Environmentalists across Texas ask State and Petrochem, Stop Jeopardizing Vulnerable People

On Eve of Historic Earth Day 2020, Texas Petrochemical Industry and State Agencies Refuse to Stand Down from Pollution Policies

Environmentalists – from East to West Texas,  Urban and Rural – call on State Agencies and the Petrochemical Industry, Stop Toxic Emissions and Waste, Stop Jeopardizing Vulnerable Populations during COVID, Climate, & Economic Crises

(AUSTIN)  On the Eve of Earth Day 2020, the Texas petrochemical industry and the Texas Railroad Commission (RRC) are allowing the oil and gas industry to release even more harmful toxic emissions and waste. In many locations across Texas, the industry is increasing toxic emissions at this time and further jeopardizing vulnerable communities facing the triple threats of the COVID pandemic, climate change, and economic crises.

“We can no longer continue down the tragic path that has led us to global health, economic, and climate crises,” said Robin Schneider, Texas Campaign for the Environment Executive Director. “Texas industry and business experts and financial investors, our elected officials and state agencies need to focus on prioritizing essential needs of workers and poor people, and people of color who are being impacted disproportionately. We need to maximize Texas’ powerful clean energy resources to transition to a more equitable, more resilient, and healthier clean economy now. That includes jobs building out distributed solar rooftops across the state, more wind energy, and geothermal power for a cleaner grid, jobs installing more energy efficiency measures in homes and buildings, jobs producing and maintaining electric cars and a more complete network of charging stations at existing gas stations, and the transition to all-electric homes.”

West Texas
This morning, as my Odessa, Texas community experienced another frack quake resulting from years of unregulated injection of harmful chemicals by industry into wells to extract oil from the ground, we were once again reminded of the gross failures of the Texas Railroad Commission to protect workers and communities from the many hazards associated with the fossil fuel industry, “ said Gene Collins, Environmental Justice Chair, Texas NAACP. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shed additional light on how my African American community as well as other vulnerable communities, have had their health compromised from the system of environmental injustice the Texas Railroad Commission should be protecting us from. We need members of the Texas Railroad Commission to work for the entire community and not just to appease industry.”

Gulf Coast & Statewide
“The medical profession has a code of Ethics:  ‘Do no Harm.’ This Code of Ethics should lead and guide all of our actions;  whether you’re in the circle of health care providers or in the gas and oil industry,” said Juan Parras of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services or t.e.j.a.s.  “Fenceline communities should not bear the burden of excess contaminants due to the industries’ unregulated right to pollute. We are victims of a system that cares very little for human health and safety if we allow unregulated pollutants to continue at an accelerated pace.  Environmental justice for all should be enforced and those accountable for violating established rules and regulations should be held accountable.”

East Texas
“The Railroad Commission and this industry are harming communities like mine. We feel railroaded by this industry. We are deeply impacted by pipelines and compressor stations that pollute our air and water,” said Kathy Redman of Resilient Nacogdoches. “The new compressor station two miles away shakes my windows and closer neighbors can’t sleep with all the noise and lights that shine at night. Why isn’t the Railroad Commission doing something to protect the health and well-being of rural Texans?”

North Texas
Last week, Dallas residents were alarmed at their vulnerability when a gas line burst flames through several openings created in the street’s asphalt threatening a potentially more devastating explosion at an Exxon station next to the gas fire.

The Railroad Commission (RRC) this week has so far failed to take action to restrict production during an unprecedented major glut in the oil and gas market.  

Environmental groups last week called on the current RRC Commissioners and candidates in the November election for those seats to:

  1. Restrict production at the most polluting sites; 
  2. Stop dangerous gas flaring in oilfield shale plays across the state; 
  3. Proactively manage the decline of the oil and gas economy and the just transition to a clean economy in Texas.

Stop Oil and Gas Pollution and Transition to a Clean Economy


This week, Texas Campaign for the Environment supporters and allies sent over 3,000 comments to the Texas Railroad Commissioners and Candidates for those seats in the November election. The Railroad Commission is the state agency responsible for oversight of oil and gas companies in Texas. We asked them to restrict and reduce reliance on oil and gas; prioritize production cuts for producers and fields with the worst records of excessive flaring; and, manage the decline of oil and gas production and the transition to a clean economy for Texas.

If you haven’t taken action yet, you still can! The Railroad Commission relaxed the deadline. Click here to send your comments to the Railroad Commissioners and Candidates.

Thank you for taking this important action.

Now take the next step!  Send a Letter to the Editor…

Once you’ve sent your comments, please take the next step – Send a Letter to the Editor at your local newspaper or favorite online news source.  Feel free to copy, paste, and sign one of the sample Letters to the Editor below. However, your own personal story from your own knowledge, experience, and concerns will resonate the most strongly.  But… be brief!  Letters to the Editor are typically only 150-250 words maximum.

Send an email and/or use the media’s online submission form.

Submit your Letter to the  Editor to:

Austin American Statesman Send email to views@statesman.com, click here for our Letters Guidelines and FAQ.

Dallas Morning News Copy and Paste in their form https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/2018/12/02/submit-a-letter-to-the-editor/

Denton Record-Chronicle Use form https://dentonrc.com/site/forms/online_services/letter_editor/

El Paso Times Use form https://static.elpasotimes.com/lettertoeditor/

Houston Chronicle Email viewpoints@chron.com or use their form https://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/submit/ 

San Antonio Express-News Send email to letters@express-news.net

Waco Tribune-Herald Send email letters@wacotrib.com or use their form https://www.wacotrib.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/submit/

Please let us know if you send your Letter to the Editor or comments to outlets not on our list above. That’s great, too. Email donna AT texasenvironment DOT org so we can know and continue to communicate with that news source.

Thank you!  We deeply appreciate your concern, courage, and action steps to help build this movement to transition to a clean economy in Texas!

Sample Letters to the  Editor

Copy and paste into your email or personalize if you wish.


I am deeply concerned about health and climate threats from toxic oil and gas production in Texas. Medical experts link chronic illnesses such as asthma and heart disease to air pollution – including extensive pollution from oil and gas.  Recent research shows evidence that exposure to air pollution and the resulting pre-existing health conditions are linked to more deaths from Coronavirus.

With the drop in oil prices and the big glut in the market, we don’t need more production at this time. I support protecting Texans’ health by restricting harmful and wasteful practices in the oil and gas industry.




I write to urge the Texas Railroad Commission to vote for mandatory cuts in oil production.  We live in extraordinary times and urgent action is needed to protect Texans from the environmental effects of climate change and the economic collapse in oil prices due to oversupply and drop in demand due to the Covid pandemic.  

Independent oil industry representatives want cuts to level the playing field with the large multinational oil and gas companies who can afford to store overages during the recession. Storage is nearing capacity and overproducing is a wasteful process. The current practice of flaring off excess gas is especially harmful to human health and the environment.  



In the wake of the collapse of oil prices, I support prioritizing production cuts for oil companies with the worst records of excessive flaring at drilling sites. This is a waste of resources and harmful to our climate. This over-production leads to waste and more pollution from burning it off.  It doesn’t make sense to continue to produce more when we are reaching storage capacity and no one is driving right now.

I want to see a plan to downsize the production of oil and gas throughout the next decade and manage the just transition to a cleaner economy for Texas.



Gas flaring causes air pollution that is harmful to Texans. Medical experts like the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association have documented clear evidence that industrial air pollution such as from oil and gas production contributes to chronic health conditions that many of our families and friends suffer from here in Texas. 

I want Texans to be protected from pollution from gas flaring by reducing production by the companies with the worst records of flaring in our state.


Again, Thank you so much for taking action by communicating publicly about this important issue. Your voice makes a difference!

Background Information

Texas has been riding the bucking bronco of the oil and gas industry’s boom and bust cycles for a century now.  Sometimes it seems like it pays off, but it doesn’t for the workers who fall off without jobs when every cycle’s big ride ends. And it doesn’t pay off in good health for either workers or people who live next to polluting petroleum refineries or oil and gas pipelines.

The costs are too high for all of us who together are now experiencing the disasters of climate change — extreme weather, wildfires, flooding, drought, species die-off, and increasing illness.  The price is too high for the planet’s ecosystems.

It’s time, Texas, for a managed and just transition from fossil fuels to a healthier clean economy.  That transition is gaining momentum as the oil industry declines and we consider what is essential – or not – in the current Covid health crisis.  We must plan and implement economic activities that are best for people and the planet.

We’re ready to bus out of the oil and gas boom-and-bust and make the transition to a cleaner and healthier economy in Texas.


Crisis is not free pass to pollute our planet

Houston Chronicle Op-Ed
By Robin Schneider

Elizabeth Conley / Staff photographer
Medical groups agree that asthma, cardiopulmonary obstructive disorder, heart disease and various cancers are linked to industrial pollution.

Under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis, Gov. Greg Abbott on March 13 and President Donald Trump on March 26 relaxed environmental compliance rules for petrochemical plants and other big polluters. By setting aside these vital protective measures, the president and governor appear to take advantage of an economic and health emergency in order to allow more profits and pollution from existing industrial plants and to speed up the permitting of proposed new fossil fuel and plastics plants. The public health and planet cannot take it.

Instead, both the Trump and Abbott administrations have the opportunity in this crisis to powerfully change the course of history by setting aside politics and profits.

Many Texans have preexisting conditions that make them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. This disease has not been directly linked to industrial toxins in our air and water. However, the American Lung Association, the American Heart Society, the American Cancer Society, and numerous other medical organizations and physicians line up behind the facts. The underlying conditions pervasive in our families and communities — asthma, cardio-pulmonary obstructive disorder, heart disease and various cancers that make people vulnerable — are linked to industrial pollution. Now, public health researchers point to a study done on SARS, a virus closely related to COVID-19, which found that people who breathed polluted air were about twice as likely to die from the infection.

We have a highly problematic track record in Texas. This newest license to pollute is an extension of a bad loophole the Abbott administration created after the Hurricane Harvey floods when nearly half a billion gallons of corporate polluters’ abandoned industrial waste full of cancer-causing toxins flowed into waterways and homes on the Texas coast.

In recent years environmental groups have sued and won against three of the world’s largest oil companies for “upset emissions,” illegal amounts of benzene and other hazardous pollutants in the Houston area. Like Trump’s, Abbott’s order continues on that wrong track by allowing industrial polluters a free pass to forego protective practices, to disregard the public health in existing operations and to fail to clean up afterwards.

It is vital to assure that the public’s health is not compromised by toxic pollution, especially now when vulnerable populations are at a great risk of hospitalization and death. Both Trump and Abbott certainly need to engage governmental powers in the COVID-19 crisis to both protect the public health and to help people meet real, essential human needs — food, homes and health care. However, they should not use the crisis to jeopardize our future beyond the crisis with bad environmental policy. We must and can avoid worsening our ongoing background load of toxins.

Trump and Abbott must collaborate strongly now across the aisle to not only support the public health system, they must promote clean, sustainable and more resilient solutions moving forward.

To protect the public health and avoid further climate change disaster, Trump and Abbott must immediately reinstate protective, legally-required pollution controls. The teams of workers currently charged with implementing protective practices at existing plants must receive the best possible protective gear, training and just compensation for their work. All permitting of proposed polluting facilities must be put on hold until legally-required procedures are firmly established and followed. Then, Trump and Abbott, or whoever is elected next, must work as soon as possible to establish the highest standard practices of pollution prevention and implement long-term solutions — a transition away from fossil fuels to clean energy through renewable power that runs clean transportation, energy efficiency and a reduction of plastics production. We all need and want the healthiest possible people and planet.

Robin Schneider is the executive director of the Texas Campaign for the Environment.