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UPDATE: Happening now in Houston, until 8pm CT.  Go on Facebook to TEJAS’s page to watch.

https://www.facebook.com/TejasBarrios/videos/

Date:           Thursday, 11/17/2016
Location:  Hartman Community Center, 9311 East Ave. P. Houston, TX 77012
Time:          2:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

Join HPCC public health advocates at an EPA hearing about toxic air pollution from petroleum refineries!

(En español, mira aquí: http://airalliancehouston.org/wp-content/uploads/Spanish-EPA-Hearing-Flier.pdf)

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing on the reconsideration of the Refinery Sector Rule for which EPA did not provide adequate opportunity for notice and comment. This rulemaking is the result of a lawsuit filed by Air Alliance Houston, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Community In-Power and Development Association, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, who are collectively represented by Earthjustice.

This is is our only chance to tell EPA we are concerned about pollution from oil refineries and its impact on our health. This is the only public hearing EPA will hold anywhere in the country, and public comment will be taken for six hours, from 2-8 pm. We’d like EPA to hear from us and our allies in refinery communities throughout the entire hearing, so please sign up to speak today.

Join us in telling EPA:

  • Our health suffers from pollution from oil refineries.
  • Our children are particularly at risk from the health effects of air pollution.
  • Air pollution affects our lives where we live, work, and play.

Together we can demand a stronger rule to protect communities from air pollution. The refining industry must cut pollution by:

  • Reducing emissions from flares and pressure relief devices.
  • Eliminate pollution exemptions for malfunction and force majeure events.
  • Require fenceline monitoring at all times.

Air Alliance Houston will have fact sheets and talking points available at the hearing.
If you would like to present oral testimony at the hearing, please complete this form or notify Ms. Virginia Hunt no later than November 15, 2016, by email: hunt.virginia@epa.gov (preferred); or by telephone: (919) 541-0832.
Space will also be available that day if time slots are not all filled, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Basic background on key issues from EPA:
https://www.epa.gov/stationary-sources-air-pollution/petroleum-refinery-sector-reconsideration-october-2016
Sign the Earthjustice petition: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2016/community-and-environmental-groups-sue-the-epa-and-call-on-the-agency-to-remove-free-pass-to-pollute-from

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IMG_1653Around 10:10 AM on Sunday July 17th, a pipeline leaked propylene in the community of Baytown, TX, near the ExxonMobil Baytown refinery. Propylene is a dense, colorless gas that is considered non-toxic but flammable. The pipeline leak highlights some of the challenges associated with emergency response along within the Houston region.

At 10:30 AM, according to the Houston Chronicle, three houses were evacuated and all others within the vicinity of the leak were told to shelter in place. The emergency response was mixed. Residents who signed up for city notifications through Baytown Alert were apparently notified by phone and by email around 10:30 AM about the order to shelter-in-place. Yet some confusion remained – who exactly did the shelter-in-place include? What had happened, and what kind of chemical was released – something flammable or something toxic? Should residents downwind be concerned?

The CAER line, which is supported by the East Harris County Manufacturers Association, provides a hotline for Harris County residents to call to obtain more information regarding emergency situations. During the incident on Sunday, several people known to us called CAER to hear the messages it posted regarding the situation. It is unclear how quickly the first message regarding the incident was posted to CAER; a Baytown resident stated that it took about an hour following the incident before CAER posted a message. On Sunday at 1:05 PM, there were no current messages, even though the shelter-in-place had not yet been lifted. At 2:30 PM, CAER’s message stated that a propylene leaked resulted in the shelter-in-place warning. The City of Baytown reported via twitter that the shelter-in-place had been lifted at 2:38 PM. At 3:30 PM, CAER’s message line mentioned the leak without any mention of a shelter-in-place. Around 4:20 PM there were no current messages on the CAER line.

Although the City of Baytown notified residents of the shelter-in-place, the residents we spoke with never received the all clear and were not informed when the shelter-in-place had been lifted either via siren or via email and phone. In fact, it is unclear if sirens were used to communicate the shelter-in-place, which is an important way to inform people who may be visiting the area or who may not have access to other technology. Many questions remain unanswered and the Healthy Ports Community Coalition (HPCC) is actively researching to fully understand the emergency response.

The HPCC is also proposing a system like an amber alert system to make use of our modern technology so that residents can be informed immediately when emergency evacuations or a shelter-in-place is called for, notified when it is all clear to return to normal, and they can be instructed specifically on what steps to take to keep themselves and their families safe and healthy. In this case, Baytown residents were lucky that the chemical leaked was not deemed toxic and that no one suffered any known health impacts from the leak. HPCC is working to keep residents safe and informed for when the next incident happens.

hpcc

 

The Healthy Port Communities Coalition is growing a strong base of well-informed and active local residents who engage public and private stakeholders directly on priority issues including jobs, pollution, health, neighborhood safety, and economic opportunities.

 

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HPCC-Dee-Blast-Zone-768x1024

Dee Arellano (t.e.j.a.s.) shows the oil train blast zone for East Houston.

The news of the fiery explosion of two trains in Panhandle, Texas broke as organizers in Houston were discussing how to reduce the high risks of accidents involving toxic trains in Houston. That day, June 28th, two trains collided, resulting in a fiery explosion, the presumed death of three workers and the hospitalization of another. The trains in Panhandle, TX, were fortunately not carrying crude. However, the collision and explosion reminded us of the importance of standing up for safety in rail transport during the Stop Oil Trains Week of Action, July 6th – 12th.

The Healthy Port Communities Coalition (HPCC) kicked off the week of action on July 6th with a press conference and a community meeting to discuss the risks that we Houstonians face as a result of rail traffic within our communities. This was especially poignant as less than a week earlier, on June 28th, two trains collided near Panhandle, TX, leaving 1 employee injured and 3 employees presumed dead. Fiery and fatal incidents over the past few years have increased concerns around rail, public safety, and chemical security, and we shared our concerns with media (“Exigen a autoridades frenar la contaminación por el transporte de combustible” and “Crude-by-Rail Plummeting In Texas But Critics Insist Risk Of Accidents Remains“) and with community members. From our discussion, community members wanted to find out more information about exactly what kind of chemicals are transported through their neighborhoods to better understand the risks. The HPCC is taking a stand against oil trains because we are concerned with hazardous, flammable materials coming into the Houston area. Toxic trains put Houstonians at risk through the possibility of explosion and by polluting the air with cancer-causing diesel and other toxic gases, through collisions, and by trapping folks behind stalled trains. One person reported being trapped behind a train for 90 minutes! (more…)

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wind_turbine_aalborgProbably not overall, but the City of Houston has made a historic commitment – to buy half its power from renewable sources.

Houston was built around the oil and gas industries and has long suffered the consequences of being home to many of the nation’s most polluting refining and chemical manufacturing facilities.  Purchasing clean energy for the City’s facilities won’t change all that, but it does represent a significant change in mindset.

In the absence of federal legislation to address the increasingly pressing problem of climate change, local action has become essential.  At the very least, the energy used in public buildings – that taxpayers pay for – should be clean energy.  Houston is taking a huge step in that direction.

Wind energy is already one of the cheaper energy sources in Texas and solar energy is becoming competitive, especially as prices increase with higher energy demand.  These trends will be helped by large-scale investments like the one Houston is making.

Moving away from energy from coal-fired power plants will also help keep jobs growing in Texas.  Luckily, this isn’t an issue of jobs vs. the environment.  It’s an easy choice of supporting both.  Kudos to Houston to for recognizing an opportunity to take a leadership role.

Talk to your local elected officials about using clean energy to power your public buildings.

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Hundreds of residents living near the Port of Houston attended a Town Hall meeting Thursday evening at Holland Middle School to learn about the changes coming to their communities with the expansion of the Port.

Residents filled the Holland Middle School auditorium to hear the preliminary results of neighborhood surveys and to share their concerns with local officials.

Residents filled the Holland Middle School auditorium to hear the preliminary results of neighborhood surveys and to share their concerns with local officials.

“For far too long, the voices of community members living with the health and safety impacts of the Port of Houston have been ignored in the decision making about the Port’s economic growth, routing of hazardous and heavy truck traffic, strategic positioning of pollution control devices, and disposal of hazardous wastes. The Healthy Port Communities Coalition was created in response to this void.” said Hillary Corgey, originally from the Houston area and representing Public Citizen at the meeting, “We seek to provide information and to give a voice to portside communities that have historically been left out of this decision making process as they organize to make their communities safer and healthier for all who live there.”

Preliminary results of Port Side Community Survey Released
The Coalition is currently conducting surveys in port-side communities to determine the full extent of port impacts on residents of these communities and to raise awareness about their causes. The preliminary results of this ongoing survey were discussed at the town hall.  Some notable early results include:

  • Port side community residents concerned about pollution from industries and port operations along the ship channel.
  • 61% concerned about ships and cargo equipment pollution.
  • 67% concerned about train and rail yard pollution.
  • 86% concerned about refinery and chemical plant pollution.
  • 82% concerned about 18 wheeler/truck pollution.
    • 89% concerned about local pollutions’ effects on their health and 54% of respondents do not have health insurance.
    • Cancer rates in these communities are more than 8 times the Texas average.
    • Children have twice the rate of asthma in these communities than other Texans.

The only good news, if you can call it that, while 54% of the respondents do not have health insurance, nearly 80% reported they have had a routine exam in the last two years.  What we don’t know is if this is high because of higher rates of disease.  Residents may have characterized more frequent trips to the doctor, the emergency room, or another clinic as “a routine” exam.

  • The survey also identified the need for job opportunities and job training.
  • 42% of households have an unemployed resident.
  • 81% said there is a need for job training.
  • 69% said there is not sufficient work in their area.

During the town hall, Patricia Gonzales, a mother of three from Pasadena and member of the Texas Organizing Project, spoke up saying, “All of my children have asthma, and after moving to Pasadena, I too have asthma.  We need to know what impact these changes will have on our health.”

“The Coalition is here to help port-side community residents speak with a unified voice on issues that affect their health and well-being,” said Adrian Shelley, Executive Director of Coalition member Air Alliance Houston. “These communities have borne the burden of Houston’s intense industrial development.”

Also attending the Town Hall meeting to listen to and address residents’ concerns were Bob Allen, the Director of Harris County Pollution Control Services Department, Marcus Woodring, Managing Director of Health Safety Security and Environment at the Port of Houston, Jerry Peruchini, chief of staff of Houston City Councilman Ed Gonzales, Edna Campos with Councilmember Melissa Noriega’s office, Rhonda Sauter of the Mayor’s Citizens Assistance Office, State Representative Mary Ann Perez, Linda Jamail with State Representative Ana Hernandez-Luna’s office, Marisol Rodriguez from Senator Sylvia Garcia’s office, and Myriam Saldivar from State Representative Armando Walle’s office.

“We recognize our constituents living near the port of Houston/ship channel area have to contend with issues not common to the rest of Houston and want to thank these residents for taking the time to make them known to us.  The survey will be helpful as we try to address the impacts of the port and its expansion on these communities; that’s why I’ve urged the Port Authority’s Chair to create a Community Advisory Board: said State Senator Sylvia R Garcia. “Such an advisory board would provide continuing communication and dialogue between the community and the Port’s leadership on this and other issues that impact all the Ship Channel area communities.”

The attendees were divided into groups to begin outlining the concerns of port community residents.

“We want to know what’s going on around us and how it will affect our everyday lives,” concluded Gonzales. “This town hall meeting is an opportunity for us to begin that conversation.”

“One of the recommendations posed to the residents living near the ports was to ask for community representation on the Port of Houston Authority Commission,” said Debbie Allen, a resident of Pleasantville and member of the Pleasantville Environmental Coalition. “While my neighbors in the community are concerned about local hiring for port jobs, job training for port jobs, environmental protection and access to healthcare, I believe representation on the Port Commission would give our communities a seat at the table so that we can begin addressing these issues.  One way this could be done is by putting this change into Representative Dennis Bonnen’s Port of Houston Authority Sunset Bill – HB 1642.”

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The Healthy Port Communities Coalition is an open-ended collaboration that names among its members: Air Alliance Houston, Pleasantville Environmental Coalition, Public Citizen, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services and the Texas Organizing Project.

Ryan Korsgard reports on Houston’s Channel 2

Concerns over Port of Houston cancer risks

Houston Univision45 coverage

Amenazada la salud de los residentes del puerto de Houston   

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In the 2011 ozone season, North Texas pushed ahead of Houston in the battle for the worst air quality in the state. Both metro areas have significant pollution problems, and both continue to exceed federal ozone limits.

Dallas-Fort Worth now has the distinction of beating the Bayou City as the former longtime state champ, and one that has been contending for years for the worst smog problem in the country.

The release of the 2011 ozone season stats has been met with little concern by those in positions of power.

The Texas leadership keeps telling Texans that the feds are out to get us with their onerous and unnecessary environmental rules and regulations. But as the ozone readings reveal, the state isn’t troubling itself with meeting even basic standards.

North Texas and Houston are still exceeding the now-outdated ozone limit of 85 parts per billion and are nowhere near complying with the new standard of 75 ppb.  We all pay for failing to meet this bar with public health consequences — more respiratory illnesses, hospital visits, lost work days and premature deaths.

Texas is under federal mandate to reduce ozone levels. The state is required to submit and to abide by plans to improve air quality — but too many deadlines have been missed, and too many plans have been little more than Band-Aids.

The story the numbers tell is, not enough has been done to bring North Texas into compliance. The metropolitan area needs a more aggressive clean-air plan, but it also needs state environmental officials to lead the way to reduce pollution from sources outside the cities’ purview – like coal-fired power plants – that blow into these urban areas making it even more difficult to meet air quality standards.

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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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Explositon site outside HoustonThere are reports of an explosion occuring about 11:45am at Enterprise Products in Mont Belvieu, Tx just east of Houston. 

So far, I’ve seen no reports about possible injuries or deaths, but the photos are daunting.

Explosion and fire at Houston chemical plantEnterprise owns a state of the art gasoline additive production facility that has been modified to produce isooctane, a motor gasoline octane enhancement additive used in reformulated motor gasoline blends to increase octane, and isobutylene.

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In a three part story, KHOU-TV reports on a four-month investigation into radioactive contaminants in the Houston area drinking water. Revelations that came to light shows hundreds of water providers around the Gulf Coast region are providing their customers with drinking water that contains radioactive contaminants that raise health risks, according to state lab results and public health scientists. The data, from thousands of state laboratory tests from water providers across Texas, provided by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), ranged from 2004 to the present.

Watch part one of this investigative report.
Radiation in Houston’s Tap Water

The radiation was first discovered as a part of required testing, under federal regulations, of all drinking water provided by community water systems in America. (more…)

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Come one, come all. The House Committee on Redistricting is taking public testimony at hearings around the state regarding redistricting that will help shape the districts for both the house and senate of the Texas legislature, Texas congressional districts, and districts for the election of judicial officers or of governing bodies or representatives of political subdivisions or state agencies as required by law, including state board of education districts for the next ten years..

The HOUSTON REDISTRICTING HEARING will be held on November 20, 2010 at 10:00 A.M. at University of Houston, Athletic/Alumni Center, O’Quinn Great Hall, 3100 Cullen Boulevard, Houston, TX, 77004.

For more information on redistricting, including links to video of earlier hearings in other communities around the state, see our earlier blog by clicking here

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Howdy folks.  We’re doing a press conference at 2pm with the League of Women Voters in Houston at the Moody Park Community Center (3725 Fulton, Houston, TX), one of the early voting locations with the most complaints of voter intimidation.  These activities must stop, and this highlights how Houston is ground zero for the creep of illegal, corporate money into our elections.  Here’s an early taste of our press statement we are making.  We hope to have some video available later this afternoon, possibly also video of other early voting activities.

I early voted on Friday at Buda City Hall, standing in a line that snaked around City Hall for 40 minutes.  Have you voted yet?  Get out!  Do it now!

Here’s our press release:

October 25, 2010

don't let voter intimidation sway the election

 

 

 

 

Last week as early voting for the Nov. 2 General Election got under way, there were complaints of poll watchers interfering with or intimidating voters and other potential election violations in Harris and Bexar Counties.  Our organizations–LWV-Texas, Public Citizen, and Common Cause–condemn any and all attempts to sway this election by controlling who gets to vote.

The right to vote is sacred. People have died for this right, both in our nation’s past and even in our recent history.   Registered citizens should never be turned away from being able to vote.  Our greatest patriots, such as Washington and Lincoln, waged war to insure that taxation without representation did not occur and to protect the notion of government for, of, and by the people. It was a Texan, Lyndon Baines Johnson, who pushed through Congress and then signed the Voting Rights Act which protects the rights of all citizens to register and to vote.

We want to encourage everyone, in Harris County, Bexar County, and across the state, to come out and vote, regardless of ideology, gender, race, income, whether your community is urban, suburban, or rural, and whether your preferred party is Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, Green, or Tea.  Do not let tales of intimidation frighten you away.  Instead, let these concerns be a call to action and a reminder of the importance of every citizen’s right to participate.
(more…)

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The Great Texas Clean-Up Festival is coming to Houston!

The Sierra Club and Texas Environmental Justice are rolling out the Great Texas Clean-Up Festival, from 4-10 at the Discovery Green in Houston, an event expected to kick off a larger campaign to clean up Texas. Public Citizen is a coalition partner and will be there! Check out our booth!

Headlining the event is Dallas native Ray Johnston with the Ray Johnston Band, a groovy, rock soul act with plenty of attitude. Rounding out the event are Los Pistoleros de Texas, bluesman Mrs. Glass, and country western singer songwriter Robert Ellis.

Expect keynote speaker State Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston to give a rip-roaring speech, flanked by the impassioned Ana Hernandez, three term representative from district 143 of Houston.

About a dozen Houston-based artists are expected to showcase, including Lizbeth Ortiz, who created this piece, “Nurturing Hands”.

There will be a Kids’ Corner [possibly spelled Kidz Korner, at presstime we weren’t sure] and plenty of political activism.

Check them out at www.cleanuptexasnow.org

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An eye opening story from KHOU earlier this week gave more insight into what’s the matter at TCEQ.  It’s worth your 5 minutes to watch the entire thing but here are the highlights:

Valero installed a pollution scrubber to create lower sulphur fuels in one of their Houston refineries.  The problem? According to TCEQ staff, the scrubbers actually create MORE local pollution, and to add insult to injury, the vast majority of the lower polluting fuel gets sold in California and New Jersey.

But Valero still wants a tax break specially designed for technology that lowers LOCAL pollution for installing this scrubber.  Because the tax cut would be retroactive, this would mean Houston area taxpayers would be on the hook to make up the deficit.  That means either a tax hike or layoffs for teachers, firefighters, and police. (more…)

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This Thursday, March 4 the Center for the Study of Environment and Society, in partnership with the Baker Institute Science and Technology Policy Program and the U.K. Science and Innovation Team, British Consulate-Houston cordially invite you to their upcoming discussion:

The Challenges of Communicating Climate Change

with

Tim Reeder, Regional Climate Change Programme Manager, U.K. Environment Agency

Mark Maslin, Director of the Environment Institute, University College of London

David Vaughan, Science Leader, British Antarctic Survey

Moderated by

André W. Droxler, Director of the Center of the Study of Environment and Society, Rice University

Thursday, March 4, 2010

4:00 pm

Reception to Follow

Kelly International Conference Facility, Baker Institute. Rice University

To attend, please RSVP online, by fax to

713-348-5993 or by email to bipprsvp@rice.edu by *Monday, March 1*.

Please feel free to forward this email to any parties interested.

###

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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Anybody catch this article last week in the Houston Chronicle? An important issue to think about: how coal plants will not only affect the surrounding air quality, but that of communities down wind. If the White Stallion coal plant is allowed to be built: Houston, we will have an even worse smog problem. Look for Ryan’s quote to close it out!

City’s smog concerns may choke power plant

Pollution near Matagorda could drift to Houston

By MATTHEW TRESAUGUE

HOUSTON CHRONICLE

A proposed coal-fired power plant in mostly rural Matagorda County, 90 miles from the traffic-choked freeways and smokestacks of Houston, has moved to the center of the debate over the big city’s air.

Some federal regulators, Houston lawmakers, and environmentalists say the proposed White Stallion Energy Center would only exacerbate the city’s stubborn smog problem as tougher nationwide limits for the widespread pollutant come into play.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for one, wants Texas regulators to prove that pollution from the coal plant would not make Houston’s smog worse before issuing permits. Critics also want the state to require the power company to consider new technology that might slash emissions of smog-forming pollution.

The push comes amid a review of the proposal by the State Office of Administrative Hearings, which will soon recommend whether the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should grant the plant’s air permit.

The plant would be built less than 20 miles from the boundary of the eight-county Houston region that was long in violation of federal limits for smog or ozone. Rules on industrial pollution — in particular, new sources — are tighter inside such areas than outside, even though smog ignores county lines. (more…)

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