Source: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
This past Thursday marked one year since a fire caused a fertilizer plant in the town of West, Texas to explode, killing 15 people, injuring over 300, and scaring a small Texas town forever. Since the West tragedy shocked Texas and the nation, it has become increasingly clear that the explosion could have been prevented had common-sense regulations—like a statewide fire code—been in place. Nevertheless, Texas leaders and state officials have failed to propose, much less adopt, a single common sense safeguard to prevent future tragedies. The anniversary of the West explosion reminds us of the urgent need for proactive measures to prevent a disaster of this magnitude from happening again.
Even before the West explosion, there were a string of industrial accidents across the state over recent years, reminding us that Texas should be doing a better job at managing the industrial sector. Read More
Source: Texas Tribune
This weekend the Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, nonprofit media publication that covers public policy, politics, environmental issues, and other statewide matters, will host a festival featuring EDF’s own Elena Craft, Ph.D. and Ramón Alvarez, Ph.D. The festival will take place at the University of Texas at Austin with a kickoff Friday night featuring a one-on-one discussion between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Evan Smith, the host publication’s co-founder and editor-in-chief. In true nonpartisan style, the festival appropriately closes Sunday with a one-on-one featuring a representative from the other side of the political spectrum, State Senator Wendy Davis.
The organizers promise to engage audiences with exciting panels covering the following topics: criminal justice, energy, the environment, health care, higher education, immigration, public education and transportation.
Elena’s panel, After West, is first on the schedule Saturday morning, and she will discuss the health and safety concerns that came to light following the West, Texas chemical plant explosion. As Elena has highlighted in previous posts, many questions have been left unanswered surrounding the events leading up to the explosion that took 15 lives and injured hundreds more. More importantly, Texas lawmakers still need to address and implement actions that will prevent future tragedies. Other panelists in this session include: Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's Energy Exchange blog.
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 Also tagged Arizona, Colorado, energy, Energy Water Nexus, Southwest, Water, Water Conservation
At 4:00 p.m. today, the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives plan to announce the results of their investigation of the West, Texas fertilizer explosion that killed 14 people and injured over 200.
Information leaked to The Dallas Morning News indicated that investigators have three possible explanations for the explosion fueled by ammonium nitrate: ignition from a faulty golf cart, ignition from the fertilizer and seed building’s electrical system or an intentional act.
No matter what the conclusion, we’ve learned some very important lessons from this tragedy:
- There is not enough coordination among state agencies covering the oversight of facilities like West;
- Current penalties and fines don’t seem to be a deterrent to the those who violate safety and environmental laws;
- There is a need for more thoughtful consideration as to appropriate locations of schools, hospitals and nursing facilities; and
- There is a critical need for local emergency responders to have the best possible information regarding hazardous materials and potential health and safety risks in their communities.
As we begin to wrap up the legislative session in Texas, we are hopeful that our elected officials will do the right thing and strengthen environmental and safety protections instead of weaken them. Over 400 people a year lose their lives in Texas from occupational injuries. We can and should do better.
On a personal note, I’d like to give a shout out to my favorite Texan, Willie Nelson, 80 years young, who hosted a birthday concert benefitting the community of West and raised over $120,000. Thank you Willie!