A stream of workers leave the TXU Monticello power plant near Mt. Pleasant, Texas February 26, 2007.
In Austin, business leaders and politicians blasted new federal rules aimed at reducing air pollution from power plants. At a hearing held by the Texas Public Utility Commission, there were dire predictions of a ruined Texas economy and higher electricity costs for residents.
Hour-after-hour, the three members of the Texas Public Utility Commission heard why the state’s roaring economy, some call it the Texas Miracle, could be brought to its knees
“I fear were going be on the road again to try to persuade people why this is the potential — if it were to come to pass in this form — death knell to the Texas Miracle and frankly the kind of economic destruction this would create nationally is a little hard to overstate, “said Phillip Oldham, a lobbyist for the big business group, the Texas Association of Manufacturers.
The chairman of the PUC, Donna Nelson, predicted an end to the Texas deregulated electricity market. Continue Reading →
A hydraulic fracking operation in the Barnett Shale.
An environmental group says it’s found over a hundred oil or gas wells being drilled in Texas using techniques that the group says are illegal. At issue is “fracking” which injects huge quantities of water and chemicals deep underground.
Fracking is what’s revolutionized drilling in Texas. The technique uses all sorts of chemicals including acids that are injected by the thousands of gallons down into wells to break up rock so gas and oil can escape.
There’ve always been concerns that the chemicals could risk contaminating groundwater, but state and federal regulators have allowed drillers to use dozens of different substances.
Azle and Reno are the epicenter for the North Texas earthquake swarm that mobilized residents earlier this year to call on the state to respond.
The agency that regulates the Texas oil and gas industry announced new rules this week aimed at curbing manmade earthquakes tied to oil and gas drilling operations.
Texas has had hundreds of small and medium quakes over the last few years as drilling has boomed thanks to fracking and horizontal drilling. But for years the Railroad Commission maintained that the quakes weren’t really a problem. They said the science wasn’t settled, despite numerous studies. Now, after public outcry over a swarm of quakes in North Texas earlier this year, the commission is starting to do something.
“It’s kinda like when you’re in a 12-step program,” says Cyrus Reed with the Sierra Club in Austin. “You know, the first thing you need to do admit that you have a problem. And I think the Railroad Commission has done that by proposing these rules.” Continue Reading →
Houston has the third highest number of CEOs with pilot licenses according to a study assessing risk-taking among executives
It’s a sign of success: having your own plane and being your own pilot. In fact, Houston ranks third in the nation for the number of corporate chief executives who have pilot licenses. Dallas ranks sixth. But as highlighted by a tragedy earlier this spring in West Texas, there may be an added risk. But is that bad for the company’s bottom line?
On a Wednesday afternoon this past June, a turboprop plane took off from Aspen Colorado.
Destination: Brenham Texas, northwest of Houston.
As the plane headed southeast, crossing over the Texas panhandle, it encountered a big line of thunderstorms. The on-line tracking service FlightAware shows the plane turned sharply to the south. It was sometime later that afternoon that a rancher would find the crumpled wreckage in an open field just west of Lubbock.
In the floodplain, several inches of fine silty mud sit atop thick, heavy clay. The clay is the finest dust eroded by the river, carried until this point then deposited as the river spreads out across the prairie. The silt is a thick rich mixture of sediment from upstream. The land in the floodplain naturally holds water very well.
In 2012, some farming districts on the Lower Colorado River were cut off from water for irrigation for the first time. Reservoirs were too low to flood tens of thousands of rice fields. Some asked, “Why would anyone be farming rice in Texas in the first place?”
The answer is long, and it begins with the fact that parts of Texas haven’t always been dry. For farmers like Ronald Gertson, who remembers driving a tractor through rice fields as a child, recent years have been hard to bear.
“It’s just unbelievable that it’s been so bad that we have had three unprecedented years in a row, and I recognize some experts say we could have a couple of decades like this. I hope and pray that’s not the case,” says Gertson, a rice farmer, chair of numerous water-related committees and, in recent years, unofficial spokesman for the Texas Rice Belt. “If that is the case then yeah, this whole prairie is going to change.”
NOAA, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, has revised the number of named storms to between 7 and 12, and that maybe 2 of those named storms could be major, with winds greater than 110 mph.
An average season can see up to 12 named storms.
Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami, says overall atmospheric conditions just don’t favor a lot of storm development this year. It led NOAA to update its forecast.
“There’s some below average temperatures across the tropical Atlantic, which are exceptionally cool, relative to the remainder of the global tropics,” says Feltgen. “And we still believe there’s an El Nino forming, and that’s likely to really show itself as we get deeper into August, and continue on into October.” Continue Reading →
Luke Metzger, Environment Texas, who testified at EPA hearing, passing by a photo of a refinery explosion in California.
People who live near refineries along the Gulf Coast are calling for tougher, federal rules to curb air pollution. The pleas were made at a Federal Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA), public hearing held Tuesday in Galena Park. The community is on Houston’s east side is in the heart of the oil-refining complex along the Ship Channel.
The industry says the new EPA rules would be a waste of money. But residents like Yudith Nieto say they are desperately needed.
“I’m from a community in Houston called Manchester which is surrounded on all fours by industry,” Nieto testified. She and other residents told a panel of federal EPA officials how childhood leukemia, asthma and bronchitis are unusually common here, citing health studies to back up their claims.
“This is something that is a disparity, an obvious disparity because other parts of the city, other parts of the area don’t bear that same burden,” said John Sullivan with the Sealy Center for Environmental Health in Galveston. He was talking about the burden of breathing what may be coming from refineries. Continue Reading →
Do Hydrogen Cyanide Leaks Show Weakness of Current Regs?
Houston's Ship Channel is home to one of the nation's biggest oil refining and petrochemical complexes and is the site of the EPA hearing
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will set up its microphones for an all day hearing Tuesday in Galena Park, a community on Houston’s east side in the heart of the enormous Houston Ship Channel refinery complex. It’s the second of two such hearings with the first held last month in a similar community in Los Angeles.
At issue: new EPA rules that would make oil refineries invest in better equipment to reduce pollution emissions from storage tanks and to improve the efficiency of flares that burn emissions during plant “upsets”. Refineries would also have to increase fence-line monitoring to track exactly what pollution is blowing into adjacent communities.