Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2019

By Rita Beving

On Wednesday, the Dallas City Council approved the selection of AECOM, an international, Fortune 500 consulting firm, to help develop a climate and environmental plan for Dallas and the surrounding community.

Rita Beving speaking at Dallas City Council meeting that launches Dallas’s efforts to mitigate climate change.

AECOM has given assistance in climate and sustainability planning to other cities including Mexico City and Los Angeles.

The vote marks the beginning of the climate planning process for Dallas to reduce its carbon footprint.  The planning process offers many different avenues to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including electrifying transportation, investing in green energy, retiring fossil fuel generation, securing commitments from industrial emitters and promoting energy efficiency.

The planning process will immediately commence in the upcoming weeks with an eye on a final plan to be reviewed in the spring of 2020.

It will involve a public process with stakeholders from business, industry, academia, the environment and the community.

Along with the selection of the consulting entity that will help develop the climate plan, the City of Dallas passed a multi-faceted resolution directing the City Manager to take the necessary actions to join the network of C40 cities.  The C40 is an association of the world’s largest cities committed to addressing climate change, connecting 96 of the world’s greatest cities to take climate action.

Additionally, the resolution also directed Dallas to support federal action on climate, supporting a proposal by Citizens Climate Lobby for congressional approval of a national carbon fee and dividend.  The carbon fee and dividend concept is part of the bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act introduced in Congress in 2018.  The act provides for a national, revenue-neutral carbon fee-and-dividend system (CF&D) which would place a predictable, steadily rising price on carbon, with all fees collected minus administrative costs returned to households as a monthly energy dividend.

Dallas took the necessary steps this past Wednesday to chart a course toward rapid and decisive action at both a federal and local level to combat climate change.  And I applaud their broad and aggressive action. It is time that other cities in the DFW area also take the challenge to step up for their citizens and the region by pursuing their own climate plans and other initiatives to help clean the air and cool the planet.

Read Full Post »

*Note: this is a blog post by Miao Zhang, a junior at Rice University majoring in Mathematical Economic Analysis and Visual Arts. Ms. Zhang recently completed a Fall semester internship with Public Citizen.

Metal recycling sounds environmentally friendly, right? Did you know, however, that these recyclers can actually be a source of air pollution?

When did regulators find out about this?

The discovery that metal recycling can create significant pollution was publicized in Houston in late 2012. There were over 180 complaints of colored smoke and trouble breathing between 2008 and 2013. These complaints finally led Houston air authorities to discover this new source of air pollution. There were barely any regulations on the emission levels of metal recyclers since metal recycling is a business assumed to have low emissions.

Where does the air pollution come from?

Metal compounds may be released into the air when metal welding and cutting is taking place. Some of these chemicals are potentially cancer-causing.

In a study by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, metal particulate matter including iron, manganese, copper, chromium, nickel, lead, cobalt, cadmium and mercury was detected in the ambient air near the five metal recyclers sampled. The concentration of these particulate matters poses carcinogenic risks to the communities nearby. The increased cancer risk is estimated to range from 1 in 1,000,000 to 8 in 10,000.

There are currently over 150 metal recycling facilities in the City of Houston. Most of them are in already underserved communities. With no buffer zone restrictions distancing these facilities from residential areas, many of them are right next door to people’s homes.

With Houston being prone to flooding, especially in certain communities, Houstonians also run the risk of having such pollutants reach further and even seep into the groundwater.  

What should we do?

Recycling is certainly a good thing, but it’s easy to be misguided by the positive connotation of the word. As eco-friendly as recycling sounds, the process still inevitably takes up energy and resources and produces waste. Procedures that make good on one end may cause damage to another. Take almond milk for example. Even though the production of almond milk doesn’t involve cows and thus reduces greenhouse gas emissions, the process requires much more water than regular milk or other milk alternatives.

Just because something is for a good cause shouldn’t excuse it from the same level of regulation as other industry. Specific and strict limits should be placed on the different kinds of pollutants that metal recyclers release. Neighboring communities should also be informed of the potential risks of living within close radius to these facilities. In the city of Houston, there is barely any required buffer zones for how close a metal recycler can be to homes. With many metal recyclers operating right by residential areas, the communities must be informed on the matter.

Read Full Post »

In December, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) school board members voted against a proposal to seek partnerships with charters to take over education at four schools. The four schools in question are Highland Heights Elementary School, Patrick Henry Middle School, Kashmere High School, and Wheatley High School. These schools are in historic communities of color. The schools have suffered for years from systemic racism and a lack of investment. Now the Texas Education Association (TEA) wants to take over control of the school district because they say that these schools are failing, when in reality, they have been failed by the system.

Public Citizen supports the school board’s decision not to move forward with partnerships.

We support Houston-based advocates who are calling for public education to remain firmly within the hands of democratically elected school boards. We support retaining community control of schools and ensuring that the remedies to support Houston children’s education come from the wisdom of the community and educators, not from disconnected state officials who lack community context and connection.

Why is a partnership a bad idea for schools?

The partnership plan comes out of the 85th Legislature through SB 1882. The legislation allows school boards to partner with charters to control low performing schools. The school board will then receive an exemption from intervention as well as additional funding for students. While this seems like a good idea on the surface – avoid state takeover, get more money – SB1882 can do great harm. Any partnership stemming from this bill effectively charters the schools in consideration. It removes the schools from the oversight and accountability of the democratically-elected school board. SB 1882 has already been the subject of a lawsuit in Travis County District Court over weakened protections for school teachers.

I spoke at public session the HISD’s board meeting in December to oppose partnering and chartering schools which are considered underperforming by TEA. You can read my statement here.

Who should be leading the vision for schools?

Educators and Community Members.

Wealthy, corporate board members have no business partnering with schools. School board trustees must ensure that educators with K-12 instructional experience drive the vision for these schools. Chartering is no solution, either. Chartering only enhances the possibility for privatization. School board members rightly denied opportunities for these historic schools to be chartered.

What can you do?

Groups in Houston are developing community-oriented solutions for the schools to ensure every student has equal access to quality education. On January 5th, there will be an Education Town Hall at Kashmere Gardens Multi-Purpose Center from 2 – 4 pm to discuss community-driven alternatives to privatization of schools, put on by Black Lives Matter Houston, Houston RisingHISD Parent Advocates, and Indivisible Houston.

Support our schools and take part in this important event.

Learn more about this issue. See: To save Houston’s schools, fight the TEA by Kandice Webber, Travis McGee and Sarah Becker.

Contact your state representatives to demand change to the laws that put corporate interests above students. School finance issues will feature prominently in the 86th Legislative Session (January – May) in Austin. Keep an eye on your representatives and call on them to stop promoting school privatization and to keep democracy alive in our school boards.

Read Full Post »