Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

The nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) examined the 16 Texas power plants that are required to monitor groundwater under the Federal Coal Ash Rule, and found that 100 percent of the coal plants (16 out of 16) are leaking contaminants, including arsenic, boron, cobalt, and lithium, into groundwater at levels that would be unsafe for human consumption. For a detailed discussion of our study’s methods, see page 17. Some of the main findings include:

•   Thirteen of the sixteen coal plants have unsafe levels of arsenic in groundwater, with concentrations sometimes exceeding 100 micrograms per liter – ten times higher than the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level for arsenic.

•   Ten plants have unsafe levels of boron, which is toxic to both humans and aquatic life. Multiple wells at the San Miguel plant south of San Antonio have boron concentrations of more than thirty milligrams per liter, exceeding EPA’s health advisory by ten-fold.

•   Fourteen plants appear to be leaking unsafe levels of cobalt, which can harm the heart, blood, and other organs. The groundwater protection standard for cobalt is six micrograms per liter. At the San Miguel plant, Gibbons Creek facility northwest of Houston, and Welsh plant east of Dallas, cobalt in groundwater reaches more than 600 micrograms per liter, which is more than 100 times higher than safe levels.

· Lithium is associated with neurological effects and other health risks. Eleven Texas coal plants have unsafe levels of lithium in groundwater, with concentrations frequently exceeding 1,000 micrograms per liter, 25 times the health-based groundwater protection standard of 40 micrograms per liter.

In addition, with one or two exceptions, none of the coal ash ponds in Texas meet EPA requirements for liners, meaning that they lack underground barriers made of plastic or other waterproof materials that prevent them from leaking. 

The plants in the study are Oak Grove and Twin Oaks coal plants in Roberson County, Sandy Creek coal plant in McLennan County, Limestone coal plant in Limestone County, Sandow coal plant in Milam County, Fayette coal plant in Fayette County, Monticello and Welsh coal plants in Titus County, Pirkey coal plant in Harrison County, Martin Lake coal plant in Rusk County, Big Brown coal plant in Freestone County, Gibbons Creek coal plant in Grimes County, Calaveras coal plant in Bexar County, San Miguel coal plant in Atascosa County, Parish coal plant in Fort Bend County, and Coleto Creek coal plant in Fannin County.

The report goes on to say the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) can address the coal ash threat in the following ways:

•         Require coal-fired power plants to remediate coal ash contamination from any onsite ash dumps, regardless of whether these dumps are active or inactive.

•         Prohibit the dumping or burying of coal ash in places where it remains in contact with groundwater. The only way to prevent contamination from coal ash is to keep the coal ash contained and dry. Ash ponds at the Monticello and Welsh plants east of Dallas are in contact with groundwater, and the owners of these plants are planning to close the ponds in place. Leaving ash in these ponds will result in ongoing, long-term contamination of groundwater.

•         Require owners to post all groundwater monitoring data as soon as the data are collected, and require owners to follow the assessment monitoring schedule laid out in the Coal Ash Rule, not the creative interpretation suggested by industry groups and sanctioned by the Trump EPA. Assessment monitoring should begin no later than 90 days after finding statistically significant increases in detection monitoring, and the assessment monitoring data should be analyzed for significant increases within 90 days of initiating assessment monitoring.

•         Require owners to select background monitoring wells that are unaffected by coal ash from any coal ash unit, regulated or unregulated. This is what the federal Coal Ash Rule requires, and EPA and Texas should strictly enforce this provision of the rule.

•         Require testing of any residential or municipal drinking water wells within one-half mile of coal ash ponds and landfills.

•         Consider environmental justice and avoid disproportionate impacts of coal ash disposal on low-income communities and communities of color.

To read the entire report, Groundwater Contamination from Texas Coal Ash Dumps


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The J.K. Spruce plant, left, is seen at the entrance to the CPS Energy Plants, on Wednesday, April 25. The coal-fired Deely plant will be shut down but the Spruce plant will remain open.

Photo: Bob Owen /San Antonio Express-News
Confetti: Us

On Dec. 31, CPS Energy will ring in the new year by shutting down one of its two coal-fired power plants.

Situated at Calaveras Lake in the deep Southeast Side of San Antonio, two looming coal plants sit like angry giants. From their bodies, streaming clouds of polluting smoke rise. This smoke, filled with microscopic pieces of poison, finds its way into everything: our land, our air, our water and our bodies. There is no crack too small, no resource too protected, no person too healthy to evade the poison that emits from these behemoths.

The poison from these coal plants greatly contributes to the facts that San Antonio leads the state in child hospitalization rates from asthma, is increasingly getting hotter, is experiencing more and more drought, and has air so polluted it no longer meets federal standards for air quality.

In general, coal contributes to an array of intensely harmful effects on public health, such as increasing chances of cardiovascular disease and the release of mercury and lead, which deteriorate the nervous and immune systems.

The good news is JT “Dirty” Deely will soon no longer be able to release poison.

There is a soot-colored line in this monumental news: The Spruce coal-fired power plant is staying open with no shut-off date set. While Deely has a total capacity for energy production at 932 megawatts, Spruce’s total capacity is 1,336 megawatts, and it runs more often. In a report released in 2013 called “America’s Dirtiest Power Plants,” Deely didn’t make the list, but Spruce came in 67th place. While one polluting giant topples, another will continue, without any stop in sight, as confirmed in CPS Energy’s “Flexible Path” energy generation plan that projects burning one of Spruce’s two units into the 2040s and possibly even longer.

However, despite the continued use of Spruce, a celebration is in order. It is a celebration that grounds us in the accomplishments of now, while positioning us toward the horizon of progress still to be made. At this horizon stands a world with no coal plants and no natural gas infrastructure. A world where children never struggle to breathe, where workers have secure jobs in safe settings, where the planet and our bodies are free of pollution from fossil fuels. The timeline to reach this horizon is urgent, but it is a horizon that is within reach and comes with assurance of better and healthier lives for all life on our shared planetary home.

The Climate Action SA coalition — which consists of dozens of environmental and social justice organizations, including Public Citizen — is throwing a party to celebrate this amazing moment. Come ready to eat, drink and dance! We are coming together to celebrate cleaner air, water and land, for better health for the people and environment of San Antonio and the surrounding areas, and to start to realize the better world we know we could achieve through a rapid, just transition to renewable energy.

The Dirty Deely Coal Plant Shutdown Celebration will take place Dec. 15 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Galleria Guadalupe, 723 S. Brazos St., in San Antonio. Click here to register to attend this event.

Briauna Barrera is an organizer with Public Citizen and a member of Climate Action SA coalition.

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The 86th Session of the Texas Legislature is less than a month away and more than 700 bills have already been filed. It’s impossible to tell this early in the process which bills will move and which won’t. But we’ve looked at every bill filed so far and picked out a few favorites. So with the caveat that everything could (will) change in a few weeks’ time, here are some environmental bills we like.

SB 118 (West)/HB 360 (Murphy) – This bill continues for ten years the Property Redevelopment and Tax Abatement Act. Also known as “Chapter 312” (of the Tax Code), the act has incentivized billions of dollars in investment in wind energy across Texas. The act is also used by the oil and gas industry, and we have heard rumors that some lawmakers might try to continue the act for the fossil fuel industry but not the renewable industry. We would oppose such a move.

HB 100 (Eric Johnson) – This bill would require state agencies to plan for projected changes in weather, water availability, and climate variability. Affected agencies would include the Department of Agriculture, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, General Land Office, Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Texas Department of Insurance, Parks and Wildlife Department, Department of Public Safety, Public Utility Commission of Texas, office of the comptroller, Texas A&M Forest Service, and Texas Water Development Board. Texas is the most vulnerable state in the nation to climate change. Since 1980, 95 of the 238 $1 billion disasters in the nation have occurred in Texas. From the Gulf Coast’s vulnerability to hurricanes, to Central Texas’ wildfires, to North Texas’ water shortages, Texas needs action on climate change.

HB 245 (Farrar) – This bill would require online posting of environmental permit applications. This would be relatively easy to implement and an important step forward in transparency in the permitting process, which can be difficult for community members to follow.

HB 274 (Sarah Davis) – Sarah Davis of Houston filed this bill to create the Disaster Reinvestment and Infrastructure Planning Revolving Fund, which would be seeded with $15 million from the Rainy Day Fund. The fund would be used to rebuild damaged infrastructure or build new infrastructure for mitigation purposes after a disaster. Both areas that do and do not quality for FEMA funding would be eligible to apply for funding.

SB 185 (Miles) – This bill would motivate oil and gas well operators to prevent and respond more completely to spills and accidents. The bill would:

  • Require notice to the Railroad Commission of fires, leaks, spills, or breaks at wells.
  • Create an emergency alert system to notify the public about well blowouts.
  • Prevent drilling of new wells adjacent to sites where well blowouts have occurred and resulted in violations or ongoing investigations.

SB 208 (Campbell) – This bill is the first of what we expect to be several bills filed to address the impacts of the concrete industry on communities. The bill would increase the setback requirement for concrete crushers and certain concrete batch plants from 440 yards to 880 yards. We think that increasing this setback is a great idea, as 440 yards is not enough of a buffer from the noise, dust, and other pollution created by concrete plants. We think it’s such a good idea, in fact, that we would expand its applicability to all concrete plants.


This sampling of bills covers most of our major areas of interest in environmental policy: renewable energy, climate, fossil fuels, air pollution, and permitting. But we are only scratching the surface so far; in the coming weeks and months, many more bills will be filed on these and other important issues. The final bill tally in the 86th legislature may be ten times the number of bills filed so far. Stay tuned to Public Citizen to learn about how our priorities evolve throughout the session.

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Capital Metro’s Project Connect system plan is heading for a vote with the board of directors on December 17. The idea is to adopt a system plan and identify routes to submit for funding to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and put through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process. All of that would then lead to an Austin bond election in November 2020 to fund the first phase of the system.

Vision Plan Needs Work

The map (called the Vision Plan) that the board will be asked to vote on shows a number of new routes in various parts of Austin, but a closer look reveals that all but two of those routes – the orange and blue lines – are designated for BRT-light. “BRT” is bus rapid transit and “light” means that those buses would be driving in the same lanes as the rest of traffic.

Here’s the problem – a bus slogging through traffic takes longer to get from one place to another than a car because it has to stop along the way to pick passengers up. And, depending on how fuel efficient your car is and whether or not you have to pay for parking at your destination, the bus could cost more than driving your personal vehicle too. That is not a recipe for luring in choice riders – those who could use some other form of transportation. It’s also not good for the transit dependent population – those who need the bus to get to work, school, doctor appointments, the grocery store and everything else. A longer commute for those who can’t afford a car says “your time isn’t as valuable.” Capital Metro staff and their consultants are well aware that dedicated lanes are the key to a successful mass transit system, but the Vision Plan doesn’t reflect that fact.

The Blue and Orange lines are designated for high capacity transit in dedicated pathways on Austin’s busiest corridors and those where population growth is coming. The Orange Line would run down North Lamar to Guadalupe, across the river and down South Congress. The Blue Line would run from the airport, along Riverside, across the river, into downtown and up to the UT campus. These routes could have light rail or bus rapid transit – Cap Metro isn’t saying which yet. Either way, those trains or buses will be moving faster because they won’t be stuck in the traffic jam. Bus rapid transit is the cheaper of these options, but light rail can move more people, so could end up being cheaper per passenger. Because light rail can move more people, it would be better suited than bus rapid transit to serve the busiest routes as Austin continues to grow.

The other significant deficit we see with the proposed system plan is high capacity transit service or BRT-light isn’t envisioned for some of the areas with significant numbers of residents who depend on transit. The new north-south routes would end right around 183. A high capacity route along East MLK Blvd that was shown in previous drafts has been removed. Many lower-income residents in north and east Austin rely on transit and would stand to benefit from access to more efficient mass transit.

Why the Limited Vision?

So, why isn’t Capital Metro planning for designated lanes for the whole system? Why are important routes into north and east Austin being shortened or removed from the plan? And why isn’t light rail identified as the mode of choice on routes where the largest numbers of people could be moved?

Part of the reason seems to be that the agency is using current bus ridership numbers to project future ridership on high capacity transit routes. This may be common industry practice, but it doesn’t result in a very ambitious plan. If Capital Metro and the City of Austin worked together to make transit a more attractive and more affordable option than driving or taking a ride share, it stands to reason that more Austinites would use it. And we need a lot more Austinites to start using transit if we’re going to meet our community-wide goal of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and stop wasting so much of our lives sitting in traffic.

The more overarching reason for the less than visionary Vision Plan that Capital Metro rolled out in October seems to be a lack of confidence. Specifically, a lack of confidence that Austinites are willing to fund a more costly and ambitious transit plan. Capital Metro has good reason to be warry of Austin voters. Twice now – once in 2000 and again in 2014 – Austin voters have rejected the transit agency’s requests for bond money for the development of light rail in the city. One could – and many do – argue that the voters’ rejection of those bond requests were at least partially because Capital Metro failed to listen to voters during the planning process, but what seems to have stuck with the agency (and other city leaders) is simply the fact that voters rejected those bonds.

Inspiring Voters, Increasing Ridership

While funding the development of light rail and bus rapid transit in all parts of the city at once isn’t practical, it stands to reason that people all across the city will be more enthusiastic about supporting a bond for the first route or two if they can see that the rapid transit system will eventually be expanded to their area. If this is a vision plan, let’s make sure that it reflects a vision that would truly address the scope of Austin’s transportation challenges. A system relying primarily on buses stuck in traffic (BRT-light) won’t result in the mass shift from riding in cars to public transit that we need to reach our climate goals.

So, what do we do? We need to show the Capital Metro board of directors – which includes Austin City Council Members Ann Kitchen (D5), Delia Garza (D2), and Pio Renteria (D3) – that Austinites are ready to go big on mass transit.

Taking Action

There are several ways to weigh in and now is the time to do so.

Whether in person or in writing, we encourage you to ask for dedicated lanes for high capacity transit on all routes and ask that routes be extended into north Austin (north of 183) and into east Austin along MLK. Asking for light rail for the orange and blue lines would also be helpful, although that final decision won’t be made for over a year.



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Tomorrow, on November 27, CPS Energy is hosting a Public Input Session. It will be one-part educational event on how to save money on one’s energy bill and one-part civic engagement event, as members of the public can sign up to speak on CPS Energy’s policies, performance, and most notably, their Flexible Path energy plan. The Flexible Path is an energy resource plan that uses flexibility as a way to avoid taking much needed action to phase out fossil fuels. We don’t know every detail of the future, but we do know that is needed. The simple fact is that we need to transition to renewable energy as fast as possible.

Instead of making a strong commitment to renewable energy, CPS Energy envisions burning coal for the foreseeable future – at least until 2042. This is a future that will continue to pollute us and our families, our water, our land, and our air. For a healthier future for San Antonio we must transition to renewable energy!

A just transition to renewable energy means:

  • Less pollution and cleaner air
  • Lowered rates of upper-respiratory diseases and cancer caused by fossil fuels
  • Doing our part to address the urgent challenge of climate change
  • A decrease in hospitalization due to asthma
  • Less smoggy skies
  • More green jobs
  • A decrease in the heat-island effect
  • Less polluted water and land

In a world where so much of our built environment and investments are antithetical to our health, this would be a step in the right direction.

By committing to a rapid, just transition to renewable energy, CPS Energy would be committing to the health and wellbeing of Bexar and surrounding counties residents, the continued existence and wellbeing of the natural systems and resources we all depend on, and the increased livability of San Antonio.

The conditions of climate change are creating a world that – if we continue as we are – will be uninhabitable by humans and much other non-human life by the end of the century. That means where action can be taken, it must be taken. The foundation for modern life is in our energy use and it is through our energy use we must look towards to for creating a world that is better for all life.

So, what can you do? You can speak truth to power!

What: Board of Trustees Public Input Session

Where: 401 Villita St, San Antonio, Texas 78205

When: Tuesday, November 27, 5:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Let us know you’ll be there.

Sign up to speak anytime between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. The input session starts at 6 p.m. If you can’t make it until after 6 p.m., please come anyway – we will help try to get you in the queue to speak. We encourage you to take the bus, but if you drive, there is free parking for the event at the Navarro Street Garage (located at 126 Navarro).

Use any of the points above. Tell your energy story. We must speak truth to power in order to see necessary action taken. We must demand a better world.

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On November 19, 2018, Public Citizen and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition submitted scoping comments regarding the license application of ISP’s WCS’ Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) (Docket # NRC-2016-0231) on behalf of Public Citizen members in Texas as well as members of SEED Coalition, many of whom would be particularly affected by this proposed project, either as neighbors near the site or because they live near the rail lines that would carry this risky radioactive cargo through their communities.

A State of Nevada Report regarding the transportation of high-level radioactive waste to the proposed Yucca Mountain repository project led off by stating that it “has the potential to wreak economic, social, and environmental devastation on at least 44 states, including Nevada, hundreds of major cities and thousands of communities across the country through which spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and high-level radioactive waste (HLW) must travel.”[1] The report noted that tens of thousands of shipments of highly radioactive waste would be an “inseparable and dominant component of the federal government’s repository program “and lamented the fact that the Secretary of Energy recommended that “Yucca Mountain be developed as a repository without full disclosure of these transportation impacts and without having assessed the implications of the program for the nation as a whole…”[2]

What began in 1983 as a noble experiment that promised to place science ahead of politics, and fairness, equity, and openness above parochialism has degenerated into a technical and ethical quagmire, where facts are routinely twisted to serve predetermined ends and where “might makes right” has replaced “consultation, concurrence, and cooperation” as the guiding principle for the program. The shoddy and politically driven science, the heavy-handed federal approach, the constant changing of the rules to negate disqualifying conditions and “inconvenient” findings, and the deliberate avoidance of responsibility for considering socioeconomic impacts have created an atmosphere of severe distrust, where the already significant impacts associated with the nuclear nature of the program are further exacerbated and amplified. The result is a massive suite of negative impacts, national in scope, inextricably linked to the Yucca Mountain program, and unprecedented in the history of federal government domestic projects.[3]

Unfortunately, the same politically driven science and heavy-handed federal approach are still in use today as evidenced by the ill-conceived, ill-advised proposals to store spent nuclear fuel in Texas and New Mexico. As with Yucca Mountain, the nation would be put at unprecedented risk by the thousands of shipments of high-level radioactive waste across the country. At least the goal with the failed Yucca Mountain site was a permanent repository. Consolidated interim storage, by contrast, does not move our nation toward permanent disposal. This approach could delay a viable repository, while unnecessarily risking health and safety and creating financial liability. This proposal also creates the very real risk that a interim repository will become a de facto permanent storage site—a use for which it was never intended and would be wholly unsuited. (more…)

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Happy Thanksgiving

Wishes you a safe and happy
Thanksgiving Holiday

And when you return, join us to start the rest of your holiday celebrations at
The 11th Annual Austin Green Holiday Party
Presented by Barr Mansion & The Shades of Green Radio Show

Barr Mansion & Shades of Green Radio Show Present
The 11th Annual Austin Green Holiday Party

Thursday, December 13th, 2018 6pm – 10pm
Hosted and Sponsored by Barr Mansion
10463 Sprinkle Rd., Austin, TX 78754 (www.barrmansion.com)

Advance Tickets $25.00, ($30.00 at door) REGISTER HERE
(Tickets include appetizers, dinner, all drinks and live music)

Co-Hosted by:

The Austin Green Holiday Party comes together every December to celebrate our victories and regroup for the good fight in the coming year. This will be our 11th year enjoying great friends, food, drink and music in a festive mixer that provides cross-pollination for a variety of great organizations. This year, 14 organizations are co-hosting.

Experience how we are at the nexus of a merging of the environmental and food movements while enjoying a buffet featuring a variety of  seasonal, all-organic favorites.


Our beverage sponsors include:


We welcome the return of the magical sounds of Seu Jacinto, a group introducing and developing traditional Northeastern Brazilian culture to Central Texas. Seu Jacinto pays homage to the masters of the Brazilian folk musical traditions of forró, coco, cavalo marinho, and many other Northeast Brazilian rhythms.

A big year is ahead so let’s enjoy our extended family and refresh our spirits for whatever comes next. We look forward to seeing you!


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“Clean” cars are not all created equal

A recent report by the University of Houston details how the fourth largest city in the nation can reduce air pollution by replacing old, polluting vehicles. (Full disclosure: the report was funded in part by Public Citizen and the Healthy Port Communities Coalition.) By 2040, the eight-county Houston region will have 30-50% more cars on the road and 40-80% more trucks. A business-as-usual scenario for those vehicles would lead to 122 additional deaths in Houston. In contrast, replacing pollution intensive vehicles with electric and clean tech vehicles could save 246 lives.

Houston has battled air pollution—particularly ozone—for decades. Air quality is complex in Houston, with pollution contributions from cars and trucks, energy generation, and one of the largest concentrations of petrochemical manufacturing facilities found anywhere in the world.

Scientists are increasingly appreciating the role that transportation plays in air pollution. Diesel trucks are some of the worst offenders, and the best thing Houston can do to fight pollution from the transportation sector is to replace our oldest and dirtiest trucks.

This turns out to be true whether those trucks are replaced with electric vehicles or so-called “emissions controlled” vehicles. Newer diesel engines can be up to 90% cleaner than their older cousins. This fact, combined with the low-cost and familiarity of diesel engines, means that regulators looking for cheap and easy solutions to clean the air often turn to diesel vehicles first.

But there are a number of reasons why electric vehicles (EVs) are a better alternative to “clean combustion” vehicles. Let’s look at a few of them now.

Electric vehicles save money. If you purchase an electric car or truck today, you will spend more than if you purchased an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. But that doesn’t mean EVs cost more. In fact, over the lifetime of ownership of a vehicle, you will save money if you purchase an EV. The first saving comes in fuel costs—it’s more expensive to fill a gas tank than to plug in your car at home or at work. The next savings is in maintenance cost. EVs have fewer moving parts, so the long-term maintenance cost of an electric vehicle is significantly less than an ICE vehicle. And with EV prices declining rapidly, even the initial cost will be less than that of an ICE vehicle within about seven years. Sometime between now and then, we are likely to see a tipping point, as vehicle purchasers begin to appreciate how they can save money with EVs.

Electric vehicles are inherently cleaner. EVs never have tailpipe emissions—they are truly zero emissions. They do pull energy from the electricity grid, and most of the energy on the grid comes from fossil fuel sources today. But Texas’ grid is getting cleaner by the year. Which means that the air pollution EVs are indirectly responsible for will continue to decrease.

Clean tech does not always work. “Clean diesel” vehicles, unlike EVs, still emit pollution. And the amount of pollution they emit is highly dependent on how they are used and how frequently they are serviced. Diesel trucks rely on something called a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to reduce air pollution. But DPFs only work at certain operating temperatures. Vehicles that idle for long periods of time, such as drayage trucks operating at the Port of Houston, often fall outside of those temperatures, rendering the DPF ineffective. Vehicle emissions controls also only work if vehicles are continuously maintained (this is why you have to get an emissions test on your car every year). As “clean diesel” trucks age, they stop being so clean.

These are a few of the reasons why we advocate for replacing today’s transportation fleet with electric vehicles—the fleets of the future. Texas has $209 million dollars in Volkswagen mitigation funds to spend on clean transportation in the coming years. Cheap, “clean” diesels may seem like a bargain, but they are not. As we propel Texas and Houston toward a cleaner future, we should embrace the best technologies available. Our lives depend on it.

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Last week was difficult. The IPCC report – Global Warming of 1.5 °C – was released on Monday, October 8 and the news articles that ensued after its release were torrential and more often than not, dire. I read one after the another like my life depended on it, inundating myself with predictions of doom, whispers of hope, and passionate calls to action.

By the end of the week, my nervous system was fried. My ecoanxiety was worse than ever.

I work as a climate justice organizer based in San Antonio, Texas with Public Citizen. People often ask me what my job means. In short, organizing is “a practice aimed at helping people create the social movements and political organizations necessary to wage campaigns and win power”. When centered around climate justice, it means that I work towards building power to address climate change and support climate solutions. I spend my days doing research, reading policy and news, hosting meetings, attending meetings, planning events, petitioning, canvassing, sending emails, conversing with all kinds of people, writing, educating, speaking, presenting, and a whole host of other things.

This work is extremely meaningful to me and I can’t see myself doing anything else at this point in my life. I’m immensely grateful that I’m able to make organizing my profession. However, you don’t have to be a professional organizer to organize. Some of the best organizers I know have day jobs. They organize because they are angry at the vast injustices that exist and are passionate about building a better world for everyone. The realization that the injustices of the world are created by unjust systems and structures and understanding that those systems and structures can be dismantled, transformed, and built anew is the root of organizing. Our economic, social, and governing structures were created by people and therefore can be changed by people.

We have the ability to affect change. But we can only affect change collectively.



Organizing is not something that happens – or at the very least succeeds – as an individual effort. At the heart of organizing is community building. However, our society is built around isolation and alienation. This is the great challenge and strength behind organizing: bringing people together, creating meaningful relationships, and engaging in important and significant work.  

The IPCC report states that the next decade is the definitive decade for whether or not we stay within 1.5C of warming for the Earth. More than 1.5C of warming means that every coastal city in the world floods, every island nation disappears under rising sea levels, hundreds of millions of people become climate refugees, drought, food scarcity, and vector-borne diseases would all become increasingly persistent and severe problems, and we’d run the risk of feedback loops leading us into even more warming and even more climate catastrophe. Simply put, the more the planet heats up, the more uninhabitable it becomes for life, including humans.  

I hear people express concern and worry over unaffordable housing and gentrification, food deserts, increasingly severe flooding and weather events, lack of public transit, poor air quality, police and ICE brutality and discrimination, the lack of safe pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, meaningless jobs that don’t pay a livable wage, a broken healthcare system, longer heatwaves, mental health concerns, barriers to political engagement, and many other issues. Climate justice has a stake in all of these issues and all of these an issues can be (and more likely than not are) organized around. Organizing isn’t easy by any means, but it offers us the tools to make our lives better and in the case of climate change, it means fighting for life as we know it.

Many battles have been won from organizing such as 8-hour workdays to free breakfast in schools to desegregation to women having the right to vote and countless more. The rights that we enjoy today are the results of coordinated efforts by people, not the goodwill of those with power.  

Now is the time for all hands on deck. We are at such a critical and uncertain moment in humanity’s history, we must act. Anyone can become an organizer and everyone who can should. We must organize and win collective power in order to prevent climate catastrophe.

When people ask me what it means to be an organizer, I tell that it means being defiant. It means refusing to settle for the status quo under an unjust and cruel system. It means speaking louder when I am told to be silent.

Organizing means knowing a better world is possible and fighting alongside others to make it a reality. 


If you are interested in organizing opportunities in San Antonio, you can contact Briauna at [email protected].


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Ever wonder who makes rules for how an attorney interacts with you as a client?  That would be the Texas State Bar, and as of 2011, non-attorneys can submit comments on the proposed rule changes.  Now is your chance.
The Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda (CDRR) has published proposed rules changes regarding attorney – client confidentiality/ethics advice and diminished capacity.  You can see the proposed rule change by clicking on Publication 18-3 and 18-4- final_v5-4
A public hearing on the proposed rules was held on October 10, 2018.
The committee is accepting comments concerning the proposed rules through November 1, 2018.  Comments can be submitted at texasbar.com/CDRR .
The committee was created by Government Code section 81.0872 and is responsible for overseeing the initial process for proposing a disciplinary rule. For more information, go to texasbar.com/CDRR .
Feel free to share this post with anyone you know who might want to weigh in on these rules.

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On Monday, October 8, 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report, that holding average global warming 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C) – the stronger of the two goals set in the Paris Agreement Climate Agreement – is still possible, but only with urgent action.

The report was requested by members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) during the adoption of the Paris Agreement. Member countries recognized that the emissions reductions commitments made by participant countries weren’t sufficient to meet the temperature goals in the Agreement, so they asked the IPCC to provide additional technical information that could inform future updates. The report will serve as key input for the next U.N. climate change conference in Poland in December.


Current international commitments would result in global warming that is closer to 3°C — far above the 1.5°C and 2°C (2.7 – 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) targets of the Paris agreement. Any temperature rise more than 1.5°C would bring cataclysmic changes in the global environment, including the death of life-sustaining ecosystems, the complete melting of the ice caps, and the rendering of enormous amounts of land both unfarmable and unlivable. Additionally, according to the report “limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared with 2°C, could reduce the number of people both exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty by up to several hundred million”.

IPCC Global Warming of 1.5C, Summary for Policymakers, pg 13

Earth’s sea level has already risen by about seven or eight inches since 1900. The new report shows that in a 2°C world, sea level rise is projected to be about four inches higher than it would be in a 1.5°C world. That’s enough to expose an additional 10 million people around the world to risks from sea level rise (31-69 million people in 1.5°C scenario, compared to 32-79 million people in the 2°C scenario).

The report shows that in mid-latitude countries, like the United States, our hottest days are expected to be significantly higher and more numerous in a 2°C world than in a 1.5°C world. The U.S is also likely to experience other serious impacts, including more intense and frequent extreme weather events, more severe droughts and heatwaves, and an increase in hospitalization and fatalities from these impacts, all of which we have seen in the past decade.

Even today, extreme weather events have had serious consequences for the health and safety of people in the U.S. and around the world. We only need to look to this year to see how extreme heat waves helped create the conditions for large wildfires in the West, which led to the loss of life and homes. Hurricane Florence led to numerous deaths and damaged infrastructure. And we will be hearing about the impacts of Hurricane Michael in the coming days and weeks. The 2017’s wildfire season and hurricanes tell a similar story. More global warming means more of these kinds of events.


The report outlines the several possible emissions pathways and associated actions necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2°C. Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions need to peak by 2020, and must reach net-zero by between 2014 and 2055. The probability of keeping warming to 1.5 °C is significantly higher if net zero global CO2 emissions is reached in 2040, as opposed to 2055. Reduction of other global warming gases, including methane, needs to start by 2030.

IPCC Global Warming of 1.5C, Summary for Policymakers, pg 6

Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C is physically and technically possible, but will require system change on an unprecedented level. The composition of our energy sources, our means of transportation, the way we grow food, the types of foods we consume, the products we use and industrial processes (such as cement production) all have to change.

Removing CO2 from the air and sequestering it – using methods such as reforestation, land restoration, and technologies to capture CO2 – will be necessary, even with the emissions reductions described.

As one of the biggest emitters of global warming emissions, the U.S. has a big role to play in limiting warming to 1.5°C. The Trump administration’s plan to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, as well as its moves to roll back other key domestic policies that would reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, leaves the burden for taking action on states and local governments.


While we can make changes as individuals, the political will of communities and countries are needed to make the level of changes that are necessary. Supporting policy and system changes is the most important thing you can do. We must demand that our elected officials enact rapid and divisive climate policies that decarbonize the economy on the federal level, such as with a Green New Deal.

To reduce emissions in our daily life, we can reduce our home energy consumption, opt for public and human-powered transportation when possible, stop consuming meat, buy less and reuse more, and have fewer children. However, it’s important to remember that individual actions are not enough to address climate change. Collective action is necessary and vital if we are to limit planetary warming to 1.5°C and preserve a livable planet.

We’ve known about the risks associated with global warming for years now and the report shows limiting global warming to 1.5°C will certainly not be easy. It will require major societal transformations. But it is possible and a better, healthier, more equitable world will be the result of all our efforts, if we act now.

Check out our upcoming Facebook video discussion with Public Citizen’s San Antonio Climate Justice organizer, Briauna Barrera and Energy Policy and Outreach Specialist, Kaiba White.

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Nuclear waste may soon be coming through your city. But you can speak out and say, “No!”

The public has until October 19th to speak out against a plan to dump dangerous radioactive waste in Texas from nuclear reactors around the country.

A High Level Radioactive Waste Dump?

A high-risk, high-level radioactive waste dump has been proposed in West Texas, and people across the state are speaking out against it. And they are not only speaking out against the dump. They are also speaking out against the transportation of high level radioactive waste across the state. Transporting this waste could put people’s lives at risk to leaks, accidents, and other threats.

In Houston, Public Citizen has worked with Coalition of Community Organizations, Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) Coalition and Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) to bring awareness to the issue of high-level nuclear waste transport in Texas. Together, these organizations kicked off the “Protect Texas from Radioactive Waste” Tour in Houston in late September.

At a community meeting in Fifth Ward on Sept. 24th and a press conference near downtown on Sept. 25th, Karen Hadden shared details on the proposal and its potential impact on communities around the state.

The Plan

What’s the plan? Some 40,000 tons of irradiated fuel rods from nuclear reactors around the country would be brought to Texas and stored at an existing low-level radioactive waste site for 40 years or longer.

What’s at risk? By creating a consolidated interim storage facility, a permanent disposal facility may never be created. Deadly nuclear waste must be isolated from people and the environment for a million years. Exposure to radiation can cause cancer, genetic damage and birth defects, and being close to unshielded waste is lethal.

Diane D’Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director with Nuclear Information Resource Service, discussed how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) held only one meeting in all of Texas on the original application, over a year ago in West Texas. By contrast, the NRC hosted five meetings this year in New Mexico for a similar high-level radioactive waste proposal by Holtec for a site near Carlsbad and two dozen for a proposed Nevada dump. Texan voices are being left out of the process. The NRC needs to let the voices of Texans be heard by holding public meetings across the state: in Houston, San Antonio, Dallas/Ft. Worth, El Paso and Midland, where people would be at risk from potential radioactive waste transport accidents.

Kerstin Rudek, from Gorleben Germany, spoke about the high-level radioactive waste storage experiences of her community and warned people to fight.Waste Control Specialists’ re-started license application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which has created a brief time for public input. The group shared that public opposition has stopped the siting of radioactive waste dumps in the past, and it can be done here.

A single train car could carry as much plutonium as was dropped on Nagasaki. While not in bomb grade form, radioactive waste could leak and cause catastrophe for communities living its wake. There is no need for deadly waste to come through Houston or any other community in Texas.

Public health and safety, including protection of the millions of people here in Houston, should take precedence over the potential profits of a company that wants to bring deadly nuclear reactor waste to Texas

Rail lines run close to many homes, schools and businesses and insurance policies generally don’t cover radiological impacts. An accident with a radiation leak could cause disaster, impacting our health and costing billions of dollars to remediate. The NRC should protect Texans’ health and safety and deny the license application.

Traveling from Gorlaben, Germany, Kerstin Rudek shared her story:

“Our rural farming community was targeted to take high-level radioactive waste in Gorleben, Germany, and in 2011, we stopped the the nuclear industry from bringing transports to our area with protests on the streets and on the railroads with 50,000 people,” said Kerstin Rudek. “We have serious concerns about risks to our health, our water, and our food. There’s been massive opposition, even from conservative people who never took action before. We don’t want the dangerous waste that is being dumped on us. I am here to share our successes and hope that Texans can prevent being dumped on!”

Texans Have Options

What could we do instead? The least risky approach to dealing with high-level radioactive waste would be to keep it at reactor sites, or nearby, for now and use more robust canisters and casks. There’s no need to move the waste anywhere and no need to centralize the waste, since a permanent repository is not available. Spent nuclear fuel can be kept onsite in dry storage for 60 years after reactors cease operating.

To learn more, go to www.NoNuclearWaste.org.

The public can comment on the license application until Oct. 19th. Comments on WCS/ ISP’s Consolidated Interim Storage Facility should include Docket ID NRC-2016-0231, and be emailed to [email protected]. Comment letters can also be sent from www.NoNuclearWaste.org.

The public can also submit requests for a hearing and petition to intervene in the licensing proceedings until October 29th. Information is available on the August 29, 2018 Federal Register


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On Tuesday, September 17, the Dallas City Council passed its new biennium budget, funding an environmental plan with the development of a climate plan.

The historic vote was marked by a press conference with ten environmental and health groups and Council Member Sandy Greyson, who fostered the $500,000 budget amendment for the plan.  The Office of Environmental Quality, that will oversee the climate planning process, also participated in the press event.

The Dallas Mayor issued a statement regarding the vote noting:

 “With no current state or federal action on climate change, it is apparent that local governments must shoulder the burden. The City of Dallas accepts this responsibility and is actively working towards building a greener, more resilient city.  Addressing climate change should not be a controversial or partisan issue, and local leaders and the marketplace should work together in pursuing climate action.”

“That’s why I am excited that we have approved funding for a Comprehensive Environmental Action Plan.  The City’s Office of Environmental Quality & Sustainability will have the resources and responsibility to chart a path of environmental and climate action for the coming years in alignment with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.”

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings signed onto the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda in June 2017, which was formed after the United States withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and commits cities to the goals of the Paris accord.

A total of five cities in Texashave signed the Mayors’ Climate letter. Austin passed a climate plan in 2015. San Antonioisdeveloping a climate plan now, while Houston has just initiated its planning process.  San Marcos and Smithville have also signed onto the Mayor’s Agreement.

More cities in Texas, both large and small, need to step up to the plate and do what they can to reduce their carbon footprint. When an area reduces its dependence on fossil fuels, it can also be beneficial to improving overall air quality in regard to volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), both major components of ozone.

In Dallas, 1 in 10 children suffer from asthma, costing Dallas County more than $60 million annually, yes annually, in direct and indirect costs.  Clearing the air can only help improve the health and vitality of all our communities.

The U.S. is the only country worldwide that is not part of the Paris Climate Agreement, after the current Trump Administration pulled out of its commitment.  As a result, the Mayors Climate Coalition was formed, with more than 400 Mayors representing 70 million Americans dedicated to taking action to reduce their communities’ carbon footprint.

So I urge citizens to band together, to talk to their City Councils, and ask their municipalities to join the Mayors Climate Coalition.

Now that Dallas has stepped up to begin its climate planning process, it is my hope that neighboring Ft. Worth and other cities around the state, will take on the challenge, for the health and welfare of their communities.

For more than fifteen years, Rita Beving has been a volunteer and professional advocate on environmental issues including air, water, and landfill in North and East Texas coordinating with numerous environmental groups across the state.

Currently, she serves as a consultant for Public Citizen on clean energy and eminent domain work in North Texas.   Rita conducts ongoing monthly clean air meetings to educate the public on energy efficiency, PACE renewable energy districts, and other clean air issues in North Texas.

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Scoping Meeting

Wednesday, September 12th, a scoping meeting was held for the Texas Gulf Coast Terminals Project- Deepwater Port Application. Texas Gulf Coast Terminals is a subsidiary of Trafigura, a Swedish company. I attended and commented at the meeting as a representative of Public Citizen and as a Corpus Christian, my hometown being Corpus Christi. Public Citizen recognized the importance of this application on both a local and national level. Along with our efforts were local Sierra Club members including Hal Suter and Lois Huff, Jim Klein president of the Clean Economy Coalition, Lauren Loney a UT Law Environmental Justice and Community Development Fellow, as well as other passionate local environmental scientists and activists. 

The Application

Corpus Christi is known as the “sparkling city by the sea”, however, the city’s  attachment to the oil industry has given our home other reputations. For instance, I was visiting Corpus Christi two Christmases ago when an erosive chemical from Valero polluted the city’s water. We could not drink, shower, or even boil the water for use. Local businesses were greatly disrupted financially by this industry event and we became dark humored memes across the state and nation. Corpus Christi is now known as the city with bad water. Moreover, when I learned about the proposed deepwater port license, I had great concerns as to the potential repercussions this level of industry could bring to the health of the Corpus Christi community, gulf coast tourism, fragile marine ecosystems, as well as the big picture consequences this application is tied to. The Trafigura offshore port is designed to accommodate very large crude carriers – called VLCCs – that each can carry 2 million barrels of oil. Trafigura is a secretive, privately-held company that has refused to provide details about its ownership structure as part of this application. 

Local Impacts

With the massive amounts of fracked oil exportation that this license allows (which will be traveling through a pipeline that cuts across the vital and sensitive Laguna Madre), if any accident were to occur, as they do, this would be catastrophic to our coastal marine ecosystems. The pipeline (as mapped in the photo below) is also placed less than a mile from Padre Island National Seashores, where nature is preserved and tourism flourishes.

The Laguna Madre is the only hypersaline lagoon in North America and is one of only 6 hypersaline lagoons in the world. The Laguna Madre, Padre Island, and surrounding habitat in the Lower Rio Grande Valley are critical for several endangered species, including the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, ocelots, and millions of migrating waterfowl such as the federally-listed piping plover. The seagrass beds of the Laguna Madre also provide habitat for one of the world’s most productive fisheries, supporting vibrant angler and eco-tourism industries. The Laguna Madre, Padre Island, and surrounding habitat have been the focus of conservation efforts for decades.

This project would put this unique resource at risk and directly threaten the years of work that have gone into conserving both the habitat and the species that call Laguna Madre home. The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should consider the impact on federally and state-listed threatened or endangered species as well as their associated habitat requirements, the fishery, migratory birds that winter in the Laguna Madre, as well as the local eco-tourism industries. 

If this port is built, we would also expect locally to feel the effects of increased water use and pollution issues, and a worsening of our air quality leading to further public health risks. Exporting high volumes of crude will also impact the energy direction of our state. This opening of the gates would lead to increased fracking and the environmental issues associated with fracking – impacts largely felt in Permian basin and other oil-producing areas in Texas where fracking is common.

This proposed license serves up the question, “What would we like Corpus Christi to be known for?” Is it indeed the sparkling city by the sea, or is it the city of industry, of industry pollution? 

Why should Corpus be making such a choice? When the city could be investing in long term health and energy reliability like that of renewable energy?

US Energy Policy Impacts

The Trafigura offshore oil port has global implications for the crude oil trade, as it will vastly expedite the ability to export greater volumes of fracked crude oil out of the United States. Facilitating crude oil exports will increase the financial incentive to expand fracking in Texas – leading to environmental and water challenges in the Permian and Eagle Ford. There will be not only local environmental impacts, but global climate impacts because of the Trafigura port influence on global oil markets.

The port would ultimately allow the United States to reach new heights of oil exporting. The financial temptation has come in the form of a Swedish company wanting to build a port in international waters with minimal accountability if a pollution event were to occur. To make matters worse, Trafigura’s informational holes in it’s application only lends to further distrust by local activists. The public has a right to know who exactly owns Trafigura.

What Comes Next?

Stay tuned to Public Citizen for future opportunities to comment. We will keep you updated when the EIS is released. In the meantime, click here to view the notice of application.


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Energy Subsidies: Myth and Facts


There is a lot of misinformation spreading around Texas right now about wind energy.

This summer, Texas set new records for energy demand, the product of millions of Texans running their air conditioning to beat the extreme heat. Earlier this year, several coal plants were retired, taking hundreds of megawatts of power off the grid and raising the question whether Texas’ energy supply could meet demand. The grid responded well, and Texans have not faced energy shortages, price spikes, or reliability issues. (You already know this. Did you experience blackouts? Did your bills spike?)

But lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry have taken this opportunity to spread misinformation about the role of wind and other renewable energy sources. They have claimed, for example, that wind energy is detrimental because the wind blows the most at night, when demand is low. (This is nonsense. Energy demand never drops to zero, and Texas is able to use the energy produced by wind at all hours of the day.)

We have also been told that renewable energy subsidies are disrupting energy markets, forcing sources like coal out of business. If you are a 19th century energy tycoon, you think of the situation something like this:

Original Image from Texas Public Policy Foundation


It is true that coal is having trouble competing, but that has nothing to do with energy subsidies and everything to do with Texas’ competitive energy market. Simply put: where wind is more affordable than coal, coal can’t compete and is priced out of the market.

That’s a good thing. We’ve replaced a dirty, fossil source of fuel with a clean, renewable source, and we’ve saved consumers money. That is a robust energy market at work.

But what about energy subsidies? We’re told that wind can only compete because it is propped up by government handouts. Is that true?

It is true that wind receives subsidies, but every source of energy receives subsidies, and always has. Subsidies for coal, oil, and natural gas have been in place for decades. The list of subsidies that have been available over the years is overwhelming: https://www.stopthesubsidies.com/.

In Texas, the fossil lobby’s ire over subsidies is directed at Chapter 313 of the Tax Code, the Texas Economic Development Act.

Chapter 313 was created in 2001 to incentivize large industrial projects by allowing school districts to lower property taxes for up to ten years. The theory behind Chapter 313 is that lower taxes will attract investment that would otherwise go elsewhere. From its creation through 2015, Chapter 313 has incentivized more than $81 billion in investment. Out of 311 approved projects, 144 were for wind energy and 22 were for other non-wind renewable energy projects. Oil and gas projects are lumped into a category of “manufacturing” projects that has included 139 projects over the years. Chapter 313 has also been used twice for nuclear projects and four times for research and development projects. At present, Chapter 313 is set to expire in 2022. Public Citizen supports Chapter 313 and believes that it should be continued by the state legislature. (We would like to thank Vanessa Tutos and Sarah Greenberg with EDPR for their research on Chapter 313. Greenberg, S. (2018) Chapter 313 Research Summary. Internal EDPR report. Unpublished.)

Here’s the thing about Chapter 313: it’s a tax break. Tax breaks are tried and true economic incentives. If you lower taxes, you incentivize investment. That’s a position long held by fiscal conservatives. If we were drawing our own version of the cartoon above (and guess what? we did!) it would look something like this:

Chapter 313 isn’t taking money out of anyone’s pocket. It is providing school districts with a way to incentivize economic investment within their borders. If a school district attracts a wind energy project (or any project) with a Chapter 313 incentive, then it increases its tax base and gets more money for its schools. There are small school districts in West Texas that have built entire schools with revenues from Chapter 313 projects.

So why are the fossil lobbyists so opposed to Chapter 313? Before we answer that question, here’s another surprising fact about Chapter 313.

It’s been used by the oil and gas industry nearly twice as much as by the wind industry.

From the beginning of the program in 2001 through 2015, oil and gas companies have received $3,244,574,036 in tax breaks from Chapter 313. Wind companies have received $1,563,876,000.

So don’t believe the fossil lobby when they talk about Chapter 313 as a “renewable subsidy.” It’s benefited the oil and gas industry more than twice as much as the wind industry. And if Chapter 313 tax abatements are ended, Texas communities and schools could miss out on the economic support brought by these wind projects, while all Texas residents could miss out on having more affordable electricity.

The fossil tycoons are scared. They can’t compete in the 21st century energy economy. They are lashing out with big-money lobby campaigns and misinformation. If they are successful, they could set the transition to renewable energy back several years. But they can’t stop the inevitable: clean, affordable energy for all Texans.

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