Selected category: Environmental Justice

Tragedy of the Commons in Texas: Citizens Lose if Bill Becomes Law

pollution-pixabayUpdate: Governor Abbott signed SB 709 into law on May 23, 2015.

I overheard a colleague last week say she was impressed a group of elementary school students were learning about the tragedy of the commons, and it reminded me of what's been going on at the Texas Legislature this session. The "tragedy of the commons" is a term coined in the late 60's by ecologist Garret Hardin, described as "a situation where individuals acting independently and rationally according to each's self-interest behave contrary to the best interests of the whole group by depleting some common resource." It’s an unfortunate allegory for Texas politics and specifically the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 709, which is on its way to the governor’s desk as I write this.

In this case, a few individuals (polluting corporations and the lawmakers they fund) are acting in their self-interest, creating legislation that will get more money in their pockets faster. Unfortunately, the best interests of the whole group (all Texans) are virtually forgotten, and common resources like healthy air and water will suffer. The final bill, SB 709 sponsored by Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), shows Texas' leadership cares more about protecting big polluters at the expense of its citizens.

And while Sen. Fraser’s bill was the one that ultimately passed, the companion measure in the House, House Bill 1865, by Representative Genie Morrison (R-Victoria) included the same agenda and language. Rep. Morrison is from Victoria, Texas. As someone who is supposed to be fighting for the best interests of her constituents, many in Victoria are questioning just whom Morrison and other Texas lawmakers represent. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Leave a comment

EPA’s McCarthy Visits Houston Community to Reaffirm Commitment to Environmental Justice

mccarthy.parras

McCarthy and Parras listen to community members

Juan Parras has been leading the effort to bring environmental justice to Manchester for many decades. As founder and director of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Juan has galvanized residents, published important studies, informed the media, and organized action campaigns around reducing air pollution and protecting the environment in communities around the Houston Ship Channel. Last week, Juan’s tireless leadership was on display as U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy visited a Manchester neighborhood forum to speak about how EPA is working to make a real impact in environmental justice communities.

The Manchester community, on the eastern side of Houston, is surrounded by heavy industry including an oil refinery, as well as major freight traffic corridors like East Loop 610. Residents, many of whom are Latino and low income, often report health challenges such as asthma, headaches, dizziness, and even cancer. Many of the challenges are profiled in a recent report titled "Who’s in Danger?” that highlights demographic information of communities in industrial vulnerability zones. Administrator McCarthy saw first-hand the proximity of petrochemical facilities to homes, playgrounds, and community centers. She heard directly from concerned residents about the environmental issues they face daily.

Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Uncategorized| Read 1 Response

Air Alliance Houston Delivers 2014 “State of the Air”

This post was written by Adrian Shelley, Air Alliance Houston Executive Director.

State of the Air keynote speaker Dr. Bob Bullard on environmental justice and air pollution.

State of the Air keynote speaker Dr. Bob Bullard on environmental justice and air pollution.

Earlier this month, Air Alliance Houston held its annual “State of the Air” luncheon. This event is an opportunity for our friends, allies, and supporters—including EDF—to learn about our work and for other groups to highlight how they are also working to improve Houston air quality.

The first guest speaker at this year’s State of the Air was Better Houston’s Peter Brown, known in some circles as Pedestrian Pete. Mr. Brown serves on a committee developing Houston’s first ever General Plan. Although to many “Houston planning” is  an oxymoron, the General Plan provides an opportunity for Houston to intelligently manage the City’s explosive growth, which will see an additional one million people move to Houston in the next twenty years. Air Alliance Houston is participating in the planning process, encouraging the city to adopt strategies that promote increased use of mass transit, walkability, and a reduction in the impact of diesel trucks on residential areas. (If you live in Houston, you too can provide input by clicking here.)

The real highlight of the event came with a presentation by our keynote speaker Dr. Robert Bullard, the Dean of the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University. Dr. Bullard—also the newest board member of Air Alliance Houston—delivered a powerful presentation titled “Environmental Justice Challenges in the 21st Century: The Right to Breathe vs the Right to Pollute.” Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Houston| Tagged | Comments are closed

In the Shadow of Oil Refineries, We Must Protect Texans’ Health

Source: flickr.com/podruzny/

Source: flickr.com/podruzny/

Refineries cast a long shadow along the Texas Gulf Coast: its emissions of cancer-causing compounds leave overburdened communities facing serious health concerns, even as the industry resists implementing commonsense, protective policies. The shadow, however, need not be so dark for much longer. Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to strengthen long-overdue emissions standards for petroleum refineries, which is a critical step toward securing healthier air quality for millions of Americans.

Refineries are a major source of extremely harmful air pollutants including neurotoxins, hazardous metals, and cancer-causing pollutants. Exposure to these compounds can cause lung disease, skin disorders, headaches, and immune system ailment, as well as increase the risk of cancer. Refineries nationwide reported about 22,000 tons of hazardous air pollution in 2010, and many of the largest polluters are right here in Texas. These numbers come to life when you walk the streets of communities like Galena Park or Port Arthur and meet the families who live and work in the shadow of refineries every day. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston| Tagged | Comments are closed

Bridging the Gap and Building Solidarity at Regional Environmental Justice Training

By: Kelsey Monk, program coordinator, and Marcelo Norsworthy, research analyst

Source: Pat Sullivan  — AP Photo

Source: Pat Sullivan — AP Photo

Addressing environmental justice challenges is an ongoing learning process, and, like many environmental and public health concerns, there is no silver bullet. However, there are effective strategies and productive collaborations that can lead to success. As I learned from Vernice Miller-Travis, co-founder of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, “passion, matched with data, is a really powerful conversation to be having.” And EDF is definitely into data and powerful conversations, so last week, Marcelo Norsworthy and I participated in a three-day Environmental Justice Training Workshop.

The National Governor’s Association defines environmental justice (EJ) as protecting minority and low-income communities from bearing a disproportionate share of pollution, and this can have implications at the legal, regulatory, and policy levels. The workshop, co-sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 6 Office, the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Series, and the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University, is part of a larger effort by EPA’s Region 6 Office of Environmental Justice and Tribal Affairs. The intent is to bring together grassroots organizations and partners, local officials, and government entities to build sustainable relationships and broaden decision-making skills. Essentially, EPA is utilizing a participatory and collaborative process to draft an environmental justice action plan that addresses region-wide priorities, such as air quality, chemical security, and Gulf Coast restoration. Read More »

Also posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Houston, Natural gas| Tagged | Comments are closed
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