Monthly Archives: August 2013

Global Freight, Local Impact: Cleaner Air In Texas Through Partnerships Abroad

Para leer este artículo en español, haga clic aquí.

Improving Texas air quality requires a broad coalition. How broad? Well, we know that much of the commerce that is transported through the state either has a foreign origin or destination. Although the delivery takes place in our backyard, many of the crucial decisions that affect that route are made elsewhere. That’s why EDF participated in the 5th Annual Forum on Supply Chain Sustainability in Buenos Aires, Argentina last week.

As the keynote speaker, I provided an overview of EDF’s vision for freight and supply chain sustainability, shared some of our clean air success stories from Houston and presented our “Five Principles for Greener Freight.”  I also met with key stakeholders in the international trade and transportation sector, including the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology (ITBA), which is in the midst of developing a study center geared toward sustainable freight strategies. The forum was a tremendous learning opportunity that will enable EDF to strengthen its advocacy at home in Texas by bringing together new partners and applying key lessons from our neighbors.

Many of the challenges Houston and other port cities face in the United States are similar to those in Argentina, such as older, polluting trucks dominating short distance service, lack of sufficient data to make informed sustainability decisions and difficulty in making long-term investments for cleaner, more efficient technology upgrades. Read More »

Posted in En Español, Goods Movement, Houston, Ports, Transportation| Tagged | Comments closed

NOAA Reports On Climate; Texas Politicians Stick Heads In Sand

This post originally appeared on EDF's Voices blog.

Last week, a coalition of environmental groups presented U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and other Texas politicians with “awards” for their persistent denial of basic climate science. In fact, climate change denial is all too common among Texas lawmakers. Governor Rick Perry, for example, calls climate change “a theory that has not been proven.”

In contrast, the international scientific community almost unanimously agrees that greenhouse gases associated with human activity are responsible for the global warming pattern we’ve seen since the mid-20 century. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual State of the Climate report. The report brings together leading scientists and academics to assess the state of the Earth’s climate. The 2012 report, which included contributions from 384 authors from 52 countries, is the most authoritative analysis of climate change and its global effects. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Coal, Drought, Extreme Weather| Tagged , | Comments closed

EPA Seeks New Ideas To Include Environmental Justice Groups In The Rulemaking Process

Source: online.liebertpub.com

Do you have ideas to help federal decision makers ensure that environmental justice issues are adequately represented in new rules?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a technical guidance document in May to assist its staff with tools and information to include environmental justice (EJ) issues in the agency’s rulemaking process. This document, titled “Draft Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis,” is open for public comment until Sept 6, 2013. Time is running out to have your voice heard!

What is Environmental Justice?

EPA defines Environmental Justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. EPA launched its EJ movement in the early 1980s to provide an open forum for citizens and communities particularly impacted by environmental and pollution hazards. For instance, communities disproportionately impacted by pollution around the Houston Ship Channel or near the Port of Houston would be considered EJ areas. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs| Tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Energy-Water Nexus Spans Across Western United States

This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.

Source: feww.wordpress.com

Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a number of posts to help shed light on the fundamental connection between energy and water. Because many of our energy sources gulp down huge volumes of water, it’s imperative that we break down the long-standing division between energy and water planning — especially in drought-prone states like Texas. I’d like to take a step back and look at how Texas’ neighbors are addressing energy and water co-management. While Texas may be an extreme example, looking toward its immediate neighbors could provide ideas and best practices to improve the state’s situation.

A number of western states are facing many of the same challenges as Texas. Electricity production is a major drain on the region’s water supply. A study co-authored by Western Resource Advocates and EDF showed that thermoelectric power plants, such as coal, natural gas and nuclear, in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah consumed an estimated 292 million gallons of water each day in 2005 — roughly equal to the amount of water consumed by Denver, Phoenix and Albuquerque combined (and we’re talking water consumption, not just withdrawals). Like Texas, the western states face a future of prolonged drought. Scientific models predict climate change will increase drought throughout the Southwest, placing greater stress on the region’s delicate water supply.

Additionally, electricity production, numerous thirsty cities and widespread agricultural activity all strain the water system, too. Because so many flock to western states for fishing, kayaking, rafting and other recreational water activities, setting the region’s water system on a sustainable path is a critical economic issue. The exceptional challenges facing western states have already prompted some states to consider the energy-water nexus when planning to meet future water and electricity needs. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, Extreme Weather, Utilities| Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Review Of The Great Texas Wind Rush – With Some Final Words From EDF…

On Saturday, the Austin-American Statesman ran a review I wrote on Asher Price and Kate Galbraith’s new book, The Great Texas Wind Rush: How George Bush, Ann Richards, and a Bunch of Tinkerers Helped the Oil & Gas State Win the Race to Wind Power. Not only is it a great read and a thorough history of Texas’ wind industry, it mentions EDF multiple times; our own Mark MacLeod and Jim Marston played prominent roles in the grand negotiation that established Texas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard during the state’s electric utilities deregulation in 1999.

Today, Texas leads the nation in wind power, but it was not always so. The book charts how the early days of wind turbine mishaps and misfortunes ushered in the present state of affairs, with wind providing over 9% of state’s overall electricity in 2012 and up to 28% of the state’s power when the wind is at its best. The authors craft the story well, pulling from legendary tales of the Wild West, romantic literary and artistic accounts from the likes of Cormac McCarthy and Woody Guthrie and the gubernatorial regimes of Ann Richards and George W. Bush. To entice you to pick up a copy, here are some excerpts, including a quote from Jim Marston who, rightfully so, has the last words in the book.

Starting with the early days of the “tinkerers”, Galbraith and Price, both energy and environmental reporters from the Texas Tribune and the Austin-American Statesman, respectively, feature many characters, including Marcellus Jacobs: Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Wind| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Texas Freight Experts Present Supply Chain Ideas To South America

More and more companies are taking an interest in supply chain sustainability and realizing that environmental responsibility is important for business success in the U.S. and abroad. Additionally, Latin America is a key trading partner for Texas and the fastest growing trade region for the United States. It goes without saying that as trade in the Americas expands, companies, governments and organizations throughout the region should increase cooperation on freight sustainability.

Given the growing demand for green logistics, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is pleased to speak at the 5th Forum on Sustainability and Supply Chain to be held next week in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This distinctive event plays an important role in Latin America by bringing together practitioners, experts, advocates and business leaders to advance supply chain sustainability.

The forum is hosted by Foro Logística and WebPicking.com, a group that specializes in supply chain logistics in Latin America, and will take place at the Technological Institute of Buenos Aires (ITBA). We look forward to sharing our experience promoting green freight with regional partners and learning about successful strategies that can be implemented in Texas.

Posted in Environment, Goods Movement, Ports, Transportation| Comments closed

Historically Black Colleges And Universities Lead Climate Action In Minority Communities, Starting With Texas

This commentary, authored by N. Jenise Young, originally appeared on EDF's Climate Corps blog.

In June, President Obama called for action during his milestone climate change speech. He said, “…we've got a vital role to play. We can't stand on the sidelines. We've got a unique responsibility.”

Melting ice glaciers are out of sight, out of mind in Houston where extreme heat and hurricanes are the norm and where I’ve spent the last year studying at Texas Southern University (TSU). What I have learned while studying at TSU surprised me – urban, minorities communities, like those surrounding TSU, are among those already struggling with the effects of climate change. In fact, numerous studies document the unequal burden of climate change and the differential application of climate policies within African American communities. For example, the Race, Poverty and Environment Journal for Social and Environmental Justice reports that African-Americans spend 30 percent more of their income on energy than their white counterparts, despite emitting 20 percent fewer greenhouse gases per household. In addition, the journal reports that “the six states with the highest African American populations are all within Atlantic hurricane zones expected to experience more storms like Katrina in the future.” In Texas, more than 20 weather and climate disasters that cost over one billion dollars have impacted the state over the past decade.

As an EDF Climate Corps fellow, I am excited to spend my summer on TSU’s campus and in the community laying the groundwork that will educate and enable students and administrators to address climate issues already impacting our community. I had the opportunity to connect with the university President, student government and other key personnel to discuss the negative effects of climate change. In these conversations, I emphasized the importance of making energy efficiency upgrades and improvements a part of the university’s capital budget. Although I was hired as an EDF Climate Corps fellow to ultimately identify the savings from energy efficiency projects, I am working diligently to educate the entire campus about climate change, sustainability and best energy practices. Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Energy Efficiency, GHGs, Utilities| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Good News On Clean Air To Beat The August Doldrums

Source: Sage Metering

This post originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog

EPA’s recent decision regarding storage tank standards is of particular interest to Texas.  In 2009 alone, there were 6,120 storage tanks built in Texas large enough to be subject to EPA’s standards. The standards will apply only to new tanks. Since the number of new tanks is related to the number of existing wells, and Texas accounts for approximately 23% of new oil wells and 33% of new gas wells drilled in the U.S. (far greater than any other state), Texas is likely to account for a large share of the country’s new storage tanks. From a health standpoint, this rule preserves important protections for Texans, but much more remains to be done. Many counties in Texas fail to meet health based air quality standards. EPA needs to fortify thoughtful rules that place public health above all else, so that Texans (and many others) can breathe safe, healthy air that is free of ozone and other harmful contaminants. 

August is typically a quiet time of year, and particularly so for work that concerns the nation’s capital. But amidst the dog days of summer, federal regulators made a fairly significant move this month to preserve stricter emissions controls for thousands of large storage vessels used to temporarily house crude oil, condensate and other liquids.

Last Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule that keeps in place an important aspect of its oil and gas pollution standards (or New Source Performance Standards, NSPS) issued last year, including provisions for storage tanks that emit six or more tons of ozone-forming air pollutants annually. These standards were intended to help reduce ground-level ozone and methane emissions in areas where oil and gas production occur. EPA proposed revisions to these standards in April of 2013 in response to industry petitions for less stringent requirements that would have considerably diminished important gains made by the NSPS to protect public health and the environment. EDF and five other environmental organizations joined together to strongly encourage EPA’s reconsideration, opposing these revisions in detailed technical comments filed with the agency. Read More »

Posted in Environmental Protection Agency, Natural gas, Ozone| Comments closed

Chinese Reverse Trade Delegation Visits Houston

A couple of weeks ago, the China Green Ports Technology Reverse Trade Mission brought Chinese transportation officials to Houston to introduce them to U.S. technologies and the trade industry’s best practices to reduce ports’ environmental impact. Green port technologies are of particular interest in China, because seven of the ten largest ports in the world are located in China. The Chinese government and private sector are making efforts to modernize and strengthen China’s maritime management, while reducing its environmental footprint.

The purpose of the mission was to introduce the delegates to innovative technologies and service provider firms associated with green ports. As I spoke with the delegation, the conversation focused on many of the same efforts we are pursuing in the U.S. and right here in Texas, including:

  • Reducing the environmental impact of our nation’s seaports;
  • Improving the health of communities affected by port activities;
  • Increasing the efficiency and sustainability of ports;
  • Highlighting best management practices currently deployed at leading ports.

As we move forward with developing a port recognition system to highlight green port efforts across the nation, we know that our partners to the East are thinking likewise. We look forward to continued conversations such as these with new partners on novel technologies, continually improving port environmental impacts.

Posted in Environment, Goods Movement, Houston, Ports, Transportation| Tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

Irving Summit Hosts International Experts To Modernize The Global Transportation System

(Source: Getty Images)

We at EDF have written a lot about the need to transform the nation’s aging electricity system.  Now, more than ever, we have to transition away from fossil fuel electricity to reduce our out-of-control greenhouse gas emissions.  With renewables poised to make up a quarter of the world’s electricity mix by 2018, it appears we’re making steady progress toward a modern, clean energy grid.

But there’s another global energy system that’s often overlooked: the transportation system.  An overwhelming majority of the world’s transportation infrastructure is powered by fossil fuels.  Ordinary passenger vehicles, short and long-haul trucks, freight rail, and large cargo ships are all fueled by petroleum.  And unlike the grid, we’re still far from transitioning to a clean alternative.

EDF has spearheaded a number of initiatives to help reduce the environmental impact of transportation.  Last month, we released a request for proposals for a marine port environmental recognition program.  The program will help establish performance benchmarks for ports, so that we can identify and acknowledge those ports making strides toward reducing emissions and improving air quality.  EDF is also part of the brain trust of organizations, such as the National Research Council’s Transportation Research Board, working to understand the best practices to modernize the global transportation system and reduce transportation’s environmental footprint. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Environment, GHGs, Goods Movement, Transportation| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed
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