Bird Strike Threat – TCE, Pilots, and Landowners Challenge Garbage Expansion by Austin Airport

(Austin) — Today, Texas Campaign for the Environment’s lawyer and several TCE members successfully gained standing to contest a permit to expand a problem landfill located just 3,200 feet from the end of Austin Bergstrom International Airport’s (ABIA’s) main runway — and directly below the flight path. On the basis that expanding the dump could lead to negative impacts on nearby residents and air traffic, two administrative law judges at the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) granted TCE and its members party status in an administrative law process known as a “contested case hearing.” The decision today allows TCE as well as other individuals and groups with standing to challenge TCEQ’s initial approval of the expansion. These contested cases can lead to substantive changes or, albeit rare in Texas, an outright rejection of a pollution permit. 

Jeffrey Jacoby, Deputy Director for Texas Campaign for the Environment applauded the decision, “We are proud of our members and several other individuals and organizations who stood up to fight this ill-conceived landfill expansion plan today. Even though it’s against the rules, the evidence is clear this dump is accepting waste that rots, which of course attracts birds. And birds and planes are a dangerous combination.” 

Extensive video evidence shows this dump, known as the Travis County Landfill (TCL), is operating in a manner that attracts birds, a major hazard to air traffic. 

The company that runs the landfill says it does not accept any waste that rots, aka “putrescibles,” which is prohibited by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for trash facilities near airports. However, it’s clear that birds frequent the site—including large birds such as buzzards and hawks, which pose a particularly dangerous hazard for planes due to their large size and weight. ABIA is required to track bird strikes and has reported over 2,000 bird strikes to the FAA. 

Austin-based pilot and TCE member Adham El-Effendi testified at today’s SOAH hearing:  “Expansion of the landfill would only worsen this problem.  I’m here to testify that birds present one of the most concerning outside risks to pilots and passengers. I’ve had near misses with birds on multiple occasions, the most recent being in late February  of this year. I believe the expansion of the landfill particularly in its expansion upward to the bottom of what the FAA calls the “imaginary surface” of the approach path into Runway 35 left – building a landfill right up to the FAA’s limit for terrain to constitute a safe approach to the airport, to me, constitutes a hazard to all flying in and out of the airport.” 

Several homes and businesses are located near the landfill and ABIA’s flight path.

Chris Massey, who attended the online hearing, is a homeowner and member of TCE who lives close to the landfill. 

In addition to the pilots’ primary concerns with air traffic safety, Mr. Massey expressed concerns relating to:

  • Disposal of putrescible (rotting) waste;
  • Odor;
  • Attraction of hazardous wildlife including but not limited to birds;
  • Traffic in the community;

As a TCE member, Massey also gained standing in the SOAH hearing today. He said, “We live less than a mile from this dump and have concerns that expanding it will only make things worse,” said Chris Massey. “I just felt like I needed to get involved. I’ll always come to bat for environmental conservation.” The State Office of Administrative Hearings will set a schedule for its future proceedings. Once the judges make their decision at the conclusion of testimony and filings, SOAH will make a recommendation to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regarding whether or not SOAH advises that TCEQ give the permit. This process will take several months. 

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TCE and For the Greater Good Scale Up NO DESAL City Charter Amendment Petition

(Corpus Christi, TX)  A coalition of eight Corpus Christi groups today announced a weekly drive-by public petition drive on Saturdays at Oleander Point from 11am to 2pm — an addition to the groups’ ongoing mailing of over 25,000 petitions (available for download at The coalition expects enough signatures to require the City of Corpus Christi to hold an election to allow Corpus Christi residents to vote on a Charter Amendment restricting the City from building desalination plants.

“Corpus Christi City Council and the Mayor have repeatedly dismissed the community’s concerns about desalination, so the community is fighting back by circulating a petition to let the people of Corpus Christi vote on whether or not we should pursue desal,” said Brittany Garcia, Lead Coastal Bend Organizer for Texas Campaign for the Environment. “We say ‘Let the People Vote!’”

Together, the plants would discharge 131 million gallons of brine concentrate every day into Corpus Christi Bay. The resulting imbalance would jeopardize the sensitive nursery for fish, shrimp, and other creatures dependent upon a mix of fresh water.

“Corpus Christi residents and our City Council need to be aware of the ominous, potentially negative impacts from these proposed desalination plants on Corpus Christi Bay’s ecosystem, the tourism economy, community health, our residential and commercial utility bills, and our education systems,” said Dr. Isabel Araiza, co-founder of the coordinating group For the Greater Good. “This is a democracy. Costly expenditures – especially those that would put the City environment, our communities and businesses at risk and that also ignore essential human needs during this time of crisis – these decisions should be made by our City residents.”

A coalition of diverse, united Corpus Christi organizational representatives gathered for the announcement of the further ramping up of the city-wide petition drive. They include:

Dr. Isabel Araiza, For the Greater Good
Dr. Jerry Sansing, Corpus Christi Taxpayers Association
Eddie Canales, South Texas Human Rights Center
Brittany Garcia, Texas Campaign for the Environment
Love Sanchez, Indigenous Peoples of the Coastal Bend
Dr. Jim Klein, Sierra Club Coastal Bend Group
Joy Miller, Clean Economy Coalition
Errol Summerlin, Coastal Alliance to Protect our Environment

Exorbitant, Unnecessary Expenditure in Current Crises of Human Needs
The city is pursuing a $222.5 million dollar loan with a plan to begin construction on the first of the proposed desalination projects.The estimated cost  in 2018 dollars for the City’s desalination projects combined was nearly $1.3 billion which would be paid for by public bond funding, in other words, taxpayer dollars.

“The Corpus Christi Taxpayers Association urges people to protect their wallets and sign the petition because these desalination plants will be yet another expensive city boondoggle,”  said Jerry Sansing. “We need to vote before saddling ourselves with this enormous needless debt. If you care about our city and want to have your say, go to the website or go to Oleander Point on Saturday to sign the petition, or sign it if you get it in the mail.”

Eddie Canales with the South Texas Human Rights Center added, The South Texas Human Rights Center supports and endorses the Save our Bay For the Greater Good charter amendment campaign because it is a human right for the Corpus Christi community to have a healthy bay and pollution-free Corpus Christi. Environmental degradation and corporate favors for the oil, gas, and chemical industries by our public officials cannot continue. The petition effort will hold them accountable and the voters should decide with voice and vote.”

“We don’t need to spend that kind of money for speculative heavy industrial projects when the financial community is walking away from big projects right now,” said Joy Miller with the Clean Economy Coalition. “We can create a lot of good, clean, long-lasting and safe jobs and help a lot of people with that kind of money without putting our whole region at risk of environmental ruin from saline waste killing the bays.”

No Need for Expensive Projects
The City Council, Mayor Joe McComb, and the Port of Corpus Christi claim the desalination projects are to insure an adequate water supply. However, the city’s 2019 water conservation report indicates that with a water conservation plan, the city can meet projected demands in population and business growth for the next 20 years with the current water supply by adjusting water consumption rates for residents and local commercial businesses.

“Corpus Christi can meet our water needs without desalination. Don’t believe the city if they tell you otherwise. There are cheaper, more sustainable ways to serve our community’s water demands including in times of drought. Even the city’s own documents prove we don’t need these desalination plants,” said Jim Klein with the Coastal Bend Sierra Club.

The Way to Stop It
As an indigenous native womxn, I am concerned about the desalination plants because of my connection to the water and how these facilities will destroy the bay,” said Love Sanchez with Indigenous People of the Coastal Bend. “I think the community should know what is happening and should have a say in this plan.The people of Corpus Christi, Texas have the opportunity to stop the environmental and financial instability that will happen if these desalination plants are built. The way to stop it is by signing the charter amendment petition established by For the Greater Good. Together as a community we can stop these desalination plants by signing at today. Ye’ka.”

[Ye’ka is Karankawa for “Go with love.”]

For more information, contact:

Brittany Garcia, 361.660.9401,
Isabel Araiza, 361.779.3927,

Read more at and
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TCE and Partners take Legal Action against Industrial Flaring

Allies Send EPA a Notice of Intent to Sue over Agency’s Failure to Update Inadequate 34-Year-Old Standards

Texas Campaign for the Environment and a coalition of ten environmental organizations today sent the Trump Administration EPA a notice of intent to sue the agency over its failure to reduce toxic air pollution from the flares on petrochemical plants, gas processing facilities, and other industrial sites.

Across the country, thousands of industrial flares burn excess waste gases and release smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carcinogenic benzene, and other pollutants that threaten the health of people living nearby, often minorities and communities with moderate incomes.

EPA has not updated the air pollution control standards for industrial flares in 34 years, even though the federal Clean Air Act requires that agency review them at least once every eight years to make sure they adequately protect the public and incorporate improvements in technology, according to the notice.

“At this time when people are more vulnerable to pneumonia from COVID-19 when they are exposed to air pollution, it is unconscionable that the Trump EPA has not done its job and updated these weak and antiquated standards,” said Adam Kron, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council, said: “The outdated technology EPA is allowing polluters to use to reduce emissions is endangering our communities. Thirty-four years of inaction is unacceptable; EPA needs to do its job and update its regulations.”

The organizations that sent the notice – the first required step in a federal lawsuit – are EIP, Clean Air Council, Air Alliance Houston, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthworks, Environment America, Environment Texas, Hoosier Environmental Council, PennEnvironment, and Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Industrial facilities, like chemical manufacturers and natural gas processing plants, use flares as pollution control devices to burn and destroy dangerous organic compounds like benzene in waste gases. However, the flares are only effective as pollution control devices if they are operated correctly.

For example, operators inject steam into flares to keep them from smoking (which releases soot or fine particle pollution). But they often add far more steam than is needed.  EPA and industry studies have shown that flares that are over-steamed do not burn well, releasing large amounts of benzene and other toxic or smog-forming compounds that should have been destroyed during the combustion process.

The types of industrial flares that are the subject of the today’s notice do not include flares on drilling sites or oil refineries. The general industrial flares being targeted for the improvements in the notice include those on chemical factories, solid waste landfills, gasoline terminals, and natural gas processing plants.

More than three decades after EPA established requirements for these general industrial flares in 1986, these standards no longer reflect the “best system of emission reduction,” according to the notice filed by the 10 environmental organizations.

For example, the current standards’ minimum heating value requirements are not based on where the flare is actually burning (the “combustion zone”) and therefore miss if an operator is injecting too much steam or air into the flare, dramatically lowering its efficiency.  Additionally, the current standards let operators average their measurements over long, three-hour periods rather than a shorter time, allowing for spikes that depart from proper operation.  In fact, EPA has estimated that improperly operated flares may release five times or more the pollution as a properly operated flare.

Recently, EPA conducted a rule making that not only pointed out the shortcomings of the current flare standards but also set out specific revisions that could correct these problems. In March 2020, EPA finalized revisions to National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) standards for ethylene production facilities that included revised flare standards similar to what the groups have requested here.  For just the approximately 100 flares covered by the rule, EPA estimated that revised flare standards have the potential to reduce excess emissions by approximately 1,430 tons per year of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and 13,020 tons per year of VOCs. On a per-flare basis, that’s about 14 tons per year of hazardous pollutants and 130 tons per year of VOCs.

Quotes from Environmental Organizations:

Environment Texas: “In our Clean Air Act lawsuit against ExxonMobil, an expert on industrial flares testified at trial that illegal flaring emissions from the company’s Baytown petrochemical complex were probably three to four times higher than the amounts ExxonMobil reported — and that testimony went completely unrebutted,” said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas.  “These hidden impacts on surrounding communities are significant, as the reported violations alone already totaled 10 million pounds of harmful chemicals.”

In Texas, three of the top five largest unpermitted pollution releases from industrial flares in 2019 happened at the Exxon Mobil Chemical Baytown Olefins Plant east of Houston, which released 48 tons of air pollution from February 28 to March 12, 2019; 75 tons of air pollution from June 28 to July 13, 2019; and another 67 tons from August 1 to August 18, 2019, according to records of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Environment Texas sued Exxon Mobil over the plant’s air pollution.

PennEnvironment: “While many people may look back fondly and love the 80s, we’d all agree that technology and the things we know about air pollution have dramatically improved over the past three decades,” said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “Health based standards from the 80s are in no way acceptable for protecting public health, our communities and our environment today.”

Chesapeake Climate Action Network: “For too long, fossil fuel companies have been allowed to emit dangerous levels of pollution at industrial facilities that are all too often located in minority communities,” said Anne Havemann, General Counsel at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Virtually unchecked industrial flaring at these facilities harms the climate, health, and justice, and the EPA must fix its illegally outdated rules as soon as possible.”

Hoosier Environmental Council:  “With a ranking of 43rd in air quality, 40th in health outcomes, and 13th in COVID-19 deaths per capita, there is a great urgency in Indiana to strengthen air quality protections to reduce harm to an already vulnerable population,” said Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. “We urge the EPA to revise the badly out-of-date flare standards; revisions would improve air quality in at least five of six regions of Indiana.”

Texas Campaign for the Environment:  “Industrial flares light up the skies with toxic pollution near the homes, schools and workplaces of many Texans,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “People rightly fear for the health of their families and neighbors, particularly overburdened communities of color,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment.

For a copy of the notice, click here.

The Environmental Integrity Project is an 18-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health.

Clean Air Council is a member-supported environmental organization dedicated to protecting and defending everyone’s right to a healthy environment.

Environment Texas is a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water, and open space.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

PennEnvironment is a statewide, citizen-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group working for clean air, clean water, tackling climate change and preserving Pennsylvania’s incredible outdoor places.

Texas Campaign for the Environment is a grassroots organization that empowers Texans to fight pollution through sustained grassroots organizing campaigns that shift corporate and governmental policy.

Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups that work for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate.

Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit advocacy organization working to reduce the public health impacts of air pollution and advance environmental justice.

The Hoosier Environmental is Indiana’s largest environmental public policy organization, working to address environmental justice, protect land and water, and advance a sustainable economy.



TCE and Allies from across State present Texas Railroad Commission Candidates Forum

Texas Campaign for the Environment, our partners and community advocates from across the state presented the Texas Railroad Commission Candidates Forum on May 27th. 

View the Facebook Live recording or the Zoom recording of the event. 

Railroad Commission Candidates Chrysta Castañeda and Roberto Alonzo attended the Forum. Candidate Jim Wright was invited but did not attend. Both candidates who attended now face a Democratic Primary Runoff Election on July 14 and the general election will be on November 3, 2020.  

Alberta Phillips, Journalist and former Editorial Board member of the Austin  American-Statesman moderated the Forum with Virginia Palacios, Principal with VP Environmental of Laredo providing opening remarks. 

Candidates Castañeda and Alonzo answered questions from Panelists:

* Ranjana Bhandari (Arlington), Founder/Board Chair of Liveable Arlington on enforcement and drilling near schools
* Crystal Moran (El Paso), Frontera Water Protection Alliance on public health impacts of flaring & venting waste
* Gene Collins ( Odessa), Texas NAACP on earthquakes, methane, and air pollution in the Permian Basin
* Amanda McKeel (Austin, TX), Society of Native Nations on indigenous peoples’ rights
* Juan Parras (Houston), Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services  on ensuring environmental protection after EPA rule rollbacks
* Dave Cortez (Austin), Sierra Club on conflicts of interest and ethics of campaign contributions
* Tricia Cortez (Laredo), Rio Grande International Study Center on Gulf Coast petrochemical build-out, quadrupling of plastics production and the balance of industry and the environment.

Donna Hoffman with TCE provided technical direction; Robin Schneider TCE Executive Director kept time; while Emma Pabst with Environment Texas and Corey Troiani with TCE moderated Q&A.

Pipeline activist and singer-songwriter Purly Gates with Clean Energy Now Texas (CENT) from Wimberley closed the Forum with her songs “Talkin’ Pipeline” and “The Fox is Guarding the Henhouse”. 

The Texas Railroad Commission is one of the most important environmental agencies in Texas. Now is the time to make sure the agency is accountable to the people, not big polluters. Ignoring their own mission, the Commission routinely allows toxic waste, air and water pollution, and the corporate abuse of eminent domain to affect people across the state. Incumbent commissioners regularly receive campaign contributions from the same companies the RRC oversees, and they rarely declare conflicts of interest when making punitive decisions over companies from which they stand to benefit. It’s important these Candidates are aware and are prepared to act in the best interests of communities’ health and conservation of natural resources.

For more information about how you can get involved in monitoring and providing feedback to the Texas Railroad Commission about activities in your area, email Robin [AT]




TCE and Over 700 Neighbors, Businesses, Elected Officials Oppose NE Austin Garbage Expansion

Austin, TX — Texas Campaign for the Environment joined Northeast Austin Landfill Neighbors United–a newly formed non-profit citizens group comprised of residents and businesses in a rapidly growing neighborhood near 290 and Springdale – as well as Travis County and State Representative Celia Israel in filing a motion today to overturn a May 7th decision by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to approve a registration for a massive garbage operation in northeast Austin.

“It’s abundantly clear this proposal is inappropriate for this neighborhood and simply not right for Austin,” said Texas State Representative Celia Israel. “By approving this registration, TCEQ has failed our community by once again aligning with a powerful corporation. That’s why I’m united with neighbors in challenging this decision.”

Waste Management, the company behind the proposal to build a trash transfer station, has a history of problems at its existing landfill, the Austin Community Recycling and Disposal Facility, including the largest fine ever received by a garbage dump in the history of Texas. The transfer station would be allowed to process nearly one millions tons of trash each year, could store overnight up to 2,500 tons in trailers covered with tarps and bring over 1,100 heavy truck trips per day through the neighborhood. 

TCEQ approved the registration despite the preponderance of opposition to the transfer station by:

  • Elected officials — State Representatives Celia Israel, who resides in the community, and Representative Sheryl Cole, Travis County Commissioner Jeff Travillion and Commissioner Brigid Shea, City Councilmember Natasha Harper Madison;
  • Local businesses;
  • Over 700 individual neighbors and their supporters/petitioners.

The TCEQ arrived at its decision despite the fact that Travis County passed a “siting ordinance” last September, which prohibits new trash operations at the site.

In addition to issues with odor, vermin, and traffic, environmental advocates cite risks presented by the proposal due to the fact that 21,000 barrels of toxic waste are buried just a few hundred yards from the site of the transfer station.

“Because the State of Texas continues to side with big polluters, hundreds of neighbors and our local elected officials are standing strong in opposition to Waste Management’s plans to keep dumping on this community for generations,” said Jeffrey Jacoby, Deputy Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “Frankly, it’s madness to believe allowing this irresponsible company to break ground so close to these toxic waste drums is anything but a terrible idea.”

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