CEC ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS UPDATE 3/14/03
Don‰t forget, CEC‰s annual meeting is next Tuesday, Apr 1 at the Environmental Center at 3015 Richmond Ave. from 6 to 8 p.m. Our guest speaker, Dr. Richard Murray, will share his knowledge and intuitions about Houston‰s future. Murray is professor of political science and director of the University of Houston Center for Public Policy. Come to share ideas and network with Coalition members. Call 713-524-4232 or email Sarah Doss for more details.
CEC on KPFT
Tune in to KPFT, 90.1 FM tonight at 6:30 for CEC reporter Erika McDonald's coverage from the first meeting of the Jones Road Water Coalition. If you aren't near a radio, listen to KPFT live on the web at www.kpft.org.
MFCA needes volunteers
Over the coming weeks, Mothers for Clean Air needs volunteer-help with several events. On Saturday, April 5 from noon to 4 p.m., volunteers are needed to set up table and talk with children and adults about air pollution. There are also a variety of volunteer opportunities at Earth Day events around the city. Events include the Nature Discovery Center in Bellaire for two-hour shifts between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., CEC‰s event at Rice University on April 19 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., Shell Employees Earth Day, on Old Spanish Trail on Wednesday, April 23 between 11 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Bellaire Recycling Committee Earth Day at Whole Foods on Saturday, April 26 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m and at San Jacinto College South, on Wednesday, April 16 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Earth Day volunteers will help with children‰s air-pollution activities and distribute information. For more information on volunteering, contact Jane Laping at 713-526-0110 or visit MFCA on the web.
Golf tournament to benefit Nature Discovery Center
The Tom Koch and Don Nelson Open, Monday, March 31 Longwood Golf Club, will benefit the Hana and Arthur Ginzbarg Nature Discovery Center. Individual player spots are available for $125. The Golden Oak sponsorship, $1,500, includes a full-page ad in the event program, two foursomes, a tee box sign, and golf balls. The Silver Maple sponsorship, $1,000, includes one foursome, a half-page ad in the brochure, a tee box sign, and golf balls. The Green Ash sponsorship level, $750, includes one foursome, a tee box sign and a quarter-page ad in the event program. The day tees off at 11 a.m. with registration, driving range practice and lunch. For a registration form or for more information, call Jeni Howell, Nature Discovery Center, 713-667-6550.
EIH and Armand Bayou to host Envirothon
The Texas Envirothon program is a yearlong environmental education program for high school students. It integrates wildlife, soils, water quality, aquatic life, forestry, and a selected current environmental issue into an ecosystem approach to learning and developing critical thinking skills. Envirothon brings together teams of students to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of our natural resources through participation in problems solving competitions. Through this process, students learn about the interdependence and interrelationship of natural resources while developing critical thinking skills. The Environmental Institute of Houston, will host the 2003 Texas State Envirothon competition in conjunction with the Armand Bayou Nature Center Sunday, April 6, and Monday, April 7, 2003. If your company/organization would like to be a sponsor or if you would like more information on theCanon Envirothon on the web.
LocalSprawl topic of debate at Grand Parkway public hearing
by Erika McDonald
About 75 residents turned out Tuesday night at Thornton Middle School in Katy for a public hearing on segment E of the Grand Parkway. For years, environmentalists fought construction of the 180-mile, $2 billion third loop around Houston, which they say will facilitate urban sprawl.
Grand Parkway Association members and supporters said the loop would provide much needed relief of traffic congestion on other area freeways. Segment E would connect 1-10 with U.S. 290.
Katy Prairie Conservancy‰s executive director, Mariane Piacentini expressed concern about secondary impacts the of Parkway she said were underestimated in the EIS. "The vision that Harris and Waller Counties could have is to keep this as open space for flood control, recreation, reduction of sediment and pollutants, and aquifer recharge," she said. "The future I want to leave my grandkids is more green space not more roadways."
According to a spokesman from Michael Baker Corp., the engineering firm that prepared the project‰s environmental impact statement, segment E would effect natural wildlife habitat, bottom-land hardwood forests, and rare prairie and pothole wetlands. Wetlands loss is of particular concern to residents in the flood-prone area and farmers concerned about aquifer recharge.
Resident Nan Hildreth said she was skeptical of the Association‰s touting of the Grand Parkway as the NAFTA highway. Late last year, the North American Free Trade Agreement preempted a federal law requiring trucks form Mexico to meet Clean Air Act standards on emissions.
"I want to asked residents of this area, do you want to drive a quiet country road or share a highway with these old, falling-apart Mexican trucks," she said.
Not all of last night‰s speakers opposed Parkway construction. Adam Aschman, a project developer with the West Houston Association, a consortium of developers and corporations, said development was a fact of life whether the freeway is completed or not.
"When I‰m stuck in traffic, I‰m not home with my family, and there are many others like me" he said. "This project is the right thing and now is the right time. Houston can not afford to miss this opportunity to stay ahead of growth."
Robin Sterry of the Grand Parkway Association said public participation was an important part of the process and was pleased with Wendesday night‰s turnout.
There is still plenty of time to weigh in on the project by contacting the Texas Department of Transportation. Public comment period will close on May 23.Jones Road Water Coaliton holds first meeting
by Erika McDonald
About 35 residents attended the first meeting of the Jones Road Water Coalition Wednesday night in Cy-Fair. Edgewood Estates and Evergreen Woods residents launched the Coalition to represent the community before state and federal agencies charged with ensuring their water is safe. In October, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found King Cleaners, formerly Bell Cleaners responsible for contaminating 30 area wells with tetrachloroethylene, a potentially cancer-causing dry-cleaning agent.
Temporary chairman for the group Joe Hofbrau, called state agencies‰ response to residents‰ concerns "sluggish."
"It‰s kind of like ëque sera sera‰ for the residents," he said.
Hofbrau said communications with TCEQ had improved recently. Still, it may be 15 years before the state can clean up the wells.
Lorelle Haus, whose well was contaminated, said she joined the coalition because she wanted more control over decisions effecting the water she and her family needed to drink.
"(EPA) never consults us, they tell us when, how, and what they‰re going to do which is usually nothing. They say the water is drinkable but they‰re no the person who has to drink it."
Joe Tamasier owns property adjacent to contaminated groundwater plume. He said he was concerned about the plume‰s effect on property values.
"Everybody who lives in this area should be at this meeting if their well is not in the plume because this is going to effect property values in the future," he said.
Hofbrau said he hoped forming the Coalition would be the first toward forming a small water-supply corporation. On the Coalition‰s behalf, State Rep. Corbin Van Arsdale sponsored legislation to amend a state law prohibiting formation of water-supply corporations. The bill is currently in committee and may be voted on later this spring.
The group considered funding options including federal grants. As a Superfund site, the neighborhoods may access matching funds from the Environmental Protection Agency. The Coalition must pay for legal representation and other operating costs.
"So far, it‰s been a lot of volunteer hours, a lot of miles put on our cars," Hofbrau said.
The next Coalition meeting is scheduled for May 28. Members will vote to approve by-laws and elect board members.EPA to file charges against Houston-based Conoco
ConocoPhillips, the No. 3 U.S. oil company, on Wednesday said the Environmental Protection Agency may file a civil proceeding against the company for violations of the Clean Air Act, according to a regulatory filing. In the filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Houston company said it responded to requests for information from the EPA regarding several of its refineries. "Although ConocoPhillips has not been notified of any formal findings or violations arising from these information requests, ConocoPhillips has been informed that the EPA is contemplating the filing of a civil proceeding against ConocoPhillips for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act," the filing said. The company said it is seeking to negotiate a resolution that is likely to result in more money being set aside for environmental capital expenditures and governmental monetary sanctions. Overall, ConocoPhillips expects its expensed environmental costs to total about $687 million this year and $717 million next year. The costs were $546 million in 2002. It also expects its capitalized environmental costs to total about $638 million this year and $718 million next year. The costs came to $325 million last year. The company was not immediately available to comment on the distinction between expensed and capitalized environmental costs. ConocoPhillips shares were down 12 cents to $51.90 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.Study shows impact of Houston land use on urban rainfall
Environment New Service
Large urban areas, like Houston can influence their own weather and areas downwind, found a new study supported by the U.S. National Aeronautics Space Administration.
University of Arkansas civil engineering professor Steve Burian conducted the study, which used space based and land based rainfall data to quantify the impact of urbanization on rainfall. Burian found elevated rainfall amounts within and directly downwind of Houston, Texas.
"There is increasing evidence that large coastal cities like Houston can influence weather through complex urban land-use-weather-climate feedbacks," Burian explained. "During urbanization, natural land covers are removed and replaced by artificial structures and surfaces like buildings, parking lots and sidewalks. Ornamental landscapes replace natural trees and vegetation and the soil structure is modified."
These changes alter temperature, wind and precipitation patterns because they impact the exchange of water and energy between the land and the atmosphere. The data in the study showed increases in rainfall during the time period of noon to midnight of some 110 percent in the urban area and 52 percent in the downwind region compared to the upwind region.
"This anomaly has significant implications for flood control in Houston," Burian said.
One factor in the urban impact on rainfall is from the Urban Heat Island effect, which occurs when the temperature in an urban area is higher than its rural environment. It affects local and regional temperature distributions, wind patters and air quality.
Other factors identified by Burian are the increased roughness created by tall buildings, changes in atmospheric moisture and increased cloud condensation from automobiles and industry.
Burian presented the study Tuesday at the annual meeting of the North-Central Section of the Geological Society of America in Kansas City, Missouri. He contends that better understanding of these phenomena becomes more important as populations become more urbanized. The United Nations Population Fund estimates that by 2025, 60 percent of the world's population will live in cities.
ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION
CEC Environmental News Update is a weekly publication by the Citizens' Environmental Coalition, a 501(c)3 dedicated to fostering dialogue, education and collaboration about environmental issues in the Houston-Gulf Coast Region. Visit the CEC online at www.cechouston.org.
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