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Posts Tagged ‘lon burnam’

The protests in Wisconsin. The passage of the CR in the House in the dead of night over the weekend. And the continued debate over how to balance the Texas $26 billion budget gap. We kept getting told there are no sacred cows- that all have to share in the burden and pain of budget squeezing.

But realpolitik has shown exactly where the real sacred cows are, while corporate tea party crusaders use the budget crises as a reason to bust unions, raid pensions funds, and slash health services and education budgets, they are leaving intact the tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

Let’s talk Texas first:  a new study out this morning by the Texas Tribune showed that Texans want a balanced approach to fixing the budget.  The single most popular answer was a 50/50 split of revenue enhancements and spending cuts.  However, when you asked people what they wanted to cut spending on, the answer was a resounding NO! to educationTexans say no to budget cuts cuts, NO! to health services cuts, NO! to environmental reg cuts. And when asked where to increase revenue, it was equally sticky.  The single most popular options, the only ones which get over 50% support, was to legalize casino gambling and increase alcohol taxes.  But taxing vice can only get us so far.

One of the things not touched by the poll were the enormous tax breaks we give to the natural gas industry, one which the LBB has suggested eliminating, namely a $7.4 billion tax cut to oil and gas companies using “high cost” wells- which generally means one thing: hydro-fracturing. Fracking is used on areas like the Barnett Shale and has been linked to spoiled water, a cancer cluster located in Flower Mound/Dish, and natural gas turning tap water flammable, and a garden hose into a flamethrower.

At the very least, all of the drilling is producing more air pollution than all of the cars and trucks in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. So to add insult to industry, not only is the drilling on the Barnett Shale ruining families’ homes and making people sick, but we are paying the companies billions of dollars in pork to do it, robbing school children and those who need a hand from social services.

And to kick us even more when we’re down, Chesapeake Energy has the audacity to say if their corporate welfare goes away, they’re going to have to curtail drilling on the Barnett Shale.  From the Star-Telegram’s story:

An executive with Chesapeake Energy told members of the Tarrant County legislative delegation Wednesday that the company would consider curtailing activity in Texas if the exemption is discontinued.

“We’d have to look at it on an individual well basis, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that we would reduce our activity in the state of Texas,” Adam Haynes, senior government affairs director for Chesapeake, said after his appearance before lawmakers. “It certainly affects the Barnett Shale, absolutely.” (more…)

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Wednesday, State Rep. Lon Burnam and his staff got little in the way of a satisfactory answer from ERCOT as to why as many as 50 power plants were off line, and predicted that the issue will remain a hot topic especially in light of the fact that ERCOT is up for a sunset review this session.  He also raised the question about who stands to benefit from this event and he is not the only one.

Public Citizen and Sierra Club called on Governor Perry and the Commissioners at the Public Utility Commission and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, (ERCOT) to investigate the cause of the outages and the response by the state’s regulated and unregulated electrical utilities and who profited.

In the early hours on Wednesday, prices on the wholesale electricity market shot up 66 times from 3:00 AM through 11:00 AM and the electricity companies made millions overnight as electricity prices rose to the cap of $3,000.

John Fainter, who heads the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, told the Texas Energy Report that such price spikes cannot be immediately passed on to ordinary customers in the competitive market who have fixed-rate contracts, but you can bet that eventually ratepayers will pick up that cost and some generators will rake in a windfall.

Fainter also said that allegations that some suppliers might have engaged in market manipulation to drive up the price is extremely hard to prove because you have to show that power that was otherwise available was deliberately withheld until it got to a certain price.  (watch the documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room to see how this works.)

We don’t disagree with Fainter’s assessment, but still believe that the wide price spike should be investigated.

Thursday, the need for continuing the series of rolling blackouts was lifted by ERCOT mid-morning. But the state’s generating capacity was still down by some 3,000 megawatts that afternoon. ERCOT said that voluntary efforts on the part of Texas residential and commercial users to curb consumption helped alleviate the crisis while insisting the state’s electric grid was never in danger of suffering a crippling catastrophic failure.

So kudos to all you Texas consumers who suffered in the cold and dark during the blackouts and then, girded by soup, hot drinks and blankets, continued to help out the utilities and the regulators by turning down your thermostats, turning off your TVs and computers, and paying your electric bills.  Must stop writing now, since in doing my part,  my thermostat is set to 58 degrees and my fingers are numb.

Click here to read an article by Forrest Wilder for the Texas Observer on utility profiteering during the rolling blackouts.

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

Real Time Spot Pricing Report

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State Rep. Lon Burnam filed legislation (House Bill 977) that would have state agencies develop plans to address the implications their policies might have on climate change.

Burnam’s bill is similar to a measure he offered last session. The bill would have 12 entities in the state each publish a plan assessing that entity’s role with respect to climate change.  For example, the Department of Agriculture would “conduct a vulnerability assessment” of the state’s farmland and the Water Development Board would “devise a plan outlining its role in managing the changing water resources.”

All good ideas, we’ll see how far this makes it in this political climate.

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The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates the city of New Orleans for the Saints’ stirring Super Bowl victory, and reminds them that the “hair of the dog” trick doesn’t really help with the hangover.

The Texas Cloverleaf highlights the sentencing of GOP Denton County Constable Ken Jannereth. Probation, anger management, laying off the bottle, and maybe more to come for the disgraced lawman.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is watching 2 Texas Counties fight it out with their DAs over legal duties.

Bay Area Houston says Teabaggers claim illiterate Blacks elected Obama.

Is your gas wet or dry? Despite industry spin, it seems to not matter. TCEQ testing shows Barnett Shale “Dry Gas” health hazard. TXsharon thanks State Representative Lon Burnam for wading through the recent TCEQ testing report to find the truth. Bluedaze: DRILLING REFORM FOR TEXAS.

Over at TexasKaos, lightseeker connects Obama’s big picture with our big picture, in Obama’s Problem is Our Problem In a Nutshell. Is our future Sarah Palin, Tea Partyers and failure?

This week at Left of College Station, Teddy interviews several members of the gay, lesbian, and bisexual community at Texas A&M while investigating what it is like to be gay in Aggieland. Left of College Station also takes a look at American’s ignorance of current events and the political process, and a report on the local campaign spending and donations. Left of College Station also covers the week in headlines.

The Nuge was campaigning for 39% over the weekend. Can’t you just feel the greasy, smelly excitement?

WCNews at Eye On Williamson looks at how the legislature is already laying the groundwork for adding sales taxes to items currently excluded like bottled water, basic internet service, and coin operated services, House Ways and Means Committee to look at “Certain Sales Tax Exemptions & Exclusions.

Off the Kuff looks at the effect of the “Citizens United” ruling on judicial elections in Texas.

WhosPlayin is neck-deep in local issues in North Texas, having spent the weekend with the Lewisville City Council at their retreat, and noting that he local school district is discouraging candidates from running for school board.

Neil at Texas Liberal commented that office building janitors in Houston have set up a Facebook page as they prepare for a new round of contract negotiations in 2010. All work has merit and all people should be paid a living wage.

Yesterday was huge for New Orleans but it was also TeaBagger Rally Day in northwest Harris County, as PDiddie at Brains and Eggs recounted in “Rick and Ted’s (and Sarah’s) Excellent Super Bowl Sunday Venture”.

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

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SEED Coalition opposes any radioactive waste dumping in Texas, but at minimum seeks to prevent our state from receiving waste from more than just the two Compact States and becoming the nation’s radioactive waste dump. With support from Public Citizen, Environment Texas and Nuclear Information and Resource Service and other groups, they will submit comments today to the Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission. The Proposed Import/Export Rule under consideration may open the door for Texas to becoming the nation’s nuclear dumping ground and we’re making recommendations to strengthen the rule and protect public health as safety .

State Rep. Lon Burnam (District 90, Ft. Worth) will ask a series of questions of the Compact Commissioners, and try to get answers as to why they are considering the weak and risky approach taken by the draft rule under consideration.

Some of SEED Coalition’s comments can be summarized as follows:

  • The site should be limited to radioactive waste from Texas and Vermont, and have volume and radioactivity caps that match the license for the facility.
  • Waste from Texas and Vermont would more than fill up the facility, and no Out of Compact Waste should be imported.
  • The proposed import/ export rule needs to be strengthened and deemed a Major Environmental rule, so that more careful analysis can be done.
  • Radionuclides must be carefully tracked and monitored. The public has a right to know what is shipped to the site and the level of radioactivity in curies.
  • The public should be informed as to health risks from various radionuclides and meetings held in accord with the Open Meetings Act

The Compact Commission meets today beginning at 9 AM in Austin, Texas in the State Capitol Auditorium, E1.004, 1400 North Congress.

Visit www.NukeFreeTexas.org to find SEED’s comments, Rep. Burnam’s questions, a NIRS factsheet and the memo by nuclear expert Dr. Arjun Makhijani.  Press release after the jump… (more…)

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AUSTIN – Public Citizen Texas will be honoring the recipients of this year’s Texas Outstanding Public Service (TOPS) Awards at the organization’s 25th anniversary dinner today. The awardees are local visionaries, recognized experts and celebrated advocates who have aided in the effort to help Texas realize a more environmentally conscious and sustainable energy future.

Those receiving the TOPS Awards were chosen by Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen Texas, and his staff based on their accomplishments and contributions to the overall health, safety and democracy of all Texans. This year’s lineup of winners includes two journalists, three legislators, two activists, a whistleblower, a legislative aid and a man whose lifetime of achievement merits the finest award of all.

Winners of this year’s awards include Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy, Austin American-Statesman reporter Claudia Grisales, San Antonio Current reporter Greg Harman, state Reps. Dave Swinford and Rafael Anchia, citizen activists Gerry Sansing and Dr. Wes Stafford, state Sen. Wendy Davis, whistleblower Glenn Lewis and state legislative staffer Doug Lewin.

Duncan will receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Duncan is a true visionary who has not only blueprinted the greening of the Austin City Council but also of the city’s public utility. He successfully transformed Austin Energy and set standards for the rest of the nation. He has been a major player in the fight for green issues for more than three decades – starting with his journey as a student activist in the 1970s, serving two terms as a member of the Austin City Council in the 1980s and eventually leading the city’s environmental department for nine years as the assistant director. Duncan is considered the architect of several of Austin’s nationally acclaimed energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including GreenChoice and the Green Building Program. Furthermore, under Duncan’s leadership, Austin Energy adopted ambitious goals to bring more solar energy to Austin, committing to the development of major solar generating capacity. Duncan was also one of a few people to realize early on that the city of Austin had the potential to reduce urban air pollution by using plug-in hybrids. He assembled a coalition of potential buyers of plug-ins in the country and implemented a program at Austin Energy that offered an incentive package for such hybrids. Although he has announced his planned retirement for next year, it will not be surprising to see him in some sort of leadership role in the city in the near future.

In a quote from Duncan published in the Austin Chronicle last month, he said, “Today, it is time for me to return to my original role as an involved citizen of Austin.” Public Citizen Texas welcomes him as such (more…)

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stop nukeOral Hearing Set for June 10th-11th in Granbury, TX

Citizen opposition to more nuclear reactors in Texas continues. On June 10th-11th an oral hearing will be held before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board on Citizens’ petition to intervene in Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant Units 3 and 4.

“I have many grave concerns about building more nuclear reactors in Texas,” said Texas Representative Lon Burnam, District 90, Ft. Worth, one of the petitioners seeking to intervene in the proposed expansion of Comanche Peak. “The risks are simply too high. As the most expensive and most water intensive energy source, and with the unsolved problem of how to handle the radioactive waste, Texans deserve better.”

SEED Coalition, Public Citizen and the Ft. Worth-based True Cost of Nukes are also petitioners. Attorney, Robert V. Eye, will go before the designated Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel and argue the admissibility of the 19 contentions citizens filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on April 6th. These contentions point out the inadequacies and the incompleteness of Luminant’s combined operating license application (COLA) to construct and operate Comanche Peak Units 3 and 4.

“Luminant has failed to comply with new federal regulations regarding aircraft impacts,” stated Mr. Eye. “These new regulations are very specific and require the applicant to plan for catastrophic fires and/or explosions that would cause the loss of major critical functional components in the plant. After 9-11, an aircraft attack on a nuclear power plant is a real and credible threat. Moreover, fire hazards represent about half of the risk of a nuclear reactor meltdown. Luminant’s noncompliance with these regulations puts citizens around Comanche Peak in a dangerous position, which is completely unacceptable.”

“Nuclear power is dangerous, expensive and obsolete,” says Karen Hadden, Executive Director of Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “Wind energy is booming and the cost of solar is coming down, while the costs of proposed nuclear plants is skyrocketing. Although they’re required to do so, Luminant failed to fully consider safer, more affordable alternatives to nuclear in their license application.” (more…)

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Environmental Groups See Clean Energy Groundwork Laid for the Future

(Austin) Senate and House members from both political parties showed unprecedented support for developing more renewable energy and energy efficiency in Texas by filing a large number of clean power, green jobs bills in the 81st Texas State Legislature. A number of major bills passed either the House or the Senate. Ultimately, political disagreements over other issues and over the size and extent of the programs delayed and killed most of these excellent legislative initiatives.

Environmental groups Sierra Club, SEED, Public Citizen, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environment Texas applaud the passage of some clean energy, green jobs legislation and view the Legislature as having laid ample groundwork for the future.

“The fact that both the House and the Senate passed major legislation on energy efficiency and renewable power with bipartisan agreement shows that Texas leaders are willing and able to develop clean power and green jobs for our state,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Nevertheless, leaders were distracted by undue influence from industry interests and by the Voter ID debate which hampered passage of clean energy bills and other more vital areas of legislation.”

“Texas is moving more slowly than a melting glacier toward developing global warming policy. Rather than implementing already available energy efficiency and distributed energy solutions, Texas’ response to global warming is to develop futuristic industrial-sized solutions. As a result the state has legislation pending that may develop standards for large scale carbon sequestration projects and provide incentives to get companies to develop the technologies,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “On the positive side, the state has passed a study to develop a series of ‘no regrets’ solutions to global warming that the State can achieve at no cost. Also, the Texas House, especially the House Committee on Environmental Regulation, should be applauded for their more open leadership style this session which lead to far more reasoned and less ideological bills being developed in the committee.”

Clean Power, Green Energy Bills that passed both bodies and will go to the Governor (as this release goes to press):

  • Green fleets legislation to promote low emissions and plug-in hybrid vehicles for fleets of major State Agencies (HB 432);
  • Legislation allowing cities to create financial districts to loan money for renewable power and energy efficiency (HB 1937).
  • Legislation setting a ‘no regrets’ strategy for greenhouse gas reduction in the State; a study of the state’s energy use to find ways to reduce our emissions and save money at the same time (SB 184)
  • A coordinated green jobs strategy including funds allocated for child care programs, vocational training initiatives, energy efficiency measures, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and/or any other recovery funds (passed as a Rider to Article 12).
  • Green fee bill passed allowing governing board of public colleges and universities to institute an environmental service fee once approved by student body election.

“This has been a disappointing session,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “However, with the passage of HB 1937, we can start the ball rolling on developing Texas’ solar future, working with local communities one at a time to start financing solar and energy efficiency projects.”

Groundwork Laid for Next Session

The major Clean Power, Green Jobs bills that passed the House or Senate but did not ultimately make it to the Governor’s Desk include:

  • Raising the state’s minimum residential and commercial building codes from 2001 to 2009 standards (passed Senate as SB 16 and HB 2783 in House);
  • Raising the utility efficiency goal (SB 546 passed both houses but no agreement was reached between Senator Fraser and Representative Anchia on the size of the goals)
  • Adopting appliance efficiency standards for a variety of products, including pool pumps (passed Senate as SB 16)
  • Creating a 1,500 MW Emerging Technology Renewable Standard (SB 541 – passed the Senate)
  • Creating a $500 million solar incentive program (SB 545 – passed the Senate).
  • Creating a Policy requiring utilities and retail electric providers to pay consumers fair buyback rates for excess electricity generation from renewable energy (HB 1243 – passed House and Senate, but was killed in the House through concerns over germaneness and Senate amendments.);
  • High performance energy efficiency building standards for state buildings, including universities and public schools (HB 431). The Senate may pass the conference committee report today, on Sine Die.

Factors which prevented bills with bipartisan support from making it across the finish line:

  • The issue of Voter ID, which put many major efficiency and renewable bills too far down the calendar for consideration in the House;
  • A disagreement over the germaneness and concern over the possible costs to low-income residents of adding the solar incentive bill (SB 545) to the surplus electricity bill (HB 1234), which led Representative Turner to ultimately kill consideration of the bill on the House floor;
  • The election of a new Speaker and the naming of new Committee Chairman understandable led to some delays in getting the committees up and running to begin to consider bills;
  • Disagreement between House and Senate on size and scope of goals set by solar and energy efficiency bills (SB 545 & 546);
  • Disagreement over the potential costs and benefits of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (SB 541);
  • Opposition from the Texas Manufacturers Association, the Governor and many utilities against the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

“We were happy to find some new allies this session including certain members of the legislature and some electric utilities that said they supported renewable energy and energy efficiency legislation,” said Jim Marston, Director of Texas Regional Office of Environmental Defense Fund. “Sadly, some of the electric companies talked a good game, but their support evaporated when opposed by their affiliated retail electric providers or others in the industry. In the end, the Association of Electric Companies of Texas reverted to representing the interests of the regressive elements of their membership harming the ability of Texas to participate successfully in the new energy economy.”

“Moreover, the Texas Association of Manufacturers (TAM) while acknowledging that an expanded renewable portfolio standard was the way to bring clean technology jobs to Texas, distributed false cost information about solar legislation that was repudiated by the PUC and others. The bottom line, TAM fought legislation that would have brought new manufacturing jobs to Texas,” said Marston.

Nuclear Bills Blocked

Environmental groups blocked bad bills that would have removed citizen rights to contest permits and would have promoted nuclear power in the State which many view as a financial drain from investment in truly clean energy.

“Nuclear power is expensive, consumes vast quantities of water, comes with serious security and health risks and creates radioactive waste, for which there is no good storage solution. We were happy to block two bad bills this session that were designed to benefit proposed nuclear reactors in Texas,” said Karen Hadden, Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition.

The nuclear bills that were blocked:

  • Fast tracked water permits for nuclear power plants and cut out contested case hearings (HB 2721 was left pending in House Environmental Regulation Committee)
  • Subsidies for proposed nuclear power plants in the form of tax rebates (HB 4525 passed the House and was blocked in the Senate.)

“Representative Flynn’s bill would have fast-tracked water permits for nuclear plants, an outrageous attempt in a time of statewide drought,” said Hadden. “It would also have denied citizens an opportunity to contest issuance of the permits through hearings, an assault on democratic process. The other bad bill that we defeated would have given massive subsidies to nuclear power in the form of tax rebates.”

Miscellany

  • A good bill to address the Compact Loophole for the Andrews County Low-Level Radioactive Waste Dump bill, HB 3423 Lon Burnam did not get out of Committee.
  • Environmental groups blocked a bad provision that would have fast tracked water permits for “clean coal” plants in the final version of HB 469 and added cleaner emissions standards for those plants.
  • HB 821 passed, requiring television manufacturers that sell televisions in Texas to make free and convenient recycling available. Texas Campaign for the Environment successfully advocated for this bill.
  • Sen. Ellis used a threatened filibuster last night to kill HB 3827 which would have allowed oil companies to evade liability for MTBE water contamination;
  • SB 2169 Sets up an interagency working group, co-chaired by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Department of Transportation with other agencies to discuss smart growth and make recommendations for developing the state in a sustainable way.
  • An amendment to HB 300 creates a certification program for environmental coordinators in Texas Department of Transportation district offices. This bill is still in conference committee as this release goes to press.

“As it concludes, environmentalists can view this legislative session with some hopefulness – the Legislature is definitely involved and interested in clean energy and green jobs and did move these issues forward. But there is also some sadness – an opportunity to move significantly forward on clean energy was lost,” Cyrus Reed added. “Jobs that could have been created, and new sources of clean energy that could have been advanced in Texas were delayed this Session.”

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simpson-nuke This week citizens submitted two separate filings to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) opposing Luminant (formerly TXU)’s proposed Comanche Peak nuclear reactors. Petitioners include state Rep. Lon Burnam, the SEED Coalition, Public Citizen and the Ft. Worth based True Cost of Nukes.

In the past, NRC has made  companies jump through two major hoops before their operating license is granted.  First, the company must complete the reactor design certification process which ensures that the design for the plant is safe.  If a company decides to choose a pre-certified design that has been built before and the NRC has vetted, they may get their operating license faster because they can skip dealing with design issues.  After their design is approved, the company can then file for their license to operate in a separate process.  This is when citizens have the opportunity to analyze such documents as the Environmental Impact Statement and file contentions.

But for this new fleet of nuclear plants being licensed, the NRC has streamlined this process, combining both the design certification and licensing process into one.  This is a major problem for reactors such as those proposed at Comanche Peak because they are submitting a design that has never been built before anywhere in the world.  It hardly makes sense that NRC can approve a plant to operate when they don’t even know if the plant design is feasible or safe, but that is exactly what is happening.  This is kind of like getting in car and driving off to the drugstore when you’re not sure where it is and… oops, might not even know how to drive.

“By 
moving 
the
 license 
forward
 without 
having 
certified
 the 
design,
 the
 NRC
 is
 violating
 its 
own 
rules,” 
said 
attorney 
Robert 

Eye,  “The
 licensing
 process
 should
 be 
halted 
until 
the 
NRC 
can 
honestly
 say 
that 
the 
reactor
 design 
is 
safe.”

Rep. Lon Burnam has compared what the NRC is doing to making those living near Comanche Peak “guinea pigs in a radioactive experiment.”  Other nuclear plants that have 
gone forth with construction before their design was finalized and approved by regulators have seen serious complications.

In addition to the madness of the NRC’s licensing process, there were even further contentions filed concerning defects in Comanche Peak’s license application.  These contentions include:

  • inadequate fire protection
  • no viable radioactive waste disposal plan
  • inability to secure against airplane attacks
  • financial, health and safety risks
  • vast water consumption
  • failure to address safe, clean energy alternatives

The next step in this process is for the NRC to respond to citizen’s petitions and contentions.

For further information on contentions filed, check out SEED Coalition’s press release after the jump. (more…)

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In addition to Lon Burnam’s HB 3423, there are five other good bills that will be heard in the House Environmental Regulation Committee this Wednesday, April 1, 2009 at 10:30 am or upon adjournment of the House in the Capital extension – Hearing room E1.014. We are incouraging everyone who has a few minutes to stop by the committee room and put in cards supporting these six bills. The five bill numbers are listed below, followed by a brief description of the bill and why your support is important. Please send this message along to anyone else you think might be interested!

HB 1450, Rep. Rodriguez. Relating to the disposal and reuse of coal combustion waste.  HB 1450 establishes the disposal and reuse of coal combustion waste as a class I industrial waste and prohibits use as mine backfill. In addition, it requires groundwater and soil monitoring that must be made publically available.   We’ve been over this one before. Texas tops the list of states at risk from toxic coal ash waste, remember?  No bueno.

HB 557, Rep. Hernandez. Relating to the establishment of an air pollutant watch list and associated reports for the purpose of controlling the emissions of air contaminants under the Texas Clean Air Act.  HB 557 establishes an air pollutant watch list and associated reports for the purpose of controlling the emissions of air contaminants under the Texas Clean Air Act to protect against adverse effects related to :

(1) acid deposition;
(2) stratospheric changes, including depletion of ozone; [and]
(3) climatic changes, including global warming; and

(4) air pollution.

HB 769, Rep. Hernandez. Relating to standards for measuring the emission of air contaminants under the Texas Clean Air Act.  HB 769 requires TCEQ to set standards for measuring the emission of air contaminants under the Texas Clean Air Act that takes into consideration acute and chronic health effects on a person resulting from exposure to an air contaminant; the lifetime exposure of a person to the highest concentration of the air contaminant from an emission source; and does not increase the risk of cancer in a person exposed to the air contaminant by greater than one chance in 100,000.

HB 3428, Rep. Hernandez. Relating to measuring, monitoring, and reporting emissions.  HB 3428 requires TCEQ to establish and maintain an air pollutant watch list available online to the public.

HB 3422, Rep. Burnam. Relating to the establishment of a program for the collection, transportation, recycling, and disposal of mercury-containing lights.  HB 3422 establishes a program to safely dispose of and recycle mercury containing lights. It requires manufacturers to provide collection bins, to collect the bulbs and cover the costs of shipping to an appropriate facility. Mercury containing lightbulbs would have to be removed before buildings are demolished. The bill also has an important educational component.

You can register comment on all of these good bills in one fell swoop by visiting the House Environmental Regulation Committee hearing in E1.014 this morning.  Committee hearings are open to the public, and you can put your official stance on the record by just dropping a card.  If you can’t visit the Capitol today, why not give one of the fine legislators on this committee a call?

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Rep. Lon Burnam’s bill, HB 3423, will be heard on Wednesday, April 1st, in the House Committee on Environmental Regulation hearing at 10:30 AM or upon adjournment, in E1.014. If you are able to come, we’re trying to get as many people as possible to register their support of this bill (by filling out a witness affirmation form). That’s right, officially registering your opinion on a bill is as simple as filling out a card.  The bill closes the Compact Loophole, and requires other states who want to send radioactive waste here to get legislative approval first.

The Compact Agreement was originally between Texas, Maine and Vermont.  Maine pulled out of the Compact, and now Texas and Vermont are able to send their radioactive so-called “low-level” waste to be stored at the Andrews County dump in West Texas. A loophole in the Compact Agreement allows any state to send radioactive waste to Texas. We don’t need to be the nation’s nuclear dump!

The license for that dump was recently issued by the TCEQ, and the agency wrongly denied the opportunity for a contested case hearing (read: locals were not allowed to voice their opposition in any formal environment). Three long-term scientists at TCEQ recommended denying the permit — and actually left their jobs for ethical reasons once the permit was approved. The science is NOT solid for the Andrews County radioactive waste dump – and there are concerns that radionuclides could come in contact with underground water. It is possible that contamination could spread to the Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies eight states, including the nation’s wheat growing region.

96% of the radioactive waste slated  for the site would be from nuclear reactors — everything except the fuel rods. Radionuclides in the waste are dangerous today and remain dangerous for thousands of years. A recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling reclassified depleted uranium from reprocessing, putting it into a less hazardous (Class A) category. Now up to 1.4 million tons of depleted uranium could go to the West Texas site and/or Clive, Utah sites.

If you can’t make it in person, calls to the Environmental Regulation committee in support of Burnam’s bill are needed! If you are a constituent, please let them know that.

Rep. Byron Cook (Chair) – 512-463-0646, [email protected]use.state.tx.us
Rep. Warren Chisum (Vice-Chair) – 512-463-0736, [email protected]
Rep. Lon Burnam – 512-463-0740, (it’s his bill, give him a call to say thanks.)
Rep. Jim Dunnam – 512-463-0508, [email protected]
Rep. Jessica Farrar – 512-463-0620, [email protected]
Rep. Kelly Hancock – 512-463-0599, [email protected]
Rep. Ken Legler – 512-463-0460, [email protected]
Rep Marc Veasey – 512-463-0716, [email protected]
Rep. Randy Weber – 512-463-0707, [email protected]

For further background on the Andrews County dump, check out Forrest Wilder’s article from the last Texas Observer, Waste Texas: Why Andrews County is so eager to get dumped on. Or if you’re more the auditory type, listen to the podcast.

Check out the press release after the jump.

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