Texas Is Nearly Out of This Drought – But We’re Not in the Clear

An abridged version of the below ran as an op-ed in the Austin American-Statesman today.

Flooding near Whole Foods in May 2015. Source: Instagram/Caleb Eike Smith

Flooding near Whole Foods in May 2015. Source: Instagram/Caleb Eike Smith

Unfortunately, a good rain washes away more than the drought; it washes away much of man’s interest in providing for the next one, and it washes the supports from under those who know that another dry cycle is coming and who urge their fellows to make ready for it.

— “More Water for Texas” by Walter Prescott Webb (1954)

As a native Austinite, I remember the historic Memorial Day Flood of 1981. I was a little kid and the storm was so intense I asked my Mom if I could sleep in her bed. I remember seeing pictures of grand pianos from Strait Music store and cars from the dealerships floating down Lamar Boulevard, and the original Whole Foods flooding. Austin has changed a lot in the intervening decades, and although many of the store fronts are different, the pictures taken of Lamar this Memorial Day were eerily similar.

In Texas we are used to cycles of drought and flood; we know extreme weather just as we know extreme personalities and politics. But the natural dynamics are changing in Texas, and we can no longer rely on the saving grace of a “rain bomb” to get us out of the next drought. Make no mistake, the next drought is just around the corner. The best way to help Texas conserve water now is to urgently pursue clean energy and better planning between the energy and water sectors. Read More »

Posted in Energy-Water Nexus, Pecan Street, Renewable Energy| Comments are closed

New Research Finds Higher Methane Emissions, Reduction Opportunities in Barnett Shale Region

By: Steve Hamburg, Chief Scientist

Methane emissions from vast oil and gas operations in the densely populated Barnett Shale region of Texas are 50 percent higher than estimates based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas inventory, according to a series of 11 new papers published today in Environmental Science & Technology.

The majority of these emissions are from a small but widespread number of sources across the region’s oil and gas supply chain. These emissions come from the sort of leaks and equipment malfunctions that are relatively easy to prevent with proper and frequent monitoring and repair practices.

The sprawling Barnett region, fanning out westward from the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, contains about 30,000 oil and gas wells, 275 compressor stations, and 40 processing plants. It is one of the country’s largest production areas, responsible for 7 percent of total U.S. natural gas output.

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Posted in Natural gas| Tagged | Read 3 Responses

Houston as a Hydrogen Haven?

The prototype trucks will have a range of 200 miles, with a top speed of 60 mph.

The prototype trucks will have a range of 200 miles, with a top speed of 60 mph.

What comes to mind when you think of Houston? Perhaps a vision of a large city built around the petro-chemical industry and one of the largest ports in the country?

Here’s another vision for you to consider when it comes to Houston – a leader in zero-emission cargo transport technologies. While Houston is not there yet, this is what EDF envisions Houston could be, and we’re not alone.

EDF is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), U.S. Hybrid, Richardson Trucking, and the University of Texas Center for Electromechanics in a three-year demonstration project at the Port of Houston to show goods movement can be clean, efficient, and cost-effective by using zero-emission fuel cell technology. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution| Tagged , , , | Read 1 Response

What Does the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard Ruling Mean for Texas?

Supreme Court of the United States

Supreme Court of the United States

The following introduction from Senior Health Scientist Elena Craft deals specifically with the implications of the Supreme Court’s recent Mercury and Air Toxics Standard Ruling on Texas. Below, an examination of the broader implications of the ruling follows.

“While this ruling does not mean current clean air protections will be revoked in Texas (or any other state), it does mean we will see another series of legal steps in the fight for clean air.

As one of the biggest contributors of emissions of mercury in the nation with over 40 coal-fired power plants, Texas facilities are now required to install pollution reducing controls to limit the amount of mercury, arsenic, and acid gases coming from electric generating units. But in truth, most of the plants in Texas and across the country have already installed or have plans to install pollution controls. Read More »

Posted in Environment| Tagged , | Read 1 Response

Texas Wind Energy Infrastructure Lives On (For Now)

fraser rps newSummer is in full swing and this weekend we celebrate the 4th of July. As we watch fireworks explode in the night sky above us on Saturday, we can be thankful the 2015 Texas Legislative session is over. We can also celebrate a small victory for Texas wind: the death of Senator Troy Fraser’s Senate Bill (SB) 931.

Since 2011, 40 percent of all new energy generating capacity installed in Texas has come from wind, and the state installed more than a third of the nation’s new wind capacity last year. Texas also leads the nation with 17,000 wind industry jobs. Of the 12,700 megawatts (MW) under construction across the country, approximately 7,000 MW are in Texas. Moreover, Texas receives more than 10% of its electricity from wind, and that number keeps rising.

Despite these impressive figures, Sen. Fraser sponsored SB 931 to repeal Texas' leadership-creating Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which helped the Lone Star State become the number one wind state in the country. The RPS is an economic tool to drive renewables growth that has helped Texas secure $28 billion in private capital investment since 2008. Read More »

Posted in Legislation, Renewable Energy, Wind| Comments are closed

Rustic or Dangerous? Why Keeping Treated Wood Materials Indoors Can be a Bad Idea

Telephone poles, cross ties, and other wood materials can be treated with chemicals that are dangerous to keep indoors.

Telephone poles, cross ties, and other wood materials can be treated with chemicals that are dangerous to keep indoors.

The below is a guest post from Mike Honeycutt, Director of Toxicology at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Environmental Defense Fund appreciates the agency’s efforts to alert the public about a serious indoor air health issue.

At the Toxicology Division of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), we often receive phone calls from citizens with questions about various environmental concerns. Over the past few months, we received several calls asking if it is safe to use old wood materials inside homes, the most concerning of which came this past week from a realtor in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. She had shown several homes recently that she suspected had used treated wood materials from telephone poles and cross ties as rustic accents. The realtor was concerned about using those materials inside where people could be exposed – and her intuition was spot-on. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, TCEQ| Tagged , | Comments are closed
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