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Posts Tagged ‘Air Quality’

Meet Audrey and Jim Thornton, two of the landowners who have the threat of a Canadian tarsands pipeline proposed to run through their land. Tarsands crude is many times more concentrated with toxins and carcinogens than typical, Texas, crude oil. Like just about every other land-owner along the pipeline route, the Thorntons have been threatened with eminent domain if they do not sign a deal with TransCanada – the company building the pipeline.

Interview with the Thorntons:

Vimeo

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YouTube

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Like most people, the Thorntons don’t think it is right that a foreign company can come into the United States (and Texas) and use the threat of eminent domain to force landowners into a contract. And, like many others, the Thorntons have quickly learned the vast extent of the negative impacts such a pipeline would have not only on folks like them, but the world in general.

Check out our previous posts on the Canadian Tar Sands Pipeline including this one.

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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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The new Nissan LEAF, or (Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family car), will be availible in the U.S. in 2011.

In the coming weeks you might notice a sleek, new Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt cruising past you on the road. Many of the major car companies are introducing electric, plug-in vehicles (EVs) designed for the American family market. They range in cost from about $20,000-$45,000 and are small and practical. Not all EVs run completely from electricity, some are hybrids with electric-assisted engines, like a Toyota Prius. Others, like the Volt, are propelled exclusively by electricity, but include batteries and generators. These differences affect the amount of carbon emissions your car produces. All-electric vehicles, like the LEAF, have the potential to emit no carbon at all, from their own engines, or at the power plant where your electricity is generated. As Austinites, we can choose the green energy option from Austin Energy, in which 100% of the electricity we buy is generated from renewables.

Gas may still be necessary to run your EV, depending how it’s engine uses electricity, but the new EVs are becoming quite efficient at using minimal fuel. It’s important to consider that the majority of Austin’s air pollution comes from vehicles. Purchasing any EV is a step you can take to make a positive impact on our environment.

EVs can also make a positive impact on your wallet. An EV averages 100 miles per charge cycle in the city. Comparatively, this costs about $1 or less/gallon in terms of the gas you would have used in a conventional vehicle. As efficiency improves, these costs will also fall, while gas prices are always volatile. If you’re interested, please contact your dealership about buying an EV; they will be fully available in 2011.

What else do you need to know after purchasing an EV? Concerned consumers have contacted the Public Citizen office worried about potentially expensive charging stations. An EV powers up at a charging station that’s a higher voltage than your normal wall plug. It looks something like the plug for an electric washer/dryer. This unexpected expense can naturally cause worries right after purchasing a new car, but Austin Energy has a program to encourage consumers to buy EVs.

All you need to do is contact Austin Energy and let them know you’ve ordered an EV. They will come and provide assistance and incentives to install a charging station in your house. For more information about Austin’s Energy’s charging station incentive program please contact Larry Alford at [email protected]

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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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It has been about half a year since the battles started between the EPA and TCEQ over the Texas’s flexible air-permitting program. Unfortunately, the Governor has taken advantage of this issue to use to attack the Federal Government in his bid for the Governor post. Many have us have forgotten that the EPA started questioning the state’s permitting program during the Bush administration, long before Obama took office, but since this is an election year, Perry will do anything within his reach to cling on that chair.

The EPA finds the 16 year permitting program incompliant with the Clean Air Act. The program makes it difficult to monitor the pollution and reduce emission from Texas facilities because, rather than having to disclose pollution for each individual smokestack at a facility, they aggregate them all together. The Governor and the Attorney general have already sued the EPA protesting the latter’s “overstepping its authority.”  The TCEQ says the program is just fine and gives permits to Texas at a cheaper cost.

But we and most other environmental groups, find flex permits severely lacking.  All we (and the feds) are asking for is some basic transparency.  If flex permits do work, simply tell us what your emissions are, and let’s have a debate about the efficacy of the program.  Buit we can’t do that while industry and TCEQ hide the data from the public.

After the many twists and turns this battle has taken, the EPA has set in place a new rule to start a voluntary Audit Program under which refineries and other facilities in Texas can hire a third party auditor. If businesses fail to meet the standards after being audited, the EPA promises not to penalize them but to work with them to acquire a federal air permit.

TX facilities should find this program reasonable.  According to the EPA’s website, “The Audit Program is available for 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Participants who sign up in the first 45 days can take advantage of a reduced penalty incentive for potential violations.”

The TCEQ has protested the new rule, “he state of Texas vigorously defends its flexible permits program and expects to prevail in court. Flexible permits are legal and effective,” said  Terry Clawson, the Spokesman for the TCEQ.

Well, if that’s so– show us the data. They won’t, because they know that it won’t stand up to scrutiny.

Finally, Texas facilities will follow the Clean Air Act, just like facilities in every other state.

Meanwhile, tax dollars Texans pay are being wasted on a state agency that refuses to do its job of protecting the state’s environment, and are being wasted by our governor and attorney general on meaningless lawsuits.  The EPA is not out to get Texas and just like Al Armedariz said, “Our objective is to get good permits.”

That’s our goal, too. TCEQ is undergoing Sunset Review by the Texas Legislature. Let’s hope we get an agency that follows the law.

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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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Welcome sign posted at the Corpus Christi, Tex...

Image via Wikipedia

We’ve got an Action Alert! This week, hundreds of people from Corpus Christi and across Texas will be calling the Environmental Protection Agency to ask them to ensure that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is complying with the Federal Clean Air Act. To protect our air, our water, our earth, and our health, we are going to make our voices heard!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbWcTuvHwS8]

Under the federal Clean Air Act, the EPA has the power to intervene in any permitting process to make sure that polluters are complying with the law.

In the case of the Las Brisas Energy Center, the situation is critical and we need the EPA to step in. Pollution will increase by 82%, they’ll dump 220 pounds of mercury a year, the plant will use 3 million gallons of water a day, and Nueces and San Patricio Counties will almost certainly reach ozone non-attainment levels, which means pricey smog-checks for everybody and a rollback of production for local industries.

So, we’ve decided to call the EPA’s enforcement offices. We have two sample scripts for you to help you out, and remember: don’t be nervous! They are nice people, so don’t forget to smile (even though they can’t see you) and say thanks!

Call Gina McCarthy, head of enforcement at the EPA at 202-564-7404. If she’s not there, leave a message!

Script:

Concerned citizen (that’s you): “Hello Ms. McCarthy, my name is ___, and I’d like to bring an important issue to your attention.”

EPA: “Sure, go right ahead.”

Concerned Citizen:

1) “I am really concerned with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s permitting process on the Las Brisas Energy Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. I am worried about pollution in our air, our water, and our soil. I am calling to ask that the EPA intervene and ensure that the the permit complies with the Federal Clean Air Act. Thank you for your time.”

OR

2) “I have a real problem with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s permitting process as it considers whether to grant the Las Brisas Energy Center an air permit for its proposed petroleum coke plant in Corpus Christi, Texas. TCEQ officials have expressly stated that a case by case MACT analysis is not needed for this plant. I know that means that TCEQ is letting Las Brisas pollute at greater quantities into my area and with less oversight. I am calling to ask that the EPA intervene and ensure that the permit complies with the Federal Clean Air Act. Thank you for your time.”

You just did a good deed! Pat yourself on the back, email this to your friends, and stay tuned by checking out Public Citizen on Facebook, www.TexasGreenReport.org, Texas Sierra Club on Facebook, and @TexasSierraClub on Twitter.

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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Live downwind from the Barnett Shale ?

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality posted an interactive map of the Barnett Shale on its website that allows you to see the latest data from the various air quality monitoring sites near natural gas drilling and pipeline facilities.

Barnett Shale Air Sampling Map Viewer

Barnett Shale Air Sampling Map Viewer

Be forwarned however that the information contained on this website is not for the faint of heart or the  casual internet surfer.  Those who venture through the maze that is the TCEQ website, without much beyond a basic familiarity of the terms associated with measuring the sundry compounds that can escape from gas operation facilities, might find themselves challenged to understand what the map offers.

TCEQ has been under pressure from North Texas lawmakers and from various interest groups to provide the public with as much information as possible about how gas operations in the urbanized Barnett Shale might be affecting air quality. And the introduction of the map comes just four days after the chairmen of the House and Senate committees that oversee environmental regulations prompted the agency to more than double the number of air monitoring sites in the Barnett Shale.

TCEQ also announced today that it plans to hold an open house in the Barnett Shale area in October that will feature interactive displays and presentations where residents can learn about specific regulatory activities in the area. Details about when and where the open house will take place are not yet available but we will let you know as soon as we know.

TCEQ has said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency evaluated its monitoring operations in the tiny town of Dish and found no reason to doubt the validity of the test results.

Feeling adventurous?  Want to to spend part of your weekend wandering around virtually through the new interactive map? Click here.

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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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The concert is FREE to the public and welcomes all ages.
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 and plenty of political activism.

Check them out at www.cleanuptexasnow.org

Hope to see ya’ll there!

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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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The Great Texas Cleanup: Outdoor Art & Music Festival

July 24th in Houston at Discovery Green

On July 24th, the Sierra Club and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Service (TEJAS) will host The Great Texas Cleanup: A Rally & Concert for Clean Energy and Clean Air. Environmental and community groups from Houston, Texas and around the country will join local, state, and national businesses in taking a stand to cleanup Texas now!

The concert is FREE to the public and welcomes all ages.

Local musicians will play an eclectic variety of music that will unite youth, students, young professionals, families, and different communities in the fight for a future we all share. Community leaders and distinguished speakers will talk about urgent issues that have culminated into our best opportunity to cleanup Texas now. Artists, businesses, and local nonprofits will share with you what they are doing to help and how you can get involved!

Hope to see ya’ll there! CleanupTexasNow.org


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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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It is frustrating that our local and federal governments are strained from taking action to ameliorate our air and water quality because once they try to do so, the other side recites loss in jobs as the result– but never do they mention any public health concerns and the effect that has on the economy. (more…)

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In a breaking story from the AP, we learn that the air pollution rules first proposed under George W. Bush’s EPA are Pollution from coal fired power plants has been linked to respiratory illness and premature deathsmoving forward.

The Environmental Protection Agency said the new rules would cut sulfur dioxide emissions by 71 percent from 2005 levels by 2014 and nitrogen oxide emissions by 52 percent in the same time frame.

The regulation, known as the Clean Air Interstate Rule, requires 31 states from Massachusetts to Texas to reduce emissions that contribute to smog and soot and can travel long distances in the wind. The agency predicted the rule would prevent about 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths a year.

The rule would overturn and toughen rules issued during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

What happened was the Bush Administration took a look at the scientific reviews for where the levels of these pollutants should be to protect health. When they published their new air quality standards, they were actually less strong than the science required.

And while legal wrangling is fun, the real story here is the impact on human health.

“We’re working to limit pollution at its source, rather than waiting for it to move across the country,” Jackson said in a statement.

The proposed reductions should save billions of dollars in avoided health costs and sick days and save thousands of lives each year, Jackson said. Those benefits would far outweigh the estimated $2.8 annual cost of compliance, she said.

Reducing pollution from power plants means fewer sick kids who have to miss school, it means fewer people who have to be rushed to the ER for an asthma treatment, and even means fewer deaths.  And, of course, reducing these emissions most likely also means a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, another added benefit we can all be happy about.

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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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Yesterday the TCEQ remanded the air permit for the proposed Las Brisas petroleum-coke plant back to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. What they didn’t do is require the facility to do what’s called a case-by-case analysis of MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) for Hazardous Air Pollutants. In effect, TCEQ (the agency tasked with protecting people and the environment from pollution) is not going to require Las Brisas to do a proper analysis of their pollution control!

This is outrageous. A permit which should have been denied outright, or at the least sent back to the beginning of the process, is instead being temporarily remanded on a number of less significant issues. Below is the proceeding in its entirety. The first video covers the first part of the process when the applicant and the opposition’s representation were allowed time to make comments to the commissioners. The second video shows the commissioners’ decision which is then followed by a press conference which includes responses from local residents in Corpus Christi who would be directly affected by the pollution TCEQ is failing to properly address.

For more information contact Public Citizen’s office at 512-477-1155.

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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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[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtpSgqUZ3oA]

A few days ago, Larry King interviewed T. Boone Pickens and if you were watching it, you heard him condemn the spill and the US dependence on oil then he raved about natural gas and how safe it is to drill for it.

Pickens is not the first. Many have claimed that natural gas is better, safer, and cheaper. Simply, that is not the case. I have written about a couple of natural gas blow outs and pipe fractures in Texas this month alone but this documentary examines several other elements of natural gas impact than just rigs blowing up.

Yesterday, HBO aired a documentary that is both eye-opening and disturbing. It is called GasLand, in which Josh Fox, the director travels across the United States to explore the damage and contamination that has resulted from drilling for natural gas. In the documentary, Fox points out the different impacts of natural gas; on our drinking water, the air we breathe, and the nature that surrounds us. If the pictures of evaporating water mixed gas into the air to get rid of the waste (process done by gas-drilling facilities) won’t tell how bad natural gas is, then I am pretty sure watching people lighting their contaminated faucet water on fire will.

Fox collects water samples from homes with contaminated water and sends them to a lab for examination. I will leave it to you to watch his outrageous findings in the documentary.

In case you missed it, Josh Fox’s GasLand will be airing on HBO at the following (central) times:

Thursday, June 24: 12:00PM

Thursday, June 24: 11:30PM

Saturday, June 26: 11:00AM

Wednesday, June 30: 08:45AM

For more information, visit the HBO schedule page or the webpage for GasLand.

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It was a bit surprising that the EPA finally has taken a stand against the TCEQ’s practices of giving “flexible permits.” Prominent Texas politicians including the governor criticized the action taken by the EPA and once again, Gov Perry used a very important local issue to launch his attacks on the Federal government as part of his re-election campaign. “I don’t understand the federal response of coming in to the state that should be the poster child, should be the model for this country,” Perry said last week at a news conference. He was also quoted by the Houston Press saying, “Last week, the federal government sent the very clear message that it seeks to destroy Texas’s successful clean air program and threaten tens of thousands of good Texas jobs in the process.”  Perry’s claims that our air permitting program is successful is equally as dubious as his claims that we are the poster child for clean air.

Perry’s comments came at the same Texas Congress-members criticized Obama’s decision to issue a moratorium on deep-water drilling for a period that can take longer than six months. Some Congress members, who rank among the highest contribution receivers from the oil and energy industry in general, mentioned that jobs will be affected if such regulation was to take place, “”It’s exactly the wrong decision,” said Joe Barton, a Republican from Arlington, “It’s going to raise unemployment, and it’s going to raise oil prices.”

One must question the sincerity of such comments and whether they truly are accurate or not. The Dallas Morning News in an articled called “Texans in Congress say drilling support not tied to campaign donations” showed records that were obtained from Center for Responsive Politics that show how many contributions were received by Texas Congressmen:

CONTRIBUTIONS TO TEXANS IN CONGRESS

SOURCE: Center for Responsive Politics

A look at oil industry donations to members of Congress from Texas:
Member Oil/gas industry donations Rank*
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison $2.1 million 1
Sen. John Cornyn $1.6 million 3
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington $1.4 million 1
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland $651,718 1
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas $642,864 2
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth $612,807 1
Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall $529,468 3
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands $445,697 1
Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock $440,772 1
Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston $423,561 1
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco $409,698 9
Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano $393,700 3
Rep. Lamar Smith , R-San Antonio $391,147 2
Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston $374,113 5
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon $351,480 1
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler $257,063 3
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas $232,650 10
Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi $220,432 2
Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land $216,300 1
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble $208,450 3
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin $207,734 6
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville $195,246 3
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson $178,632 17
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston $173,525 6
Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock $164,150 5
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo $157,350 4
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio $143,500 7
Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell $139,750 1
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes $98,084 9
Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio $96,500 13
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso $83,350 12
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin $51,730 n/a
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas $32,875 n/a
Rep. Al Green, D-Houston $26,400 13
NOTE: Tally includes donations from political action committees and individuals starting in 1989, for the lawmaker’s first year in office if later than 1989.
* Rank indicates where the oil industry ranked among the top industries to donate to a lawmaker. N/A means the oil industry wasn’t among the top 20 givers to that lawmaker.

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These numbers are staggering and if you want to bet that those massive contributions don’t alter or affect the decisions of those politicians, I have some beachfront property in Arizona I’d like to sell you. (more…)

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Federal environmental regulators set new limits on sulfur dioxide emissions for the first time in 40 years.  A move that could prevent thousands of asthma attacks and premature deaths while reducing health care costs..

The new rules, which take effect under court order, will prohibit short-term spikes of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which is primarily emitted from coal-fired power plants and other industrial facilities.  Texas has 17 coal plants, with another dozen under construction or in the permitting phase across the state.

The EPA estimates nationally the cost of retrofitting power plants to comply with the new rules will be $1.5 billion over the next 10 years.  The savings in health benefits could be as much as $13 billion to $33 billion a year.

The previous standard called for concentrations of no more than 140 parts per billion, averaged over 24 hours. Under the new rules, the allowable level of SO2 would drop to 75 parts per billion in one hour to guard against short-term spikes, and is seen by the EPA as the most efficient and effective way to protect against SO2 pollution in the air we breathe.

Although the final standard is a bit less strict than the American Lung Association had urged, it is well within the range recommended by EPA’s independent science advisers.

At this writing it is anticipated that Jefferson County is the only area in Texas that would fail the tougher standard, but EPA is requiring additional monitors in some areas of the state that are borderline.

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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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The TCEQ granted a permit to re-open the ASARCO foundry over protests of staff, residents of El Paso, and local leaders. Luckily, the EPA intervened and stopped it.

You’ve probably heard by now.  The TCEQ has failed to adhere to the federal Clean Air Act, jeopardizing our health, our safety, and the quality of our air. This is why, on Tuesday, May 25, the EPA took over the TCEQ’s authority to grant clean air permits for 40 facilities across the state of Texas, most notably the Flint Hills Resources’ crude oil refinery near Corpus Christi.

The TCEQ has failed to fulfill its promises to the federal government and the citizens of Texas, whom it is supposed to protect.

The Sunset Advisory Commission is a 12-member body appointed by the Lieutenant Governor and the speaker of the house to identify and eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency in government agencies. Every 12 years, over 150 government agencies are reviewed for potential changes and improvements in their responsibilities and operations. And since the review of Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the TCEQ, is quickly approaching, we’re getting organized!  Will you join us for a call next Thursday, June 10th at 6pm CT?

From the Alliance for Clean Texas:

The Alliance for a Clean Texas (ACT) will launch its 2010-2011 TCEQ sunset campaign with a conference call next Thursday, June 10th at 6:30 p.m. All Texans committed to protecting our state’s environment and health are invited to participate in the call.

ACT is a coalition of organizations and individuals around the state working together to make this a milestone year for environmental protection in Texas. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is currently under review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Now is the time to turn our concerns about how TCEQ does and does not do its job of protecting our environment and our health into real, lasting reform.

In the last week, TCEQ has been at the center of two major stories about the Texas environment. The EPA has finally taken action to bring TCEQ air permitting back into compliance with the federal Clean Air Act–a move opposed by the TCEQ commissioners. And Fort Worth is reeling with the news that (more…)

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Photo Courtesy of Donna Hoffman at the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. Thanks Donna!

Dozens of businesses and nonprofit organizations as well as more than 200 citizens have formed Clean Energy for Austin, a coalition whose purpose is to push Austin City Council to adopt a clean energy plan. Specifically, the coalition supports the passage of Austin Energy’s Resource and Climate Protection Plan and recommendations of a city task force created to examine the plan. Coalition members support the plan because of its emphasis on renewable energy and efficiency, green jobs creation and careful consideration of Austin’s low-income residents.

To date, more than 70 businesses, 18 non-profit organizations and more than 200 individuals have signed on in support of the energy plan through www.cleanenergyforaustin.org.

The energy plan is a road map for how Austin Energy, the city-owned electric utility, will meet the city’s energy needs over the next 10 years. It includes a substantial investment in energy efficiency and a variety of renewable energy resources like wind and solar, as well as new more efficient natural gas plants. In addition to diversifying its generation portfolio, Austin Energy wants to create a self-sustaining market for renewable technologies like solar rooftops and parking lots by 2020.

“A good business practice is to keep your options open when selecting suppliers,” said Steve Taylor of Applied Materials, a semiconductor manufacturer employing more than a thousand Austinites. “This plan allows for a diversity of different energy options, so it protects businesses – and residents – from long-term price spikes for any single power source because other energy supply options will be available and abundant. This plan also enhances Austin’s efforts to create green businesses and green jobs for years to come.”

The plan is the culmination of a nearly two-year public process of gathering input from multiple stakeholder groups, including businesses, environmental organizations, and groups serving low-income communities. Four representatives from the mayor’s Generation and Resource Planning Task Force, which analyzed more than a dozen scenarios of where Austin could get its power by 2020, are members of the coalition: Phillip Schmandt, chairman of Electric Utility Commission, Cary Ferchill, chair of Solar Austin, as well as non-profit members Public Citizen and Sierra Club.

“The great thing about the plan is its flexibility,” said Matthew Johnson, clean energy advocate with Public Citizen. “If costs for any resource type rise or fall dramatically over the next 10 years, Austin Energy would have the ability to change the plan, and do so with the help of community stakeholders. That’s the beauty of a diverse portfolio of resources. If Austin were locked into building a new coal or nuclear plant, our fate would be sealed.”

Energy efficiency, generally recognized as the cheapest energy resource, would be the main component of the plan. Austin Energy would take a more proactive and coordinated approach to reach low-income households with free weatherization to help lower their electric bills.

“Low-income communities need the most help with paying utility bills,” said Sunshine Mathon, design and development director of Foundation Communities, an Austin-based nonprofit affordable housing organization. “Austin has a long track record of having the lowest bills in Texas because of its commitment to conservation programs that help people lower their bills. My hope is that with the passage of this plan, those programs will not only expand but coordinate with other programs like bill assistance, neighborhood housing and community development.”

Coalition representatives also said that the plan reduces financial risk associated with overreliance on fossil fuels. The plan would enable Austin Energy to ramp down the Fayette coal plant more often, protecting the utility from pending carbon regulation.

“Whether or not you support greenhouse gas regulation, reducing the amount of carbon emissions that Austin is responsible for makes economic sense,” Johnson said. “That’s in addition to the improvements in air quality Austin and the surrounding region would experience. It’s a win-win.”

Austin’s City Council could vote on the plan in March, according to Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell. He has scheduled a Feb. 22 town hall meeting on Austin Energy’s Resource and Climate Protection Plan. Coalition members urge the public to visit www.cleanenergyforaustin.org and sign on as well as attend the town hall meeting to show their support.

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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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