Posts Tagged ‘Texas Campaign for the Environment’

This week marks the six month anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, a catastrophic storm that killed 88 people and caused about $125 billion in damages. Scientists have shown that Harvey’s strength was fueled in part by climate change.

Houston Mayor Turner has voiced concerns about climate change and pollution, recently through an op-ed published in the Huffington Post entitled “Cities Must Get Creative In The Fight Against Air Pollution.” In this piece, Turner says that cities must address the poor air quality that too often disproportionately impacts low-income communities. Specifically, he states that he will protest permits for new concrete batch plants. Turner also plans to address climate change through using renewable energy to power city operations and through electric vehicle adoption.

Yet, the city of Houston can do more. The Houston Climate Movement came together last year before Harvey because we know that Houston is at risk for the impacts of climate change. The Houston Climate Movement advocates for a community-wide climate action and adaptation plan.

In response to Turner’s op-ed, we penned this letter to him:


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Earlier this week the Environmental Protection Agency held a public hearing on a newly proposed rule to strengthen federal ozone standards. A coalition of environmental and public health advocates called Clean Air Texas rallied in support of the new rule, which would improve air quality across the state and make our communities healthier.  Over a hundred citizens presented their comments to the EPA in support of the new, stronger rule — more than the EPA has seen at a public hearing in years.  Public Citizen was on hand to give comments and capture the stories of concerned citizens that came to the hearing, check out the videos below to hear what folks had to say!


Also check out this video of the press conference to hear what matters most about the ozone rule from activists with Kids for Clean Air, Public Citizen, the American Lung Association, Health Professionals for Clean Air, Sierra Club,  and the Galveston-Houston Alliance for Smog Prevention. The lead image is acting a little funny, but the video will still show up, I promise

[vimeo 9206598]


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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Environmental Groups Applaud EPA Choice

New Regional Administrator could signal change in direction for polluted state

DALLAS – Environmental advocates across several states are applauding the Obama Administration’s choice of Dr. Al Armendariz to lead Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency, which includes Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Armendariz, an engineering professor at Southern Methodist University, has worked with diverse constituencies ranging from corporations to citizens groups and has published dozens of studies on myriad environmental issues throughout his career. His appointment garnered high praise from the environmental community.

“Our region has typically provided a haven for some of the worst polluters in the country, and has paid a steep price,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Texas Director for Public Citizen. “I believe the appointment of Dr. Al Armendariz signifies a new direction for Region 6.”

In an effort to make sure EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the White House chose a strong environmental leader for Region 6, about twenty prominent advocates signed on to a list of principles that they hoped would guide the appointment. Dr. Armendariz was one of two candidates the groups endorsed for the position. Their list of qualities for an ideal administrator included a commitment to environmental justice and science-based policy, minimal ties to industries regulated by EPA and a strict adherence to the President’s Executive Order on Ethics, which was intended to prevent conflicts of interest between lobbyists and government agencies.

“Al Armendariz demonstrates the kind of vision, integrity and grassroots approach to enforcing environmental law this region needs if we’re truly going to clean up our act,” said Jeffrey Jacoby, Program Director at the Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE). “He embodies the ‘Principles for Environmental Leadership and Real Change’ we believed should guide this appointment.”

Indeed, many within the environmental community see appointment of Armendariz as indicative of a new approach for the regional EPA.

“We are thrilled with Dr. Armendariz’s appointment,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “After eight years of the Bush EPA, it’s a new day for Texas’ environment. Move over polluter lobbyists, science and human health are in charge now.”

In addition to environmentalists, some within the business community were also pleased with Obama’s choice. Former Austin City Councilmember Brigid Shea, now principal and co-founder of an environmental consulting firm, stated, “As a businessperson who’s concerned about the environment, it’s time this region got someone who understands that we can have both a healthy environment and a strong economy, that the two are not at odds.”

Dr. Armendariz will take over for Acting Region 6 Administrator Larry Starfield. During his tenure, he will face a number of pressing environmental challenges, including potentially overseeing the implementation of federal climate change legislation, bringing metropolitan areas in Texas into compliance with the Clean Air Act and working to clean up toxic “hot spots” along the Gulf Coast.

“Texas needs a tough air enforcement chief at EPA 6 Dallas like Dr. Armendariz who’s willing to tackle head on the state’s serious air quality challenges with large urban areas like Dallas and Houston failing to meet new ozone standards, and who is willing to require Texas to clean up its large dirty coal plants and refineries,” stated Dr. Neil Carman of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter.

Environmental justice activists from communities across the state are also hopeful that the appointment of Dr. Armendariz will benefit Texans living directly adjacent to polluting facilities

“The Executive Order 12898 on Environmental Justice is a document that looks good on paper, but in the real world EPA’s office of Environmental Justice has at times sided with industry over our communities; and pollution problems in poor communities have gotten worse, not better,” said Suzie Canales, Executive Director of Corpus Christi-based Citizens for Environmental Justice. “Now under Armendariz, we have real hope that environmental justice issues will be a serious priority to the agency.”

Many environmental justice groups endorsed Armendariz from the beginning of the Regional Administrator selection process, citing his commitment to science, his understanding of the issues and his dedication to enforcing the spirit of environmental laws such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

“Dr. Armendariz is exactly the kind of person you’d want to have this job, but seemingly never gets it,” said Jim Schermbeck, long-time Field Organizer with Downwinders at Risk. “Because of what’s at stake and the fact that Texas is the belly of the polluter beast, this may be one of the most important, far-reaching appointments the Obama Administration makes. Downwinders at Risk is proud to have been the group that first utilized Dr. Armendariz’s expertise for our cause of cleaning up the Midlothian cement kilns back in 2005. That work lead directly to his becoming the premier ‘citizen’s scientist’ in Texas on air pollution, and paved the way for his much larger influence on the state scene. Congratulations to both Dr. Armendariz and the EPA.”

As enthusiastic as environmentalists are about the appointment, they also promised to hold Dr. Armendariz accountable to the people affected by pollution issues in the five-state region. “As outstanding as Dr. Armendariz has been on paper and in interviews, we’ll be watching to make sure he walks the walk,” says Jacoby, who works in TCE’s Dallas office, “Remember, Al, my office is right down the street.”

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, 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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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.”


  • 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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austincityhallWant to vote in the upcoming City of Austin Municipal Elections?  The deadline to vote in the May 9th elections is this Thursday, March 9th.

Says the Statesman:

To be eligible to vote for mayor or city council members or ballot initiatives in Travis County communities, you must mail a registration application to the Travis County Registrar. Those already registered to vote in Travis County do not have to re-apply.

Residents of Austin and other Travis County cities can find a registration application at the Travis County Tax Assessor/Collector’s website or by calling 238-8683. Some parts of North Austin are actually in Williamson County; those voters can obtain applications at www.wilco.org or by calling 943-1630.

To vote in Texas, you must be a U.S. citizen, live in the county you register, be at least 18 years old on Election Day, not have been convicted of a felony, and not have been declared mentally incapacitated by a court of law, according to a release from the City of Austin.

Want to see where the candidates stand on environmental issues?  Come to a candidate forum focused on sustainability issues this Thursday, March 9 at 5:30 pm at City Hall. (more…)

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