[Originally posted in TribTalk, Sept. 16, 2014] Texas women have suffered major setbacks to their reproductive health and rights this year. At the federal level, the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision has made it more difficult for women to access their contraceptive method of choice. At the state level, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry have enacted new restrictions on clinics providing basic women’s health care and family planning services.
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No one can dispute the rapid rise of wind power in Texas, which is expected to become the third largest source of electricity in Texas this year. From rather humble beginnings in the late 1990s, the wind industry in Texas has grown at an outstanding rate over the last five years, and generated 9.9% of the electricity in the ERCOT market, which covers most of Texas (see chart). In 2014, to date, wind has produced more electricity than nuclear power, according to ERCOT’s Electricity and Demand Report, in which wind produced 22.5 million MWh compared to 22.3 million MWh for nuclear power. Is solar next?
[UPDATE: Sept. 3, 2014] Thank you to everyone who attended public hearings and/or submitted comments to the Texas Water Development Board in favor of water conservation funding. Your efforts are much appreciated, and you have definitely made an impact! The turnout for the evening hearing in Fort Worth was particularly impressive. Though the comment period for TWDB's proposed rules to implement Prop 6 is now closed, the process is not yet complete. The agency stff and Board will review comments and consider changes to the rules over the next few months, with an anticipated adoption date in early-to-mid December. Sierra Club will continue to be involved in this process and work towards greater water conservation in Texas.
It may not seem like much is going on at the Texas Legislature right now, with the 84th session still months away and an election between now and then, but budget decisions are being made now that will affect key state agencies, including the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Agencies such as the TCEQ are in the middle of submitting “legislative appropriations requests,” or LARs, which will form the basis of the state budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017. Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed recently submitted comments to the TCEQ that would improve air quality and develop clean energy infrastructure in Texas, if adopted.
The focal point for the decades-long debate on where to put all the nation’s radioactive waste may soon shift to West Texas. There is a facility already storing and disposing certain types of low-level radioactive waste in Andrews County, but it may soon be allowed to accept more and different kinds of radioactive waste. In addition, officials in Loving County are pressing for a high-level radioactive waste dump intended to be temporary storage until the federal government – at long last – selects and finalizes a permanent waste depository.
Today, the Railroad Commission took an initial step toward recognizing an issue it has essentially punted on for several years: the connection between the injection of large amounts of oil and gas wastes underground and the induced seismic activity that has occurred in areas throughout Texas, but particularly in an area to the northwest of Fort Worth. As anyone with a twelve-step program knows, the first step to fixing a problem is to recognize it exists.
As the drought continues to tighten its grip on Texas, many communities are taking a serious look at their water supplies. Factors under consideration include supply management review, implementing methods to extend current water supplies, and adding additional water supplies in an attempt to hedge against drought.
As fracking continues to spread to new areas of Texas, local citizens are concerned about its environmental impact and the effect it has on the small town way of life. Big Bend area Sierran Kay Plavidal gives a moving account of how Big Bend/Alpine could soon be on the verge of losing its beauty, uniqueness, and endangering its water supplies. But citizens are organizing themselves.
**Update - August 4:The Lone Star Chapter has submitted its formal comments on updating the state energy codes. To read them, click here.** The State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) has asked the public for input on whether or not they should raise the state’s minimum energy code for new buildings. As a subset of building codes, energy codes are minimum requirements for how energy efficient a new building must be. Aspects such as design, technologies, and construction practices determine a building’s energy efficiency.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club ran the numbers, and the four proposed Brownsville LNG export terminals will produce as much nitrogen oxides annually as all the vehicles on the road in Cameron County. Find out what other pollutants the natural gas export facilities could bring to the Valley in this column by Sierran Stefanie Herweck.