[Oct. 30] Today, after more than four hours of citizen testimony, San Antonio City Council approved a contract between SAWS and Abengoa, a Spanish developer, to develop the 140-mile Vista Ridge water pipeline project. Despite hearing from a plethora of opposition voices both from San Antonio and from the area where the groundwater will be mined, such as Lee County (includes Burleson and Bastrop Counties as well), Council voted unanimously to move into the “development” phase of the project.
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Recently, the Sierra Club welcomed the arrival of two great new staff members to work in our Austin office. Mayté (like My-tay) Salazar, who helped to establish a low-income advisory task force in Austin, is now an Apprentice with the Beyond Coal Campaign. Dr. Tane Ward, a long time Indigenous Rights activist who has worked extensively with community groups in Austin for more than ten years, is the new Organizing Manager for the Beyond Coal Campaign in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy – or ACEEE (“A-C-Triple E”) for short – unveiled the 8th edition of its State Efficiency Scorecard this week, and once again, Texas languishes far back in the pack with other under-performing states on its energy efficiency policies and outcomes. Falling one position from 2013, Texas ranked 34th out of 51 (DC included) states in the annual ranking of the progress of state energy efficiency policies and programs. Can our state be a leader again? Short answer: heck yeah!
People throughout Texas are supportive of reducing water use through water conservation and drought contingency measures – due in large part to Texas’ growing population and crippling drought. The big question that gets asked is how can a water utility sustain itself if it encourages its customers to use less of its product?
Today, passing on consent, Austin City Council directed Austin Energy to immediately begin negotiations with the Lower Colorado River Authority for better operational control of Austin’s share of the coal-fired Fayette Power Project, the fifth largest emitter of climate-disrupting carbon dioxide pollution in the entire state of Texas.
As the next legislative session approaches, the battle lines of agency budgets are being drawn by the Legislative Budget Board. Each agency submits a Legislation Appropriations Request, or LAR, which asks the Legislature for funding for 2016-2017. The Lone Star Chapter recently submitted comments supporting specific funding for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department for local park grants, wildlife diversity, park acquisition and development and invasive species control.
When I heard about the anti-renewables report that the Texas Comptroller, Susan Combs, published on September 23, I thought it might be a long and arduous read, well supplied with solid facts, figures, and a methodology only energy geeks would salivate over to criticize. After all, it’s the Comptroller’s Office, right? You’d expect a solidly-researched report replete with thorough analyses based on solid data. It’s nothing like that. It’s 16 pages comprised almost entirely of bullet points and infographics that a staffer with an agenda would find all-too-easy to pluck out of context for his/her boss to use against renewables during the next session.
For those who are keeping track, we are in year 4 of a statewide drought. Although some areas have received rainfall relief, the continuing drought has led many communities to ponder whether they have enough water for their future and, if not, where more water can be procured. Unfortunately, new water isn’t something that can easily be bought or delivered. It’s expensive, the infrastructure is lacking and the locals often don’t want it exported away from their region.
Texas regulators still have a long way to go to protect Texans from the dangers of oil and gas development exacerbated by the dramatic rise of fracking. Earlier this week, ShaleTest, an independent environmental research agency, released a report that found unsafe levels of cancer-causing benzene, a common byproduct in oil and gas drilling operations, on playgrounds in the City of Denton, among other places. To read the full report and the release, click here. Meanwhile, the Railroad Commission has only begun to take limited action to address earthquakes caused by injecting waste from oil and gas operations into wells.
Wow. Just wow. Unless you had turned off all electronic devices and spent September 21 in the beautiful wilderness, you probably heard something about the People’s Climate March. More than 25,000 Sierra Club members, volunteers, and leaders participated in the event in New York, joining tens of thousands of other marchers representing religious, labor, youth, environmental, and civil rights organizations. It has been called the largest march in climate change history! But the action was not confined to the streets of New York. Hundreds of supporters marched in solidarity events all across Texas. [Updated 4:00pm, 9/29]