Walking to the Global Climate Summit

March 15-20, 2021

All events are
online or with masks and physically-distanced.

Send Support for Mutual Aid. Thank you.
Carrizo-Comecrudo Tribe of Texas: https://gf.me/u/y26snq
Indigenous People of the Coastal Bend: Lsanchez33361@yahoo.com
Society of Native Nations: http://societyofnativenations.org/donate.html

Monday, March 15 – 19  JOLT #GenteFirst Week of Action
Engaging students in Texas cities Take the https://bitly.com/gentefirstpledge

Monday March 15 Desal Fight Prep Webinar 7:00-8:30 PM
Save Corpus Christi Bay from proposed seawater desalination plants Register and Attend:  https://bitly.com/DesalFightPrepWebinar

Thursday, March 18, 7 PM  M

Make Your Voice Heard at TCEQ Public Meeting Oppose Proposed City of Corpus Christi Inner Harbor Desalination  http://bit.ly/StopDesalTCEQMeeting

 

Tuesday, March 16
Tell Liberty Mutual, Stop Insuring Fossil Fuels http://bit.ly/libertymutualstopinsuringfossilfuels

Friday, March 19  Global Climate Strike
https://fridaysforfuture.org/march19/


Friday, March 19  Youth Voices Seminar & Letter Write-in Workshop, Austin Climate Coalition, a high school led climate action organization  https://fb.me/e/1gNUAKExd

 

Friday, March 19, 6:00 PM
SINGin’ FOR OUR FUTURE
Register here: bit.ly/Sing4Future   info@cleanenergynowtexas.org

Saturday, March 20  GulfLink Meeting
Contact lglover@earthworksaction.org or apeterson@earthworksaction.org

Saturday, March 20 “Dando” Poets read poems to the Ocean http://bit.ly/DandoPoets


TCE and Coastal Bend Groups Oppose Phillips 66-Trafigura “Bluewater” Oil Export Proposal

Diverse and Aligned Coalition of Coastal Bend Organizations plus Regional and National Environmental Groups Oppose Phillips 66-Trafigura Proposal to Build a Massive, Risky Offshore Fossil Fuel Export Terminal near Port Aransas, Texas

(Corpus Christi) Phillips 66-Trafigura wants to build a massive Bluewater oil export terminal with huge crude oil pipelines and an offshore terminal across San Jose Island near Port Aransas, Texas.

A diverse and aligned coalition of Coastal Bend groups plus regional and national environmental groups is fighting to stop the Phillips 66-Trafigura proposal to build a massive, risky offshore fossil fuel export terminal with pipelines through Aransas Pass, crossing San Jose Island near Port Aransas to the offshore docking buoy.

Yesterday the Port of Corpus Christi made a statement about the Bluewater proposal to which the co-founder of the Coastal Alliance to Protect the Environment, CAPE’s Erroll Summerlin responded, “The Port of Corpus Christi’s blatant hypocrisy is outrageous.  Initially, they opposed the offshore project of Trafigura stating the project would circumvent the sovereignty of the State of Texas and its regulatory authority, creating risks to the environment, air quality, and security of the citizens of Texas.  Originally, the Port decried the lack of measures to control emissions of VOCs and warned of the aftermath and damage of a crude oil release from the terminal.  Now, however, they endorse Bluewater that has the same consequences and Trafigura is a partner in that project with P66.”

“This is just one more effort related to the land grab in San Patricio County designed to benefit heavily-polluting and dangerous private industries”, stated Kathryn Masten, Executive Director of the Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association (IOBCWA). “Located at the crossroads of two ship channels, our small city of 700 has had to fight off efforts to construct desalination plants, deepen ship channels, and construct new piers to accommodate VLCCs (very large crude carriers) that impact the great fishing and birding enjoyed in the Coastal Bend. The environmental and safety threats to our coastal community by projects like Bluewater are quite real.”

Texas Campaign for the Environment is part of this diverse coalition of Coastal Bend organizations mounting a public outcry concerning the EPA air pollution permitting process around the proposed Phillips 66-Trafigura Bluewater Offshore Oil Export Terminal,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “Together our coalition of groups has won the right to a public hearing and extended the deadline for comments. Outrageously, the draft air pollution permit does not require any pollution controls. This one export facility would put out more smog-causing pollution than 28 major refineries in Texas. Some of these are cancer-causing chemicals such as highly toxic benzene,” she continued.

“The local Sierra Club group has grave environmental and safety concerns about this project,” said Jim Klein, Acting Chair of the Coastal Bend Sierra Club group. “Corpus Christi industries have experienced three large fires and/or explosions in the past 10 months, indicating systemic safety short-comings that threaten the local population. The Bluewater project includes storage tanks proposed for the Taft, Texas region and pipelines from these tanks to the off-shore facility.  All of this proposed infrastructure will increase the likelihood of additional leaks, fires, and explosions. Routing the pipelines through Redfish Bay threatens this environmentally sensitive region. The off-shore facility creates concern because of the massive quantities of volatile organic compounds and air toxins like benzene scheduled to be emitted.  Lastly, the Deepwater Horizon debacle [one of the world’s worst ever oil spills] demonstrated that such off-shore facilities pose an imminent threat to the Gulf of Mexico and to Texas residents living along the gulf coast.”

EPA Process Issues
In response to a public outcry for a more accessible public input process on the Bluewater air pollution permit request, the EPA in turn extended the time period during which the public can provide comments on the Bluewater EPA Docket through January 11 and planned a public hearing for Tuesday, January 5th.

However, the EPA deadline to register to speak at the public hearing, today, Thursday, December 17, was set without allowing ample time for people to learn of the opportunity to speak at the recently scheduled public hearing, if any, provisions aren’t clear for accessibility for speakers of Spanish and other languages and for the deaf and hearing impaired.  Also the deadline to register and the actual date of the hearing straddle the nation’s most taken winter holidays rendering the process more difficult for many people.

Winter holidays are usually a time to rest during long nights. But right now, this coalition of organizations are fighting the Bluewater proposal every step of the way.

The groups have asked the EPA to postpone and reschedule the hearing to give people the opportunity to register and to include as an option, registering on the day of or during the hearing as other national agencies examining proposals for offshore fossil fuel export terminals have done.

Bluewater Community Information Meeting
Members of the public who would like more information can attend a Community Preparation Meeting on the Bluewater Proposal on Monday, January 4 at 6:30 PM. Click here to register for the Community Preparation Meeting.

Background on Bluewater Air Pollution Proposal
Bluewater seeks an air pollution permit to allow it to emit extremely high amounts of air pollution – nearly 19,000 tons per year of Volatile Organic Compounds and more than 800 tons per year of hazardous air pollution. Such toxic emissions including benzene can cause cancer or other significant health problems. The prevailing winds most of the year are toward shore, so this would likely worsen air quality for people, wildlife, and plants and would contribute to climate chaos.

So far, the EPA has failed to require Bluewater to install any pollution control technology whatsoever for the proposed offshore buoys where the crude oil would be pumped onto Very Large Crude Carriers if this project were built. The EPA has not yet required any real-time air monitoring of emissions to evaluate whether Bluewater would be keeping within the lax emission limits.

The Bluewater proposal is a dangerous risk for humans, wildlife, and the environment.  It can be stopped through the permitting process, legal challenges, financial withdrawal, and cancellation.

Resources:
Texas Campaign for the Environment, Local Campaigns, Stop Dirty Projects https://www.texasenvironment.org/fund/local-campaigns/gulf-coast/
Coastal Alliance to Protect Our Environment – http://capetx.com/
“Greenhouse Gases from Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Production” a report by Environmental Integrity Project, January 2020
“Analysis of 2019 Data on Greenhouse Gases from Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Production” a report by Environmental Integrity Project, December 2020

EPA Phillips 66-Trafigura Docket

Media Contacts:
Erroll Summerlin, CAPE, 361-960-5313, summerline@verizon.net
Jim Klein, Coastal Bend Sierra Club, 361-334-3908. jeklein20@gmail.com
Kathryn Masten, Ingleside on the Bay Coastal Watch Association, 469-500-2373, iobcwa@gmail.com
Donna Hoffman, 512-299-5776, donna@texasenvironment.org

 


TCE Environmental Voter Resources

TCE Environmental Voter Resources

  • Information on the Voting Process
  • Key Elections to follow
  • Important Dates remaining in the election process
  • TCE Environmental Voter’s Pledge: To vote and ask others to vote; To make sure all votes are counted; To ensure a peaceful transition of power once all votes are counted fairly.

Let’s begin with…Thanks!

Thank you to all of the TCE environmental supporters who have been helping turn out an unprecedented number of early voters in the 2020 Election. We appreciate you!  

Already voted?
We urge you to triple your vote by calling or texting three friends. Ask them to vote for the environment, too!

Haven’t voted yet?
Make your plan to vote tomorrow on Election Day 2020 – Tuesday, November 3rd.
Use this excellent, non-partisan guide to find out when, where, and how to vote. Enter your address her to see information for your District and a sample ballot.

Note that mail-in ballots in Texas must be postmarked by Election Day, tomorrow November 3rd and received the following day, Wednesday, November 4th.  If you choose to use a mail-in ballot and want to make sure your voice and your vote count, drop off your mail-in ballot at your County’s single drop-off place or go to your usual polling place and vote in person on Election Day tomorrow. Bring your mail-in ballot if you have it, otherwise you can still cast a provisional ballot.  Need more Voting info? Get it here.

Thanks again for voting!

Vote for the Environment
During this tumultuous election season, TCE has been keeping tabs on a number of influential elections taking place across Texas. While the national elections take up a lot of attention in the news, local and state elections have a huge impact on environmental issues too.

Texas Railroad Commission
The Texas Railroad Commission is the state agency that oversees oil and gas drilling, uranium and coal mining and other industrial processes in our state. Compare positions of the two key candidates here on issues such as flaring and venting, climate change, pipeline regulation and other pressing concerns that impact our air, water, and health across Texas.

Texas Legislature
How might the Texas Legislature change and what is the plan for the 2021 Legislative Session in quarantine?  Stay tuned here and on TCE social media – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more information. Join our email list and help influence federal, state, and local legislation that affects the health of our communities and the environment.

Corpus Christi Mayor and City Council Election
With a massive industrial build-out proposed on Corpus Christi bay and in adjoining San Patricio County by the oil, gas, and plastics industries, TCE has been fighting lynchpin desalination proposals and educating Corpus Christi voters. Compare Corpus Christi candidates for Mayor and City Council here on CCVotes.com and vote for Corpus Christi Bay.

Denton Mayor and City Council Election
Denton is well known for voting to ban fracking in 2014. This year, city elections will be held in November for the first time, and in just the first few days of early voting, Denton’s 2020 turnout exceeded the total votes for the last city election in May 2019. It’s no exaggeration that the new City Council will be the most democratically elected city government in recent memory. The new Council will affect the future of a number of environmental issues, including the proposed city landfill expansion and the city’s approach to reducing waste, Denton’s commitment to 100% renewable energy, and its vow to address high levels of air pollution affecting community health.

You can learn where Mayoral and City Council Candidates stand on environmental issues from our Denton Environmental Candidate Survey.

Important Dates in the 2020 Election & 2021 Legislative Process

Tues., Nov. 3rd – Election Day 2020

Mon., Dec. 14th-Electoral College Texas electors vote in the Texas State Capitol or online for the next President and Vice President of the U.S.

Mon., Jan. 3rd – 117th U.S. Congress Convenes

Wed., Jan. 6th – Electoral votes formally counted before a joint session of Congress; the President of the Senate formally announces the election result.

Tues., Jan. 12th – 87th Texas State Legislature convenes

Wed. Jan. 20th – Presidential Inauguration Day

TCE Environmental Voter’s Pledge
TCE is committed to a free and fair election. Given the extraordinary circumstances of the public health crisis and high degree of voting by mail, we expect results of many races will take some time to tabulate after Election Day on Tuesday, November 3rd. TCE will support the core value that all votes count and all votes must be counted.  We will honor the valid results of the 2020 election.

  • TCE Environmental Voter’s Pledge
    To vote and ask others to vote;
    To make sure all votes are counted;
    To ensure a peaceful transition of power once all votes are counted fairly;

Additional Resources

U.S. Elections Project tracks early voting numbers updated every few days.

Latino Voter’s Guide VotoLatino.org on the Environment: The first step to fighting climate change is electing leaders who will take action.


Key Positions of 2020 Texas Railroad Commissioner Candidates

TCE compiled the following information from the candidates’ responses to the Texas League of Women Voters 2020 Primary and General Election Voter Guides, candidates’ statements during a Texas Tribune virtual debate held on September 7, 2020 and candidate responses to an Austin American Statesman questionnaire   and Inside Texas Politics on WFAA, October 17, 2020. This is by no means an exhaustive list of the candidates’ viewpoints or their comments on these topics. This guide is intended to serve as a resource for Texas voters.  See below for more information from links to the major daily newspapers’ endorsements and the candidates’ own websites.

Viewpoints: Pollution from Flaring & Venting

Chrysta Castañeda
She says “In 2019, oil companies lit on fire enough natural gas (flaring) that if turned to electricity it would power the City of Houston. This is against the law, causes lung damage and premature births, and makes no sense. I’m running to get the Railroad Commission back on track in enforcing our environmental protections and to protect against the waste of our natural resources.”

Jim Wright
He says there are “overwhelmingly positive facts surrounding the issue” of flaring and that “oftentimes anti-industry groups and some members of the media like to trend negative on the topic.”

Viewpoints: Climate Change

Chrysta Castañeda
“The industry acknowledges that climate change is real. The National Petroleum Council came out and acknowledged it last year in December… with a plan for carbon capture. There is no doubt that climate change is real and that fossil fuel production impacts it. But that doesn’t mean we’re sunk.  It just means that the oil and gas industry needs to do better with its greenhouse gas emissions. I’d say about half the industry is tuned into this. But the problem is that the other half of the industry is not and the current Railroad Commissioners are unfairly penalizing the people who would follow the law, allowing scofflaws to get away with not following the law.”

Jim Wright
“I think it’s important that people understand what [flaring] has done to our environment…
One of the facts that remains on flaring is that the emissions are CO2, it’s not any type of volatile compounds and CO2 is part of our atmosphere today. CO2 has been here. I’m not sure there’s enough technology to put blame strictly on what flaring has caused to the atmosphere. I think that if you’ve seen through our history and time, the earth is going to continue to evolve. I’m not sure we have good facts on what’s causing climate change. I can tell you one thing, the oil and gas industry has done a good job in assuring and ensuring we have markets to put our gas into.”

Viewpoints: Pipeline Regulation

Chrysta Castañeda
She says that intrastate pipeline safety standards need to be updated and that she will press for state legislation to increase transparency and public input.

Jim Wright
He supports increased automated leak detection systems and more pipelines in Texas.

Viewpoints: Other pressing issues

Chrysta Castañeda
She says, water reclamation and reuse program would reduce the need for fresh water and disposal wells and that the RRC needs to ensure industry compliance with standards with updated permitting and reporting requirements and oversight by adequately trained and compensated professionals.

Jim Wright
He says, the RRC must use proven technology for better communication with citizens and industry; that the RRC needs stronger self-policing actions and reporting by producers; and must use life cycle analysis to promote best environmental management practices by the Industry.

Viewpoints: Environmental impact of oil & gas industry

Chrysta Castañeda
She says, “Responsible operators know how to do better which is stop venting and stop flaring and help the planet at the same time. Eighty percent of Texans want clean air, clean water and good old ‘don’t mess with Texas. This is the way we don’t mess with Texas.”

Jim Wright
He says, “When you look at renewable energy and you compare it with our fossil fuel today, it’s impact on our environment is just as great as fossil fuels are. I’m not saying that fossil fuels have any impact on our environment. I believe our industry has done an outstanding job of upholding what the environment means. I know I’m in the business.”

Newspaper Endorsements in the Texas Railroad Commissioner race
in the 2020 General Election

Houston Chronicle: “Texas needs at least one member of the Railroad Commission who takes to heart both the mandate that the commission promote the oil and gas industry and its charge to safeguard the water and air Texans drink or breathe… Castañeda will do just that. Launching her campaign with a focus on the wasteful and damaging practice of flaring — the burning of surplus gas from oil wells — she is better positioned to steer a course for the 21st century.

Dallas Morning News: “We recommend voters choose Democrat Chrysta Castañeda as the candidate with practical solutions to put the commission in a leadership role on major energy issues.”

San Antonio Express News “[Castañeda] has the expertise in the oil and gas industry this position demands and deserves, along with the communication skills to explain complex issues in relatable and digestible ways. She would serve the public as an excellent industry watchdog, but also as an industry explainer… It would be a mistake to view this race through a partisan lens. Far better is to consider expertise, which Castañeda has in abundance.”

Major Railroad Commissioner Candidates Websites

Chrysta Castañeda

Jim Wright


Robin Schneider Awarded Hal Suter Environmental Alliance Award

The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club awards its first-ever Hal Suter Environmental Alliance Award to TCE Executive Director Robin Schneider.

The public is invited to attend the Award ceremony online Saturday, October 3 at 6 PM.

Named for Hal Suter, a recently departed and much loved activist leader, this new award is given to the person who has helped further environmental goals through collaboration. It commemorates Henry “Hal” Suter, who was a champion for alliances to fight harm to his beloved state, its beaches, and its clean air and water. Hal was a master at bringing people together to find common interests and form effective coalitions.

Robin Schneider shares the art and science of bringing people and organizations together for impactful environmental change.

Many people know Robin for her leadership of TCE. Her activism actually began in high school. At 17, Robin canvassed for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), raising funds door-to-door to assist pro-ERA candidates. During college, she led a campaign that stopped a plan to drill for oil on the UCLA campus. While at UCLA, she also led a delegation of 18 college students to Florida in 1982 to campaign for the ERA. Robin was selected for a legislative fellowship in 1983 and worked on environmental policy issues that year. She then gained campaign experience leading a voter registration campaign that signed up more than 17,000 voters in less than four months. Robin spent the next eight years working for a women’s rights group and developing winning strategies for lobbying and electoral campaigns. 

Robin joined Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) in 1997. Under Robin’s direction, TCE took a leading role in the campaign to close the Grandfather Loophole in the Texas Clean Air Act, for which she was dubbed the “Best Advocate for Breathers” by The Austin Chronicle.

TCE played a key role in successfully pressuring Dell, Apple, Samsung, and other TV companies to take back their obsolete products and support producer take-back policies. In 2004, TCE won a second “Best of Austin” award (in conjunction with Dell) for “The Best New Partnership” from The Austin Chronicle. Robin was named a “Green Giant” by Austin Monthly in April 2007. 

Under Robin’s direction, TCE works with landfill neighbors to impact local trash and recycling issues and statewide legislation. In addition, she was an early advocate for Zero Waste policies and helped shepherd the adoption of Austin’s Zero Waste goal and plans. 

Robin plays a key leadership role alongside Sierra Club staff and its allies in the work to address the climate change crisis by stopping coal-fired power plants and transitioning off fossil fuels.  She brings TCE’s door-to-door canvassing power to those fights and also joins in key lawsuits, media campaigns, and legislative training and lobbying efforts. Robin collaborates in the leadership of Texas regional alliances — the Alliance for a Clean Texas, the Permian Gulf Coast Coalition and national alliances, Break Free From Plastics, Stop the Money Pipeline, and Insure Our Future.  While simultaneously pivoting and protecting TCE’s door-to-door canvassers during the current pandemic by embracing new organizing technologies, Robin has further increased TCE’s focus on reducing global warming and plastics pollution in Texas. Robin and TCE are currently supporting powerful new outreach and organizing in the battle of the Coastal Bend against a major industrial build-out in the Corpus Christi area. Hal Suter was involved in this campaign. TCE is also supporting staff and volunteer efforts in North Texas, Central Texas, the Greater Houston Area, and now the Permian Basin.   

Join us in congratulating Robin Schneider.

 


TCE and Allies Move Conoco-Phillips to Stop Flaring at 41 Sites

ConocoPhillips Drops Request for Oil and Gas Flaring in West Texas After Challenge from Clean Air Groups

41 Flares at Oil and Gas Sites Released 1,262 Tons of Sulfur Dioxide Air Pollution near Odessa

Austin, Texas – Following a challenge from four clean air advocacy groups, ConocoPhillips yesterday dropped a request for extensions on flaring permits at 41 oil and gas sites in West Texas that released more than 1,300 tons of dangerous air pollutants last year.

The company’s 41 flares are located in Ector and Andrews counties near Odessa and burned 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2018-2019, releasing more than 1,262 tons of sulfur dioxide, which can damage the lungs, as well as 99 tons of nitrogen oxides and other pollutants, according to state records.

Local residents of the Permian Basin region worked with the Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club, Environment Texas and Texas Campaign for the Environment to file an objection to the state permits in May because the flares damage air quality and threaten public health.

A hearing before the Texas Railroad Commission, which reviews permits for flaring at oil and gas sites, had been scheduled for September 28. But yesterday ConocoPhillips sent the state agency a letter announcing that it was withdrawing its applications for the 41 flares because of “operational changes” that make them unnecessary.

“People should care about this issue, because these flares emit toxic air pollution that is hurting public health, and the Texas Railroad Commission has been granting permits for flaring with no real standards or oversight for years,” said Colin Cox, Attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project.

Cyrus Reed, interim director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, said: “While we are pleased that under pressure Conoco-Phillips is doing the right thing and withdrawing their request to expand their massive ongoing air pollution through flaring, it again demonstrates that the regulator is not doing its job. It shouldn’t take local citizens and organizations to state the obvious: it’s time for the Texas Railroad Commission to do more than require expanded reporting and actually set a course to eliminate the routine flaring and venting of air pollution.”

“Today’s decision shows us that industry knows how to reduce these harmful flaring activities. We need to hold them and the Texas Railroad Commission to a higher standard and stop allowing operators to forfeit our precious resources and put our health at risk,” said Corey Troiani, Senior Director with Texas Campaign for the Environment.

“Flaring pollutes our air, warms our climate, and puts our health at risk. Giant balls of fire in the sky should not be a part of business as usual,” said Emma Pabst, Global Warming Solutions Advocate with the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center.

The number of flaring permits issued by the Texas Railroad Commission jumped to 6,972 in 2019, up from 5,488 in 2018, 3,708 in 2017, and 306 in 2010, according to the agency’s website.  The volume of flaring and venting at oil and gas sites in Texas has also multiplied, rising to 194 billion cubic feet in 2019, up from 74 billion cubic feet in 2017 and 5 billion cubic feet in 2010, according to state data.

Nationally, flaring and venting of natural gas has also increased, with 468 billion square feet flared and vented in 2018 – which was quadruple the amount two decades earlier, and the most since 1970, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Drilling companies often burn natural gas (methane and other gases) because they don’t have a pipeline nearby available as they drill for oil and produce the gases as a byproduct.  The recent economic downturn, caused in part by Covid-19, has driven many oil and gas companies to curb production and close wells.

It’s not clear what drove ConocoPhillips to drop its application for the flaring permits in Ector and Andrews counties. But the company wrote to the Texas Railroad Commission: “ConocoPhillips has instituted operational changes that have significantly reduced the need for flaring at the facilities.…As a result, the two-year flaring authority sought in these cases is no longer needed.”

Neta Rhyne, a lung cancer survivor and resident of West Texas who is concerned about the air pollution from flaring, said: “I’m happy to learn ConocoPhillips is instituting operational changes that will significantly reduce the need for flaring.  This is absolute proof that the fossil fuel industry can reduce harmful flaring activities that are polluting the air we breathe.  I’m looking forward to the day I can enjoy going to Odessa and Midland to visit my grandsons without being a prisoner indoors.”

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

For a copy of ConocoPhillips letter, click here.

For a copy of the list of wells, click here.

For a copy of the environmental group’s objection to the permits, click here.

Media contacts: Donna Hoffman, Texas Campaign for the Environment, (512) 299-5776 and Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project, (443) 510-2574


Opinion: Stop Fossil Fuel Industry from running US Climate Policy


Opinion:
Stop the revolving door — Americans don’t support fossil fuel industry leaders running climate policy

Shown together in this October 4, 2016 photo, former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is now advising former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign. Photo: Carolyn Kaster, STF / Associated Press

By Robin Schneider Sep. 10, 2020

There are many ways in which Americans are united.

Across party lines Americans reject the so-called revolving door. People in government and industry move back and forth working for companies when they are out of government and supposedly overseeing them when they are in government. Since the industry employers invariably pay more, which master do they serve while they are in government?

There was widespread support when President Barack Obama signed his first executive order the afternoon of his inauguration. It prohibited putting lobbyists in government agencies overseeing the industries they had lobbied for. While the policy was not perfect, Texas Campaign for the Environment and other groups used that executive order to successfully campaign against appointing a lobbyist who worked for major polluters to head our EPA Regional Office. Some critics, including Houston Chronicle columnist Chris Tomlinson, have called this view “fringe,” but it has broad support.

A recent poll by Data for Progress found that voters do not want fossil fuel industry lobbyists or representatives serving in the executive branch. That view is shared by 61 percent of Democrats and a plurality of Independents and Republicans, 45 and 39 percent respectively. People know the foxes should not guard the henhouse.

While President Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C., our government agencies are run by executives from the industries they are supposed to regulate. The results are clear — attacks on environmental laws, more pollution and a worsening climate crisis. That is exactly why we are demanding that Joe Biden stop this if he is elected.

Heather Zichal was a chief climate adviser in the Obama administration but was a paid corporate board member of Cheniere Energy, a major exporter of fracked gas. Their Corpus Christi-area export terminal burns off gas with large flares that light up the night skies. It is a major greenhouse house emitter.

Former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is now a board member of Southern Company, a corporation that runs five gas utilities. These two gas company board members are informal advisers to Biden. They should not be brought back into government.

We definitely do need experts who understand the energy industry in government but they must be ones who can lead us forward into a renewable energy future and not ones who are compromised with leadership roles in the fossil fuel industry, which has put short-term profits above the long-term interests of workers and the environment.

Fossil fuel companies, especially in Texas, have been having financial problems for quite a while. It turns out that fracked wells do not produce for as long as investors were promised. In April, Scott Sheffield, known as the “Mother Fracker,” said at a state hearing on oil and gas, “Nobody wants to give us capital because we have all destroyed capital and created economic waste.”

Unfortunately, the fossil fuel companies have used the current health and economic crisis to get billions of dollars of subsidies. This must stop. The workers who are whip-sawed by these boom-and-bust cycles need steady, good jobs in a clean energy economy. These rank and file workers can help shape their next careers.

For decades the fossil fuel executives have negligently deceived the public about climate change and delayed action on it. If Biden wins and fossil fuel executives fill government positions, the subsidies might not end. The critical actions needed to transition our economy to good, clean jobs may not be taken. We need swift, decisive movement toward a more circular economy that stops wasting resources and people’s health and lives. People with allegiances to the fossil fuel industry could put the brakes on these initiatives to stop climate change.

Luckily, the fossil fuel industry is just one sector of the energy economy. Leaders in the renewable energy sectors — wind, solar, geothermal, efficiency and battery storage — are by definition also some of the world’s foremost energy experts. These experts and industry leaders are the most qualified to lead a clean energy transition. Decades of greed, pollution and misinformation have shown us that fossil fuel companies are the least qualified to do that.

The United States was once an environmental leader. Ground-breaking environmental laws were supported by members of both parties. But we have been a laggard of late. It’s past time to stop the revolving door that has given the fossil fuel industry dangerous influence over the future of our country and turn towards the energy sources that will provide the jobs of the future and a livable, healthy planet.

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

 

 


Corpus Christi Coalition Vies for Votes on Desalination

By: Trevier Gonzalez, 9:08 PM July 30, 2020

Local group vies for votes on desalination plant, delivers ‘thousands’ of signatures amid pandemic

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Though the Corpus Christi Seawater Desalination Project has been met with contention since it was introduced, an organization is pushing for its fate to be decided by voters via a charter amendment with the City of Corpus Christi.

Thursday morning, a small group from For the Greater Good delivered what it described as thousands of signatures — boxes of them, altogether spelling “Let Us Vote On Desal” — were delivered in a wheelbarrow to city hall.

Isabel Araiza, a co-founder of For the Greater Good, wheeled that barrow to the city secretary’s office. She said during the pandemic, it’s been difficult for herself and others to actually be heard.

“We’re getting maybe a minute to do a call-in to voice our concerns,” Araiza said. “You get 1000 characters in an email.”

She later said that those emails aren’t actually read out to the public.

“Desalination has the potential to impact the entire community, and so the entire community should have a say,” she said. “That’s all we’re asking for — we want the citizens to be able to vote.”

The desalination project currently is nearing the end of Phase 2, which includes outreach. Phase 3, which includes procurement, design and construction, is set to take place from 2020 to 2025.

City of Corpus Christi Water Resource Manager Esteban Ramos said the city has been transparent with its plans from the beginning. Citing its website, he said those with concerns should try to learn more about the project.

“We’ve taken the steps to do a very due-diligence process where we meet with different organizations, from environmentalists to community groups to businesses, and educate them and communicate with them about this project,” he said.

Corpus Christi City Secretary Rebecca Huerta said charter amendments filed in her office require 5 percent of registered voters within the city, or 20,000 — whichever is smaller.

While it’s uncertain how many signatures were on that petition, Araiza and others are also pushing for city councilors to vote on the issue as well.

https://www.kristv.com/news/local-news/local-group-vies-for-votes-on-desalination-plant-delivers-thousands-of-signatures-amid-pandemic

 

 


Let the People Vote! TCE and Allies Deliver Thousands of No Desal Petitions

Kathryn Cargo
July 31, 2020

(Corpus Christi, TX)  A group of area residents wants voters – not the Corpus Christi City Council – to decide on a charter amendment to restrict desalination plants.

Two desalination facilities are being considered for the region: one within the city limits, the other in San Patricio County.

The project would cost taxpayers $1.3 billion, according to a news release from a coalition calling itself Save the Bay for the Greater Good. 

The group hosted a virtual protest Thursday, opposing the desalination projects. Afterwards, coalition founder Isabel Araiza delivered thousands of petitions to City Hall.

“It is irresponsible to expect the entire community to bear financial and environmental burdens for the (Port of Corpus Christi) and heavy industry’s interests,” Araiza said. “These desalination projects aren’t even for the people or local businesses.

“At the very least, the mayor and City Council should let the people vote on whether or not the city pursues desalination.”

Desalination has been in consideration of the council for several years.

The city plans to seek permits for a facility that would draw as much as 186,000 acre feet of water per year — 166 million gallons per day — from La Quinta Channel, and as much as 93,000 gallons per year from the Inner Harbor, or 83.1 million gallons per day.

Documents show other permits would propose discharging as much as 68 million gallons per day into the Inner Harbor, and as much as 91 million gallons per day into the Inner Harbor.

Representatives from several governmental entities have said new water sourcing is necessary to support future economic development and jobs in the region.

Several coalition members turned out to a City Council meeting Tuesday and spoke against the desalination plants for the area. They argued the facilities would unduly burden taxpayers.

More:City to submit desalination permits, local groups protest

The city is pursuing a $222.5 million-dollar loan with a plan to begin construction on the first of the proposed projects. The combined estimated cost for the city’s desalination projects was nearly $1.3 billion in 2018. Those expenses would be paid for by public bond funding, according to the coalition.

“The city’s plan for desalination will hike water rates for Corpus Christi residents to pay off a $225,000,000 loan from the Texas Water Development Board for this behemoth,” said Jim Klein, of the Coastal Bend Sierra Club.

The Corpus Christi Taxpayers Association unanimously supports a public vote on these proposed expenditures, according to the news release.

Together, the plants would discharge 131 million gallons of brine concentrate every day into Corpus Christi Bay, according to the coalition.

The coalition includes:

  • 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

Kathryn Cargo follows business openings and developments while reporting on impacts of the city government’s decisions.


Ask Your US Congressional Representative to Fight Plastic Pollution

A comprehensive new Congressional bill to tackle the plastic pollution crisis was recently introduced in Congress. We need your help to move it forward. The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act would:

  1. Phase out throwaway plastics made from fossil fuels;
  2. Hold the plastic industry responsible for its waste, and
  3. Pause construction on any new plastic-making plants. 

TCE is participating in a national day of action today on Wednesday, July 22 to urge members of Congress to support this bold plastics bill. 

Call your U.S. Congressional Representative now.  Use the calling script below to ask your Representative to co-sponsor the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act! 

More than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans every year, drowning wildlife and wrecking ecosystems. The cost to human health has also been enormous, especially in low-income communities and communities of color where the majority of plastic-making facilities and plastic-burning incinerators are located. These frontline communities experience the worst impacts of toxic fumes being spewed along the entire plastic lifecycle!

The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act will address the plastic pollution crisis and protect our communities and wildlife to create a healthier, more equitable future for us all.

Call your Representatives in the following key US Congressional Districts 

Houston District 7 Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, 202-225-2571
Houston District 9 Rep. Al Green, 202-225-7508
San Antonio to Lower Rio Grande Valley District 15 Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, 202-225-2531
San Antonio District 20 Rep. Joaquin Castro, 202-225-3236
San Antonio to Laredo District 28 Rep. Henry Cuellar, 202-225-1640
South Dallas District 30 Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, 202-225-8885
Northeast Dallas District 32 Rep. Colin Z.Allred, 202-225-2231
Forth Worth to Dallas District 33 Rep. Marc A.Veasey, 202-225-9897

Or Find Your Representative here.

CALLING SCRIPT

Hello.  My name is ____________ and I live in ______________. 

I’m calling to ask Representative _________ to co-sponsor the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act.

This bill addresses the plastic pollution crisis with the urgency it requires. For too long, plastic producers have been profiting while they continue polluting our water, air, and communities. Meanwhile, taxpayers like me pay the bill to clean up the industry’s mess … and we’re tired of it!

This bill will reduce waste across our country by phasing out certain plastic products, placing additional responsibility on manufacturers for waste management, and pausing unnecessary new plastic production.

Please let your boss know that constituents like me want them to co-sponsor the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act today. 

This is your chance to be a leader in confronting the plastic pollution crisis. This matters deeply to your constituents.

END OF CALLING SCRIPT

Thank you for taking action!