Posts Tagged ‘arkansas’

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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Abandon All Hope…

…ye who enter the Turk plant.Turk Site

Last Thursday in Hope, Arkansas there were two meetings. One was widely attended, the other was not… mostly because hardly anyone had heard of it.

They hadn’t heard of it because it snuck in under the wire, with barely (if at all) the proper notices and alerts. It was a quorum court meeting, and on the agenda was a motion to approve a bond issuance “not to exceed” $185,000,000. Aside from one dissenting voice of sanity, the motion was passed.

It was passed without allowing anyone to comment, and upon only one reading.

Hempstead County and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation are now investors in the Turk Coal Plant, meaning residents and taxpayers are now on the hook for nearly 200 million dollars.

Why do they need this public backing? Coal’s dirty little secret is that it is on the way out, and everybody knows this. Power plants are constructed with a budget to pay off the cost of the plant over 20 or 30 years. Coal will soon become so economically unviable that these plants will be forced to close, leaving taxpayers and bondholders to pick up the check. How incredibly irresponsible.

Meanwhile, across town at the University of Arkansas Community College at Hope, I and a few hundred other people were cramming ourselves into the library to listen and submit comments to the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ). They were holding a public hearing regarding mercury and other HAPs that the Turk plant will be emitting.

Employees from the plant were there, wearing florescent yellow t-shirts that said “Support Turk” on them. I wonder how many of those “employees” were contractors: temporary workers who don’t even live in Hempstead County, or possibly even Arkansas. Adding evidence to my suspicions was a documentary film maker present at the hearing who had filmed most of them leaving the plant earlier that day.

There was one local employee of SWEPCO who did give comments, and spoke at length about how much they all needed the plant because he had six kids and he needed his job with SWEPCO to take care of them.

He got the loudest applause of anyone the entire evening.

This same, poor, hard-working employee so concerned with supporting his kids has no concern for the destruction coal is wrecking on the futures of those same children. And not just the future of their health, but their economy too. Carbon legislation is going to happen during the next president’s term, and it will make coal so expensive that many coal plants will have to be shut down. Why, then, are we building new coal plants?

(Read the Entire Original Post on Coal Block)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This reminded me a lot of a BBC special I saw about Chinese coal plants and how the people knew the coal was making them sick but felt they needed the jobs.  Watch it below.  ~~Citizen Andy


(BBC report on a coal plant in China)

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A Small Measure of Hope

Original Blog from http://www.coalblock.org

August 9, 2008

I’ll be heading back to Austin soon where we hope to regroup and move on to the next steps in our efforts to stop coal plants. All in all I consider this Arkansas trip to be a large success. We had 77 people come out for the screening in Fayetteville and had over 150 in Little Rock. Many Arkansans are eager to unite and stop these coal plants in order to promote and move towards renewable energy generation.

Here in Hope, however, my spirits were a bit lower. We distributed thousands of fliers at the Watermelon Festival in

the “hope” of drawing people out to the screening and getting folks involved in the fight. We were unsuccessful, however, and the only folks who showed up to the screening were the local hunting club guys who had been fighting this plant since the beginning. We were unable to get any new local interest in opposing the plant.

It is in these local towns, closest to the plants, where the hardest fight lies. Many, if not most, of the locals see the plant as an economic boon, since the few of them who get jobs with the company are usually getting the best job they’ve ever had. Concerns about public health, environmental degradation, and long-term economical impacts are ignored or justified in the light of some industry, any industry, willing to invest in the local community.

As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon him not understanding it.” This was true a hundred years ago, and it is still true today – both for men and women. And as long as the majority of people in this country are kept beneath a yoke of low wages and corporate consumerism, the will of the people to acknowledge, much less fight, the ills of our age will be greatly weakened.

This is not just an American dilemma, consider this Chinese coal plant situation:


The companies who build these plants know this. This is why they choose economically challenged or depressed sites and communities for their projects. It is also why it is so important to find those few locals who are willing and eager to speak against the crowd and stand up for their health, the environment, and a stable and sound energy future.

With that thought in mind we are networking the few dedicated souls in Hope with the rest of the great volunteers throughout Arkansas in our efforts to stop these coal plants. With the momentum we’ve gathered I think we have a great chance of achieving the change we seek.

As with Pandora, all it takes is a faint glimmer of Hope.

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