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February 2014 Newsletter

March Primaries are Less Than a Week Away!

Left to right) Wendy Davis, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor; Hugh Fitzsimons, Democratic candidate for Agriculture Commissioner.

The Texas election season is upon us. Check out the Texas Sierra Club PAC at TurnTexasGreen.org for our latest endorsements. Early voting ends this Friday. Make sure you bring your friends and go vote!

 

Trial Begins in Clean Air Act Lawsuit Against ExxonMobil

Trial began earlier this month in a Houston federal courtroom in a lawsuit filed by Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter and Environment Texas against ExxonMobil for massive and repeated violations of the Clean Air Act at the oil giant’s Baytown manufacturing facility, the largest in the nation. The lawsuit accuses ExxonMobil under the Clean Air Act (CAA) of releasing 10 million pounds of pollutants in over 4000 upset emission events since 2005 from its refinery-chemical plant complex in Baytown, TX, endangering the health and safety of thousands of Houston-area residents.

Save the Date for Amplify Austin! (Even if you are not in Austin..)

 

The 24 hour event – March 20th - 21st – is an opportunity to give to your favorite charity.

I Live Here, I Give Hereis teaming-up with Austin-area non-profits to sponsor a 24-hour marathon at the end of March.This is an online give-a-thon, so anyone in the state can participate. Beginning at 6pm CST on March 20th, you can go to www.amplifyatx.org and give to your favorite non-profit.

Volunteer with the Sierra Club this April at Big Bend National Park for a Grasslands Restoration Project!

Photo by Annette Berksan

Help us celebrate the 50th anniversary of LBJ's Wilderness Act

This year is the 50th anniversary of the passage by President Johnson of the Wilderness Act – a law that preserves America's wilderness areas where, as Johnson stated, "the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, [and] where man himself is a visitor."In celebration,the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter invites you to venture off to Big Bend National Park April 14th-18thto help us in our ongoing effort to restore grasslands damaged by ranching over a century ago. The park will provide lodging, equipment, seed and restoration supplies for the project. The participation fee is only $25. The Lone Star Chapter will organize car pooling from around the state that will pick-up volunteers along the way.

Spaces are limited, so please contact Lone Star Chapter Conservation Chair, Evelyn Merz, at elmerz@hal-pc.org or Roger Sigland at bakedlasaka2@bigbend.net if you are interested!

Sierra Club's Neil Carman Discusses Eagle Ford Shale Fracking with the Weather Channel

The Lonestar Chapter's own Neil Carman made an appearance in a Weather Channel documentary released last week, part of a series of reports by the Weather Channel, Inside Climate News and the Center for Public Integrity on natural gas drilling in the Eagleford Shale. In the documentary, Fracking the Eagle Ford Shale: Big Oil and Bad Air on the Texas Prairie,Carman discusses the high likelihood that health hazards can result from the combination of chemicals produced from a fracking well.

You can watch the short documentary here.

San Antonio Water System Makes Right Choice –Focuses on Brackish Desalination Rather than Groundwater Import

Devils River State Natural Area.

San Antonio – like many Texas cities these days – is thirsty for more water. For the past three years, the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has been seeking proposals to import 50,000 acre-feet of precious groundwater to San Antonio as part of a plan to meet the estimated future water demands of the city. Both the Lone Star Chapter and the Alamo Group of the Sierra Club have expressed concerns to the SAWS Board and staff that these groundwater-importation proposals could impact endangered species, provide a disincentive to water conservation, and unnecessarily raise water rights.

Texas Energy: Please, not another ‘Texas is in Crisis’ story

Rather than build new carbon polluting plants, Texas’ energy capacity ‘problem’ can be addressed cheaply with a few simple policy tweaks.

As an avid reader of theLone Star Sierranand theTexas Green Report, you are well aware that there are numerous environmental problems affecting our state in 2014.  Texas’ prolonged drought has many communities scrambling for water, while state leaders are hoping that setting aside $2 billion in special infrastructure fund (or praying for rain) will solve the state’s woes.  The explosion of oil and gas frack wells and the associated activities like injecting wastes underground across the state is wreaking havoc on air quality, affecting water supplies and in some instances may be causing localized earthquakes.  Meanwhile, the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and the Railroad Commission maintain an industry-friendly approach to every aspect of environmental regulation.  They seem to enable environmental degradation rather than prevent it.

Designing Water Rate Structures for Conservation and Revenue Stability

Lone Star Sierra Club teams up with the University of North Carolina for a report on water pricing.

Water pricing can be one of the most effective methods to driving conservation and it is also the primary mechanism for recovering the revenue that a water utility needs to protect public health and the environment. The Environmental Finance Center at the University of North Carolina and the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter have written a report to help Texas water utilities use their water rates and financial policies to encourage customers to reduce their water use while maintaining the financial viability of the utility.

Read the Report or sign-up for the free webinar on March 19.

Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Announces 2014 Executive Committee

Margot Clarke will lead the Lone Star Chapter's Executive Committee in 2014.

In January, the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter’s Executive Committee elected a new board to govern the organization in 2014.  Most notably, Margot Clarke of Austin, formerly the Vice-Chair of the committee, was appointed Chair of the Lone Star Chapter as its Chair.

Outgoing Chair, Hal Suter from the Coastal Bend Group (Corpus Christi, TX), will continue to serve on the Executive Committee as its International & Labor Relations Chair, as well as the Chair of Special Projects.  As such, he will continue to represent the chapter in its ongoing collaboration with labor organizations through the BlueGreen Alliance.  Dewayne Quertermous from the Ft. Worth Group is the new Vice-Chair.Two members joined the Executive Committee in 2014.  Allison Sliva from Bay City was elected as an at-large member and the Austin Group appointed Bruce Melton as their representative, replacing Sandra Grimes, who chose to step down.  Evelyn Merz from the Houston Group and Andy Balinsky with the Austin Group were also re-elected to three-year terms by the Lone Star Chapter’s members.

Message From Director Scheleen Walker

It's only February, and our new Chair and Board already have their hands full planning activities for the year. We certainly hope you can join us for our grasslands conservation trip to Big Bend National Park this April. It should be a lot of fun.

Next month is our big push for local giving. Look for our March fundraising letter in your mailboxes in the coming weeks, and please spread the word about Amplify Austin on March 20-21. Ask your friends and family to join-in and give to a great organization that we are all very proud of.Don't forget that Tuesday is election day.Please go vote!

Peace,

Scheleen Walker, Director
Lone Star Chapter