Because the area did not meet the deadline of June 15, 2013, to attain the 1997 standard, the Clean Air Act requires EPA to reclassify DFW as a severe nonattainment area.

TCEQ has developed a clean air plan for the revised 2008 ozone standard and is expected to submit that plan to EPA for review by July 2015. A copy of the proposed plan is publicly available – click here to access it .

DFW air quality has significantly improved over the last decade. Ten years ago, the 8-hour average was 98 parts per billion (ppb); the preliminary value for 2010-2014 is 81 ppb. During that time, DFW has also been among the fastest-growing regions in the country. The area’s achievement came through a combination of federal measures to clean up fuels and reduce emissions from engines, state measures to reduce emissions from stationary sources, and efforts of the public during ozone season—including using public transport, refueling in the evenings, and properly maintaining their vehicles.

Ground-level ozone is created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. In DFW, mobile sources such as cars and trucks are the biggest emitters of ozone “ingredients.” Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, the elderly, and people of all ages who have lung diseases such as asthma. Ground-level ozone contributes to the formation of smog, and can harm sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

Click here to read more about ground-level ozone and its adverse health effects:

Obama Reject Keystone XLThe Keystone XL pipeline would result in the release of 1.3 billion tons of climate destabilizing pollution over its expected lifespan — and that’s even before the oil gets burned overseas.

This information presented in the State Department’s final review of Keystone contributes to the overwhelming evidence against approving the tar sands pipeline.

In fact, President Obama has more than enough information to determine that the Keystone pipeline is not in our national interest.

Tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.

1.3 billion tons of carbon emissions.

That’s the equivalent of putting another 120,000 cars on our roads — every year, for 50 years.

We simply cannot afford to spew that much more climate-disrupting pollution into our atmosphere.

Any day, the president could make a decision on whether to allow this disastrous project to go forward.

That’s why we must keep the pressure on: Sign our petition to President Obama urging him to declare that the Keystone XL pipeline is not in our national interest.

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

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.

Our colleague Hillary Corgey had to work hard to become the person she wanted to be. She was smart and wanted to make a difference and she set out to make herself into policy expert.

Hillary earned her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Government from the University of Houston in 2010. During college, she worked at the Houston SPCA, volunteered for Armando Walle’s campaign and then served as an intern in his Houston office. She then went on to earn a Master of Arts degree, also in Political Science and Government from Texas State University in San Marcos in 2012.

Hillary speaking about the health impact of ground-level ozone at the EPA Haze Rule Hearings in Austin on January 13, 2015. Photo by Matt Johnson.

Hillary speaking about the health impact of ground-level ozone at the EPA Haze Rule Hearings in Austin on January 13, 2015. Photo by Matt Johnson.

Hillary started as an intern in Public Citizen’s Texas office in the summer of 2012 and quickly proved herself to be an asset to our team. She stayed on as a contract worker and then as a full time member of the staff.

Hillary’s experience growing up with asthma and struggling to breathe the polluted Houston air made the work personal to her. She gradually became more confident and took on public speaking and working with coalition partners, in addition to research. Research was where she excelled most though. She was able to dig up more interesting and useful facts in a shorter time than anyone else in the office.

Hillary’s dedication to her job and to improving conditions for those on the front lines of environmental injustice made her a good co-worker.

Hillary was also an interesting person to be around. She had unique ideas and very definite opinions about many things. She was a true independent. Hillary could be funny, but she had a very dry sense of humor, so you might have missed it if you weren’t expecting a joke. Her personal interests included heavy metal music, fantasy role-playing games, zombies and comics, and chicken – especially fried chicken. And Hillary liked guns; she was even a member of the NRA.

Hillary Corgey in front of Texas FlagHillary was loyal to those who made it into her inner circle and kind to people in general. She especially loved her grandparents, and took her grandmother’s death hard last year. She made her way through that hard time though, and emerged from it more able to forgive. She seemed to more often be thinking of the needs of those whom she was close with than her own needs.

Hillary died at the much too young age of 27 and will be sorely missed by her friends, family and colleagues.

A memorial in Hillary’s honor will be held at 1 P.M. at the Rothko Chapel at 1409 Sul Ross St in Houston on Thursday, February 5th.

The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, a donation be made in Hillary’s name to Public Citizen. A check may be mailed to Public Citizen Foundation at 1600 20th Street NW, Washington, DC 20009 or you can donate via the link on the Houston Chronicle obituary by clicking here.

If you wish to send condolences to the family, please fill in the form below:

Dallas sitting in smogThe Environmental Protection Agency is holding a public hearing in Arlington today on the proposed update on ground-level ozone regulation. It is important for EPA to hear from every person, since the proposed updates will affect everyone, especially children, the elderly, and those affected by asthma.

While environmentalists and public health activists alike are hopeful for the Clean Air Act, there has been heavy criticism on the high prices needed for the new regulation and a fear that the restrictions will cost Americans their jobs.

However, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy promises that the Clean Air Act’s benefits outweigh its costs. Furthermore, scientific findings prove that the Clean Air Act will all around counteract health and environmental hazards. According to the American Lung Association, the effect of ground-level ozone is similar to having sunburns on the lungs. Smog could lead to lung diseases, asthma attacks, interference with reproduction and development, and overall, increased hospitalizations and premature deaths.

“Special-interest critics will try to convince you that pollution standards chase away local jobs and businesses”, McCarthy says, “but, in fact, healthy communities attract new businesses, new investment, and new jobs.”

The Clean Air Act will help decrease financial issues caused by health ones, such as missed work days and medical costs, proving that the Act’s expenses will be overshadowed by its numerous benefits.

Those that live in Dallas and Arlington have had to breathe hazardous air, leading to a plethora of groups at risk including a number of 670,217 children under 18 and 224,990 adults 65 and over. EPA will thus be holding a public hearing today in Arlington, which has earned an “F” in ozone pollution according to American Lung Association.

Back in 2009, the ozone was a part per billion lower than it is today. The Clean Air Act can prevent the running average for ozone from increasing from strengthening the ozone pollution limit. So help protect the public health of not only the 2,453,843 people at risk in the Dallas area, but also the public health of children, the elderly, and adults all around the world. Help by attending the EPA hearing today at:

Arlington City Hall 
101 W. Abram Street
Arlington, Texas, 76010

Tom “Smitty” Smith (left), Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office testifies at EPA hearing in Arlington, Jan 25, 2015.

Ozone pollution, known as smog, harms our communities, because when we breathe smog, we get more asthma attacks, more heart failure, more chronic bronchitis, more respiratory infections, more hospital visits, and more missed school days.

There’s good news, though. The U.S. EPA recently proposed national standards for smog that would help protect public health. We have a chance to show support for this health protective standard by attending and speaking at an upcoming public hearing on the smog standard in Arlington, Texas.

Will you consider joining us to speak up about why clean air matters to you?

Who: Texas moms, dads, families, aunts, uncles, grandparents, children and supporters.

What: Speak briefly (5 minutes or less) to EPA staff members about why clean air matters to you. We will support you every step of the way to let you know exactly what to expect, and to help you prepare for the day.

Where: Arlington, Texas
Arlington City Hall
101 W. Abram Street
Arlington, Texas, 76010

When: Jan. 29: Arlington, Texas. Each hearing will begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 7:30 p.m. local time . If you decide to join us, you will be assigned a specific time of your choice to come speak and could leave directly after you deliver your comments.

Why: EPA needs to hear from families, not just polluters, about the importance of protecting our children’s lungs. Your voice matters. Your comments will be entered into the official docket for the smog standard, and will be taken into consideration as EPA finalizes the standard.

If you’d like to get more involved in helping make sure Texans can breathe easier, please fill in the form below:
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