DFW Residents Rally for Clean Air

TCE Blog
Corey Troiani, DFW Program Coordinator

Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) paid Dallas City Hall a visit. During their all-day event they took public testimony on their newly proposed rules to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

EPA’s hearing in Dallas follows other recent proposals including the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and another plan to reduce ozone and smog. All of these proposals are critically important for residents in North Texas since we have some of the worst air quality in the country, not far behind the Houston ship channel.

Methane gas is released from oil and gas drilling and transportation. In fact, about 30% of methane emissions in the US come directly from these operations. Methane is a concerning air pollutant for three main reasons, (1) it is almost always paired with other toxic chemicals when released, (2) it reacts with those other chemicals to produce ozone and smog, and (3) it is key greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Reducing methane emissions would kill all three birds with one stone.

Clean air advocates, including families, scientists, and businesspeople signed up for five-minute speaking slots to air their concerns over toxic emissions. An overwhelming majority of speakers, 106 out of 114, at the event supported the new rules and most advocated for significant improvements.

Many speakers commented on the lack of leadership from state agencies, the state environmental agency and Texas Railroad Commission, both responsible for regulating oil and gas in Texas.

“For years we tried to work with state government to try to protect Denton from fracking-related air pollution,” said Denton Drilling Awareness Group co-founder Cathy McMullen. She continued, “They refused to help us. Not only that, earlier this year the state stripped communities of our century-old rights to protect ourselves. Now EPA is our only hope to protect our health.”

Unfortunately, EPA’s new standards apply will only to new oil and gas operations across the country. All existing sites, including the estimated 17,000 in the North Texas region, will be exempt in unless modifications are made on those sites. The rules seek to reduce fugitive and designed emissions by 40-45% from wells, compressors stations, and pipelines. Fugitive emissions refer to leaked gas from pipes or other accidental leaks during operations; designed emissions refer to intentional mechanisms that release gas pressure to ensure safety, like condensate tank vents.

In some instances, like in the Eagle Ford Shale (south of San Antonio), operators are venting and flaring up to 30% of their natural gas. Why? Because they’re pretending natural gas is a waste by-product of crude oil. There is little profit motive in that region for companies to use that essential natural resource, so they just burn it off and refine the more expensive oil.

“I live in San Antonio downwind of the Eagle Ford Shale, and we’re struggling with high levels of smog linked to oil and gas,” said Krystal Henagan of Moms Clean Air Force whose son suffers from severe asthma. She continued, “By proposing these rules, the EPA is trying to protect families and clean up our air. We need to do more, but I’m grateful for this first step.”

Industry also sent some of their own people to the hearing. Including TXOGA (Texas Oil and Gas Association) and API (American Petroleum Institute) who claimed emissions reductions rules would do very little and have a negative impact on jobs. However, similar methane rules are already in place in Colorado and California and jobs have soared compared with Texas.

Texas Campaign for the Environment applauds the EPA for working on this new rule and has proposed these changes to make it as robust as possible:

  • Existing oil and gas operations should not be exempted, but regulated as well.
  • Inspections should be scheduled quarterly at minimum.
  • Gas compressors located next to drilling sites should not be exempted from the rule.
  • Non-emergency gas leaks should be fixed sooner than 6 months, we recommend 15-30 days.
  • Public health benefits from cleaning up our air should be factored into the cost-benefit analysis.

The comment period will be open until November 17, 2015. You can submit testimony on the official public comment website.

You can read EPA’s full methane proposal here. It’s not exactly a light read. It looks more like a 600-page book pulled from Jack Kerouac’s typewriter, taped end-to-end with poor formatting and no table of contents. A lighter, more digestible summary report is available here.


Corey Troiani, DFW Program Coordinator

National Voter Registration Day


Today is National Voter Registration Day, and what better day to make sure that you have done everything you need to participate in the election this November? We want to be sure you vote in every election because we know you care about the environment! Here are a few simple steps to make sure you are ready to cast your ballot:

  1. Check to see if you are registered to vote at your current address here.
  2. If you need to register, click here to request a postage-paid application that will be mailed to you. Your registration must be complete by Oct. 5 in order to vote in the upcoming election.
  3. Put it on your calendar when and where you are going to the polls. Here’s the info:


ELECTION DAY: November 3rd

Mayoral and City Council elections have a huge impact on our quality of life and the environment. If we have canvassed your neighborhood or called you on the phone recently, you know we are advocating for the next Mayor to support a comprehensive Zero Waste Plan for Houston that will expand recycling and composting options city-wide. Major cities in the U.S. including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago have set city-wide goals to divert 90% of waste from landfills and incinerators, and so can Houston! Click here to send a message to all the candidates for Houston Mayor and your City Council asking them to support Zero Waste!

Upcoming Events and Candidate Forums

You can help spread the word about National Voter Registration Day on social media with the hasthag #celebrateNVRD.

Check out more local events on our new calendar. We also recommend signing up for the Citizens Environmental Coalition (CEC) Houston newsletter for local environmental updates.


Join Us for This Year’s Trash Makeover Challenge!

A dress made out of empty sweetener packets? An old billboard? Seat belts?

Yes, yes and yes!

We’ve seen that and so much more over the past four years at our Trash Makeover Challenge events. Now we are waiting to see how the professional and amateur designers amaze us with their creativity this year.

Saturday, September 26th, 7 PM
The North Door
502 Brushy Street, Austin

It all started in 2011, when we wanted to mark our 20th anniversary in a fun way. We had heard about fashion shows in which the garments were made mostly from recycled materials and thought it would a perfect fit for us, given our emphasis on recycling and Zero Waste. Not being much of a fashionista myself, we were lucky to have artist Virginia Fleck and designer Tina Sparkles volunteer to pull together designers, models, and stylists to participate.

Our amazing event committee transformed a former clothing store in the dying Highland Mall into a magical space. The creations wowed the crowd and even the least fashion-oriented attendees became fans. While we had originally imagined the event as a one-time celebration, the enthusiasm for this mashup of the environmental and fashion community was so strong that we decided to make it an annual event.

The theme for 2015 is Steampunk Meets Nature; think Victorian Industrial Revolution meets Mad Max meets Nature. We can hardly wait to see what looks will grace the runway this year! The event includes hors d’oeuvres from The Salt Lick and Barr Mansion, signature event cocktails, a silent auction, and performances by both Dance Austin Studio and local Austin band Burgess Meredith.

It all gets going on Saturday, September 26th at 7 PM at The North Door (502 Brushy Street – map here).

Tickets and sponsorships for our Trash Makeover Challenge are still available, but don’t delay – we expect to reach capacity and do not plan to sell tickets at the door. Watch a video from our 2013 event then get your tickets for this year; for sponsorships, call 512-326-5655 for details.

Can’t wait to see you there!





Robin Schneider, Executive Director

Houston City Council candidates: Environmental forum

11885269_1661509437427949_5644533939041699376_nTCE Blog
Melanie Scruggs, Houston Program Director

We were proud to support the 2015 Citizens Environmental Coalition (CEC) candidate forum for City of Houston at-large candidates co-sponsored by League of Women Voters Houston and 25 local environmental groups. Several of the questions asked by moderator Charles Kuffner related to issues that we work on, such as expanding recycling and composting city-wide. To provide a brief synopsis of the event, we transcribed the responses about Zero Waste below, and you can also watch the video to hear for yourself what the candidates had to say. After you’ve heard where candidates stand, please take a minute to email all candidates running for Mayor and City Council, asking them to support Zero Waste if they don’t already!

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Kuffner: 10 cities in Texas have passed ordinances to restrict or forbid the use of single-use, plastic bags. Houston has not taken up such an ordinance yet. Would you support such an ordinance? (0:24:40 in the video)

David Robinson (At-large #2 candidate): “Absolutely, yes, I think a lot has been made so far in the discussion tonight about the importance of being able to collaborate with some of our congressional delegation. As an architect, I have been part of the group that goes to Austin to work with our legislators about things of importance to us, especially in the built environment. That is the category that I’ve dedicated my career to. The department of the committee of urban design for the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects is something that I’ve led for ten years. Specifically, when it comes to bags and other pollutants that find their way to the bayou, I know I’m committed. I think I would expand that host of things that we need to petition our legislators about to include. Having been a part of a city and a state where I come from, Boston, Massachusetts, that has very successfully applied a five cent tax or fee on returnables for recyclables, it has been a very effective thing for both cleaning up our cities and as well as providing some sort of revenue for the people that collect cans. I think there’s various ways we can tackle this in collaboration between the city and state legislature. I feel that I am the elected official now in a very excellent position to get some of these tough laws passed.”

Andrew Burks (At-large #2 candidate): “Well, I happen to think very differently on that. One thing is that I’ve noticed, other cities around the nation have begun to implement charging you something for the bag when you purchase something from their store. I also see a number of trash and debris on our roadsides and into our waterways. I’m not just going to focus on plastic bags. But the whole thing is we’re trashing up our community. We’re not keeping it beautiful. We have laws on the books but we do not adhere to those laws and our police do not enforce those laws. When I was in the military, you could not drop a cigarette on the ground and leave it there. You would have to bury that baby about four feet deep in the water if they saw that. But out here we just throw anything out the windows. Down these streets everyday I have to monitor in front of my home for trash as people pass by and they just throw it out of their cars and don’t care where it lands. So we have a bigger problem than just plastic bags, and I will tell you this, that I will work hard to keep Houston clean.”

Kuffner: As you know, the City of Houston has curbside recycling for all single family dwellings in the city, however a large number of people in Houston live in apartments. How would you like to see – what plan would you support for the city – to expand recycling to apartments? (0:38:00)

Doug Peterson (At-large #3 candidate): “Well, I think the point here is that all citizens in the City of Houston need to take part in recycling. We need to be able to move forward with a plan that will include apartment complexes of all types. If that means that is part of the overall cost of your rent and there is a central place where you put all your recycling in the same place to be picked up by the city, then so be it. I think that’s good. I think we really need to move past some of the ideas that have been out there besides this. The whole thing about one bin recycling is something that the current administration has been pushing quite a bit, and I think we need to reject that at this point, and just move forward and do everything we can to make sure that everybody participates. And we may need to have some incentives to do that, but we got to get moving on it.”

John LaRue (At-large #2 candidate): “I’ll echo Doug’s comments on One Bin. I think it’s a really bad idea. In general, privatization of municipal services is something that I oppose. I live in an apartment, so it kills me every time I have to throw an aluminum can in the trash can. When I lived in DC, it was so nice. We had one big can for recyclables and one big can for trash and it would be so much easier if we had that. I would agree. I would support any option including if there’s an additional fee that we would need to add on, or to build some kind of community drop off centers for cans. I know a lot of people, especially younger people who live in apartments and are much more eco-conscious and would be willing to drive a little bit even if it’s a mile down the road to recycle. Because sustainability is really important. We’ve only got this one planet and we really need to not trash it.”

Joe McElligott (At-large #2 candidate): “So that’s a really good question, and there isn’t a really good answer to that, to be honest. I mean, in my experience coming to this platform, I first joined because of finance, and then I first saw voting rights is a really big issue, and I still think it is. But to answer your question as far as environmental recycling, I have a video on our website, I won’t go into detail, but it basically explains how Sweden does their recycling. They actually import it. They create jobs. Can Houston do it? Possibly. I think there’s some things to look at that other cities are doing, what other countries are doing. It’s just not a one-size-fits-all answer.”

Kuffner: As you know the City has curbside recycling and it has a separate pickup for yard waste, but a significant amount of what goes into landfills is organic waste, stuff that maybe could be composted. Some cities like Austin have a separate pickup curbside for compost. Do you support the City of Houston pursuing a plan like that? (1:00:00)

Jack Christie (At-large #5 candidate): “Absolutely, I still believe in separate recycling. I embarrassed my high rise building into recycling and the different parts of it. When I was in a big house and the kids were small, I never bagged up recycling. It was always mulched and put it back in the garden and/or the ground. It’s common sense, understanding nature. What you take out it goes back in to recycle it. If you’re listening to money making disposal companies and chemical companies, it’s not going to work. A professor at Rice University, Hackerman, before he died, he wanted children to understand nature. He asked the Texas State Board of Education if we can get kids to understand nature. They said, you know what you just said? He said, yeah. It’s geology, it’s chemistry, biology, physiology, zoology, histology. Understanding how it all works. You do that, you’re going to recycle properly.”

Philippe Nassif (At-large #5 candidate): “I am a really big supporter of Zero Waste. The City of Houston is really, really behind not just in how we process recycling, the number of households. There was a question earlier about apartment complexes and I think that apartments should be required to at least have one bin available for people to recycle, and right now they are not. With regards to composting, I would love to see a city-wide composting plan put into place as all part of Zero Waste, and I would like to actually take it a step further and be sure that we’re educating people just on how to compost. I’ve had some relatively bad experiences trying to compost myself. I finally figured it out what all is involved. I think it’s really important to educate people on how to compost, how to recycle and to recycle better.”

Related: Where do Houston Candidates Stand on Recycling?

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