TCE Responds to Hurricane Harvey
Texas Campaign for the Environment has been heartbroken by Hurricane Harvey’s devastation on our neighbors and supporters in Houston and across the Texas Coast. The good news: all TCE staff is safe and their homes are going to be okay. We are eager to get back to work organizing our communities on these important issues, especially as the region’s numerous toxic waste sites have been washed into area waterways and even homes.
TCE is encouraging our supporters to contribute to Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), an established grassroots nonprofit fighting for communities on the frontlines of some of the country’s worst polluting facilities in East Houston. TEJAS is working right now to coordinate relief efforts among community organizations in these neighborhoods, provide direct assistance to especially vulnerable residents, and to assess the environmental impacts of Harvey on their community. They will use all of this to advocate for policy changes that will prevent or minimize these harms in the future.
The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD) is helping concerned Texans and others travel to Harvey-affected areas for relief work. If you are interested in helping you can learn more here.
Giving money is better than donating goods that can create logistical challenges for relief efforts and may end up landfilled. If you do wish to give clothes, food, or other goods you can see what specific shelters in Houston need here.
Tell Congress: Defend Common Sense Environmental Protections
Even before Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Coast we have been working to protect communities there from the legacy of toxic polluting facilities. U.S. Congress members are considering a budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency that could cut its budget could be cut by 31% — including 30% cuts to the Superfund program. Several other programs could be eliminated completely, including the environmental justice program, which seeks to provide resources to low-income communities directly impacted by pollution, the Diesel Emissions Reduction grants which combat air pollution, as well as climate change research.
Superfund is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s process for cleaning up legacy pollution sites. Spills from chemical storage facilities, wood treatment plants, hazardous waste disposal, and groundwater contamination from a plethora of industries are just some of the toxic Superfund sites that can be found in Texas. These sites are leaking known carcinogens and hazardous substances into soil, groundwater, and waterways. Polluted sites such as the San Jacinto River Waste Pits pose enormous public health threats to our communities. You can read about the history of the Superfund here.
Unfortunately, the Superfund for cleaning up toxic sites is targeted for 30% budget cuts under the President’s proposed budget. The Superfund has already suffered major cuts over the past few decades. Before 1995, a unique tax on chemicals and petroleum products funded the cleanup program. Since the tax was discontinued, the EPA has relied only on appropriations from Congress and the cleanup costs paid for by Potentially Responsible Parties – companies that can be identified as the cause of the pollution. After the dedicated tax funding was discontinued, the number of cleanups declined by 37% over a 15-year period despite a consistent number of sites being added to the Superfund list. The money available for Superfund cleanups is already simply not enough, and we cannot afford to cut the program even further.
We need a Superfund to stop pollution
The good news is that the federal budget does not necessarily reflect what is proposed by the President. Members of Congress will ultimately write and vote on the federal budget before sending it to the President for approval. The other potentially good news is that Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s appointed Administrator for the EPA and former Attorney General of Oklahoma, has said publicly that the Superfund process is critical to his agenda, and that he wants to make improvements to how it works. Now we need to hold Congress and the EPA accountable to making good improvements and preventing further cuts to the critical Superfund.
Pruitt has recently announced a Task Force to recommend changes to Superfund; however, so far, the task force does not demonstrate that it will prioritize community input or public health over the interests of polluters. It is now vital that concerned Texans weigh in and let their members of Congress and EPA officials know that we should support a truly sustainable Superfund that uses the best clean-up methods possible to protect the environment and public health.
Most Texans agree with common sense policies to protect our land, air, and water, and pass on a healthy environment for future generations. Your voice can make a difference in how our members of Congress will vote on cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. We need you to let them know you support the Superfund process, as well as vital functions to prevent pollution and protect the most vulnerable residents in our state.