Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston)
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Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston)
News about the environment in the Houston region. Air Quality, Water Quality, Parks, Open Space, the Built Environment, Recycling, Solid Waste, Transportation Planning, Pollution...
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EPA Proposes Gutting Obama-Era Rule Protecting 117 Million Americans’ Water

EPA Proposes Gutting Obama-Era Rule Protecting 117 Million Americans’ Water | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
President Donald Trump has said he wants “crystal-clean water.”
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The next eminent domain fight – Off the Kuff

The next eminent domain fight – Off the Kuff | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Holly Reed, Texas Central’s managing director of external affairs, said the company prefers not to use eminent domain “at all” and would rather work out amicable sales agreements for the thousands of parcels needed to construct the 240-mile project across 10 counties. And the company vows to minimize how much the line will impact the land around it. “Each person has a different story about what’s important to them,” Reed said. “We listen to hear, you know, are we impacting your driveway or your stock tank, and we come back, and we work to see what we can do to solve for those problems.” Given the fierce opposition to the project in rural areas, eminent domain is likely to become a necessity at some point. Texas Central remains embroiled in the ongoing debate about its authority to condemn land. In one Harris County case, a judge agreed the company has such powers. But that same legal question is at the heart of other ongoing court cases across Texas. Meanwhile, a newly elected lawmaker who has long opposed the project plans to file legislation that addresses what he calls “systemic flaws” in state statutes that arguably allow the company to condemn the land it will need. “It’s nothing more than you and I sitting in a room with a couple hundred million dollars and saying, ‘We’re a railroad company, and we’re going to condemn your property,’” said state Rep. Ben Leman, R-Anderson. “And then the landowner is sitting there scratching his head and saying, ‘Who do I turn to?’” One of Leman’s biggest concerns about the project is that even if Texas Central can use eminent domain, there is apparently no state agency explicitly charged with determining if its plans for high-speed rail would benefit the public enough to warrant condemnation proceedings in the courts. But once upon a time, there was. […] Kyle Workman, the chairman and president of Texans Against High-Speed Rail, said the company will still face intense battles at the county level. “At every one of those intersections where the railroad crosses a county road, there is going to be a permit that is required,” Workman said. “They’re going to have to prove that they have eminent domain, and the counties are not going to allow them to take the property.” Reed said that Texas Central would like to work “collaboratively” with the counties in order to get the project built and become a “major economic engine” for Texas. Meanwhile, lawmakers will return to Austin for a new legislative session that begins in January. And Leman expects Texas Central to be the target of legislation. In 2017, 10 lawmakers filed more than 20 bills aimed at the high-speed rail line. But for the second legislative session in a row, the project emerged relatively unscathed after bills aimed at hamstringing or killing it failed to get much traction. Leman, though, thinks there could be movement in the regulatory chess game facing Texas Central as he and others file bills next year that try to balance private property rights and economic enterprise. What would upcoming legislation look like? Well, Leman’s playing that one close to the vest. “This should be a big session to discuss this project,” Leman said. “But I don’t want to tip my hand too quick because they are not giving me their hand.”
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Red snapper fishing prospects for 2019 encouraging

Red snapper fishing prospects for 2019 encouraging | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Those fishing for snapper from private boats this year saw the length of the federal-water snapper season almost double, to 82 days. It was their longest season since 2007. But the season could be even longer in 2019.
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It's not too late to improve Texas plan for VW money. Here's how.

It's not too late to improve Texas plan for VW money. Here's how. | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
The VW funding opportunity offers a tremendous chance for Texas to implement some important clean air projects quickly, and TCEQ should not leave money on the table for pollution reductions or ignore projects that can help improve air quality when we do not have clean air every day for every Texan.
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Investors pressure Exxon Mobil on climate emissions

Investors pressure Exxon Mobil on climate emissions | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it

The nation's largest publicly traded oil company is under mounting pressure from shareholders to reduce greenhouse gas emission.

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EPA weighs allowing oil companies to pump wastewater into rivers, streams

With concern growing that the underlying geology in the Permian Basin and other shale plays are reaching capacity for disposal wells, the Trump administration is examining whether to adjust decades-old federal clean water regulations to allow drillers to discharge wastewater directly into rivers and streams from which communities draw their water supplies

Via TRA
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Briefcase: Single Use Plastics –

Briefcase: Single Use Plastics – | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Guest: Sarah Morath
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The use of single use plastics, things like straws, bags, and bottles, has become a health concern. Sarah Morath, with The University of Houston Law Center, researches environmental law and has looked into this issue.

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Houston, one year after Hurricane Harvey, is at a crossroads.

Houston, one year after Hurricane Harvey, is at a crossroads. | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
The story of a map, a bayou, and hundreds of millions of dollars in development.
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Houston Zoo’s new black bear exhibit promotes conservation, awareness

Houston Zoo’s new black bear exhibit promotes conservation, awareness | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Two North American black bears get a new 6,000 square foot exhibit space at the Houston Zoo as officials urge the public not to shoot or feed bears they see in Texas.
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From Freeways to Greenways —

From Freeways to Greenways — | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
By Deborah Lynn Blumberg To outsiders, Houston is all about barbeque, cowboys, and concrete. Home to the widest highway in the world—the 26-lane Katy Freeway—the city has long been a car-centric place, comfortable with its spider web of freeways, beltways, parkways, and feeder roads spreading fr
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Metro Presents Draft Long-Range Plan

Metro Presents Draft Long-Range Plan | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Still preliminary, the plan includes airport rail connections, bus rapid transit and more but will likely face serious financial constraints.
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House Votes to Gut MSA, Landmark Law that Rebuilt U.S. Fisheries

House Votes to Gut MSA, Landmark Law that Rebuilt U.S. Fisheries | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 222-193 Wednesday to pass HR 200, the Strengthening Fishing Communities and Increasing Flexibility in Fisheries Management Act. This bill guts many of the core conservation measures of the Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA), the primary federal law protecting our fisheries. This legislation now awaits a companion bill in the Senate.Gulf Restoration Network has led the opposition to this bill in the five Gulf states, joining many fishermen, chefs, scientists and other groups. GRN opposes this bill because it removes science-based annual catch limits. The “flexibility” in fisheries management that this bill promises comes at the cost of abandoning what has been working for over 40 years. HR 200 threatens to undo many of the successes that the MSA has accomplished.One thing is certain, the U.S.’s fisheries are significantly healthier today than the dark years leading up to the passage of MSA when many fisheries were on the brink of collapse. Gutting the mechanisms that have made MSA so successful will inevitably be a setback in the recovery of several Gulf species. The logic used in this bill is akin to a diabetic patient stopping their insulin regimen because it is working so well controlling their blood sugar. It just doesn’t make sense.The good news is that there is still time to fight this issue as the Senate has yet to move forward on comparable legislation. Stay tuned and stay informed. Let’s fight together to make sure that the Magnuson-Stevens Act is strengthened, not weakened.
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Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior Lady Márquez is Headed to Town!

Houston Zoo Wildlife Warrior Lady Márquez is Headed to Town! | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
This weekend, the Zoo is welcoming another special guest who is visiting us from the Galapagos Islands! Lady Márquez is here from our partners at Ecology Project International (EPI) after being chosen by the Houston Zoo admissions team as a 2017 Wildlife Warrior Award recipient.
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David Crossley and Houston Tomorrow | Eco-Ology

December 11, 2018 We begin with a trip down memory lane, since David was an early KPFT General Manager.  Houston Tomorrow has been a part of our town for a long time, bringing folks together to think about planning for the future.  Many of those plans have come to fruition, in one form or another, and David brings us up to date on things like changing transportation philosophy, Complete Communities and how the Mayor and city leaders are involved in making these thing happen. Listen now
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Trash fee to pay for Prop B? – Off the Kuff

Trash fee to pay for Prop B? – Off the Kuff | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Houston City Councilman Dwight Boykins on Thursday proposed charging property owners a monthly garbage collection fee to finance raises for firefighters while avoiding job cuts for other city staff. Under the proposal, most Houston homeowners would be charged a flat, monthly fee between $25 and $40 to help the city absorb the cost of raises for firefighters mandated by the pay parity charter amendment approved by voters last month. Unveiled at a Thursday press conference, Boykins’ proposal comes amid a legal challenge by the city over the constitutionality of Proposition B, the charter amendment granting firefighters equal pay to police officers of corresponding rank and experience. The amendment was approved last month by 59 percent of voters. “I believe the issue of pay parity was settled at the ballot box,” Boykins wrote in a Thursday letter to Mayor Sylvester Turner and his colleagues on council. “As elected leaders, our primary mission is to settle on an appropriate and responsible way forward. To this end, I am convinced that introducing a garbage collection fee is the most plausible plan to provide firefighters a pay raise while ensuring that no city worker loses their job.” Turner’s office issued a statement in which the mayor said he was opposed to the idea: “Council Member Boykins and the Firefighters Association’s proposal to enact a $25 monthly garbage collection fee to pay for a firefighter’s 29% pay raise, underscores what I have been saying for months. The City cannot afford Proposition B. This measure will cost the city more than $100 million each fiscal year. I will not support forcing Houston homeowners to pay a costly new tax on trash collection to pay for firefighters’ salaries.”
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Meet the peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest-flying bird

Meet the peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest-flying bird | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Driving along the 3-mile road into the Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, my wife, Kathy, and I spotted a raptor on the crossbar of a power pole about 75 yards away. “Peregrine falcon!” I alerted. “Let’s drive slowly and ease up about 20 yards from the bird so you can get a photo before it takes...
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With special gear and righteous anger, activists document emissions in the Permian oil fields | Energy

With special gear and righteous anger, activists document emissions in the Permian oil fields | Energy | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
MIDLAND — Environmental activist Sharon Wilson knows what she’s likely to get from her regular trips to the Permian Basin: a headache and sore...
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Metro moving toward $3B bond vote for 20-year transit plan

Metro moving toward $3B bond vote for 20-year transit plan | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Plan will go for public comment in January, with vote expected in November for 20 miles of light rail and 75 miles of bus rapid transit
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KHOU: METRO planning to connect light rail to Hobby Airport

The proposal would extend two rail lines 11 miles to reach Hobby Airport, which would cost an estimated $1.4 billion combined.

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Zombie trees invade Houston landscapes

Zombie trees invade Houston landscapes | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
The turning canopies of trees around Houston late this summer, a phenomenon that is especially evident in Memorial Park, has nothing to do with the arrival of fall. Experts say trees that die suddenly may have been stressed by Hurricane Harvey’s rains, this summer’s dry heat or other severe climate events.
CEC Houston's insight:

Our trees are stressed by summer heat. 

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A year on from hurricane, Houston leaders see Harvey as 'the new baseline'

A year on from hurricane, Houston leaders see Harvey as 'the new baseline' | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
Houston's Chief Recovery Officer said ​the storm had "a magnitude that people are just beginning to understand." But with every day that passes, the city is not only rebuilding — it's building forward. 
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Harris County judge addresses land, affordability in wake of Harvey

Harris County judge addresses land, affordability in wake of Harvey | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
County Judge Ed Emmett called for the Katy Prairie, a vast area encompassing much of western Harris and eastern Waller counties, to be maintained and expanded.
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Q+A: Why The Harvey Health and Housing Registry Needs You

Q+A: Why The Harvey Health and Housing Registry Needs You | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
An innovative study tracking the effects of Hurricane Harvey looks for input from Houston-area residents, whether they were directly affected by the storm or not.
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Where Ocean Currents Converge

Where Ocean Currents Converge | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
The ocean has a way of bringing things together. Its many sea currents dip, dive and swirl through the Gulf of Mexico delivering critical nutrients, plants, and animals exactly where they need to be. A baby turtle slips into the tide, one of only a few to survive the short, sandy trek from the nest to water. She is immediately picked up by one of these currents and astoundingly survives the saltwater superhighway out to the open ocean. There, vast mats of sargassum seaweed have also floated to this marine meeting place.The Gulf is home to one of the most productive sargassum seaweed habitats in the world. These dark, red-brown floating algal habitats provide the food and shelter necessary for our little turtle to grow and develop alongside many other species of fish and microfauna. She has beat every odd traveling to her new home. But unfortunately, seaweed and juvenile turtles are not the only hitchhikers that ride the Gulf currents. Oil sneaks aboard the same paths and makes its way to the same open water habitats where ocean currents converge.Oil in the water and on the seaweed islands can reduce the oxygen in the water or change its temperature, stressing the young turtle as she clings to it like a life raft. Chronic exposure to oil at the surface of the water can also injure our young turtle as she surfaces to breathe. She may have survived challenges from the sea, but what about those from humans?Over the years, we’ve documented leaked oil from the Taylor Energy Company spill in and around the seaweed islands. The pollution of that habitat represents a potentially fatal experience for any other juvenile turtles who make their way there. And until recently, Taylor has denied their role in this ongoing environmental tragedy.In 2004 hurricane Ivan destroyed several oil wells off the coast of Louisiana. Some of these wells, owned by Taylor, were not repaired and continue to spill today. Taylor claims that the oil is residual. Yet, recent ROV surveys confirmed two undersea plumes—far more oil than a residual release.What’s more? Every time GRN flies over this location, we see the rainbow sheen slick for miles. Our partners at Skytruth have also been tracking the size and movement of the sheen over time. They estimate that somewhere between 855,000 and 4 million gallons of oil have spilled from the Taylor site between 2004 and 2017. Paul Orr, of the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper, says that "the Taylor Oil spill is emblematic of a broken system, where oil production is prioritized over concerns for human health and the environment." And although federal authorities have acknowledged this type of harm, specific response surveys must be designed to document the health of Gulf sea turtles and their rate of exposure. Coastal and open ocean habitats and the species who live there continue to be at risk. It is urgent that advocates assist agencies by documenting all impacts to wildlife. According to the Waterkeeper Alliance, “a finding by government agencies that the Taylor oil spill cannot be abated raises serious questions about the nation's ability to manage the risks from deepwater drilling.” Expanded offshore drilling could become a reality for every coastal state in this nation. It is vital that we do not let the story of the Taylor oil spill, or the resulting loss of sea turtle habitat associated with it, be swept under the rug as it has been for the past fourteen years. Right now there is still enough oil at the Taylor site that, if left alone as proposed, the leak could continue soiling floating seaweed habitat for a hundred years. That is one hundred years of ongoing habitat loss. One hundred years of oil and gas companies not taking responsibility. One hundred years of government protections that fail to protect our seas and the special places where ocean currents converge. “When the oil industry claims that offshore drilling is safe, remember this video and share it. While the Trump administration is planning to open up the Atlantic Ocean along the East Coast and the Arctic, remember...Speak truth to power and share this video.” - Jonathan Henderson, Vanishing Earth
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No Museum for Trees, but Plenty of Gravel for the Parking Lot

No Museum for Trees, but Plenty of Gravel for the Parking Lot | Citizens' Environmental Coalition (Houston) | Scoop.it
For the “Too Long; Didn’t Read” folks (you're missing out, but still check out the video and graphics below): Clearing floodplain forests for sand and gravel mining sets off a chain reaction that reduces the ability to temporarily store water, which increases the severity of a flooding event, which increases recovery time. Simultaneously, and/or stemming from these events:An overflowing river can change course by flowing into an abandoned floodplain mining pit that is too close to the channel. Over time, the river begins to straighten, which increases water velocity, leading to more aggressive erosion of the riverbank. These occurrences create an unstable habitat for wildlife and increase the severity of a flooding event, again increasing recovery time. Riverbank erosion also pushes sediment downstream, which increases flooding risk downstream.The Whole Story:Until recently, I didn’t know that abandoned sand and gravel mines along the Amite River contributed to the 2016 floods in Baton Rouge, Denham Springs, Watson, and surrounding areas. I only learned about this issue when a classmate in the LSU Landscape Architecture program, Victoria Gough, presented her senior project on how to restore these abandoned sites to their natural, forested condition to act as flood buffers and to serve as areas for kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Victoria’s research during the last year of her studies helped her to understand how “60 years of floodplain sand and gravel mining has played a dominant role in the evolution of the Amite River.”Reclaiming Abandoned Mines (Credit: Victoria Gough, RRSLA)Having grown up along the Amite, but now a Landscape Designer at Pharis Design in Austin, Texas, Victoria explained that her family’s experience in the 2016 floods motivated her to study this issue. After nearly two years, Victoria’s family is still working to repair damage from three feet of water in their home.While the precipitating factor of the 2016 floods was an unrelenting storm that dumped over 20 inches of rain over three days on East Baton Rouge and neighboring parishes, the resulting flash floods from the overflowing Comite and Amite Rivers caused devastating damage – nearly “50,000 to 75,000 structures flooded… and 13 people [dead].” * Part of the reason the rivers overflowed into nearby, low-lying neighborhoods was because of direct and indirect effects of sand and gravel mining in the rivers’ floodplains. An important industry in this region, these mines are necessarily located near rivers because sand and gravel deposits naturally occur in floodplains. While the act of sand and gravel mining itself does not cause flooding, three critical factors associated with floodplain mining contribute to the likelihood that the adjacent river will cause significant damage when inundated:Floodplain forest clearing;Mining pit proximity to river channel; and Mine abandonment without restoration or filling. 1. Trees, Make Way: Accessing sand and gravel deposits requires clearing the floodplain forests, which are buffers between land and water. These wetlands perform several essential tasks, such as: Helping to absorb excess water when the river is overwhelmed;Slowing the river’s current; andReducing riverbank erosion by anchoring sediment with roots. 2. Heading for Rock Bottom: Mining creates deep pits, and since water always seeks the lowest point, mining in the floodplain too close to the river invites trouble. The video below, by Little River Research & Design, helps explain what can happen when a river meets a floodplain mine pit. Here are over-simplified explanations of a few technical terms:Pit Capture: When an overflowing river finds a mining pit in the floodplain close enough to the original channel, it rushes to fill the pit and, consequently, causes the river’s course to change. Hungry Water: The river normally carries suspended sediment particles, which help to ‘weigh’ down the water, but as the river fills the pit, this sediment drops and also begins to fill the mine, allowing the water to become lighter and to move more quickly and more aggressively downstream of the pit. Headcut / Incision: The water cutting away at the riverbank, eroding the sediment. Homes downstream and built close to the river are in danger of falling in as the base of the riverbank is cut away. 3. Left Wide Open: Decades of lax regulation of the sand and gravel mining industry in Louisiana have led to many mines being abandoned without restoration or even without being filled. Having seen the video, we now know why this is a bad idea.The dangers of abandoned floodplain mines were not only acknowledged by the Louisiana statute RS 30:905.1 (Abandoned Mine Reclamation), but also led to studies commissioned by former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The statute even provides that there is supposed to be money (somewhere) to reclaim these mines. Even for those of us who have grown up near rivers, it’s easy to forget how powerful a river is until it suddenly swells and rises during periods of heavy rain, surging down and threatening to spill out of the usual confines of its channel. Remembering this will help us to seek and advocate for solutions to preventable situations, such as ones abandoned mines threaten to create. I think we can agree with Victoria: “…I hope with the research and understanding of the Amite, this won’t happen to anybody again.” *Advocate Staff Report. "What caused the historic August 2016 flood, and what are the odds it could happen again?" The Advocate 5 August 2017. .
CEC Houston's insight:

W have gravel and sand pits along the San Jacinto river north of Lake Houston.   Miners are not required to restore them. This increases the turbidity of our drinking water  is one of the most expensive aspects of water treatment. 

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