CEC ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS UPDATE 7/16/04 - HOUSTON
BUSH ADMINISTRATION ROADLESS ROLLBACK AFFECTS LOCAL FORESTS
by Sarah Morgan
The Bush administration announced another proposal aimed at eroding the
Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58.5 million
acres of national forest from logging, drilling and development, including
4,000 acres of the Sam Houston National Forest in Texas.
The new Bush proposal would repeal the federal protection of these lands
granted under the roadless rule, instead allowing state governors to
petition for protection of individual areas in their states, should they so
choose, leaving it up to the governor whether to seek greater or fewer
The rule, which Clinton signed on his way out of office in 2001, covers
the last third of America¹s national forests across 39 states, protecting
wildlife and the clean drinking water that these lands provide for more than
60 million Americans, according to the Heritage Forest Campaign, an alliance
of conservation advocates. While allowing access to the lands for
recreational use, the rule restricts commercial use. New roads could be
built for specific reasons like fire protection, and some logging is
permitted if it reduces the risk of forest fires. Furthermore, under the
rule, areas of land with existing oil and gas operations are allowed to
But timber industries and others who desire expanded use of these lands
have not been content with these provisions, according to the HFC, who have
been documenting the rise and steady fall of the rule.
"The timber industry and its allies have filed nine lawsuits in an effort
to undermine the Roadless Area Conservation Rule," HFC states.
BushGreenwatch, a nonprofit project of Environmental Media Services,
pointed out another aspect of the Bush proposal that the opposition might
not have considered:
"Under the Forest Service¹s antiquated road building policies which the
Bush ruling put back into play with its rejection of the Clinton-era
roadless rule taxpayers pay the entire cost of building new roads into
forests in order to provide logging trucks and drilling rigs access to the
The administration¹s reasons behind the proposed change are unclear. The
U.S. Agriculture Department spokesperson Julie Quick told Grist Magazine,
"The lawsuits have raised all kinds of questions about the constitutionality
of the roadless rule, which we believe is at odds with [the National
Environmental Policy Act] and the Wilderness Act." The administration also
claims that this rollback will boost state revenues and put more jobs on the
But environmental groups point to campaign contributions from the timber
industry and others with a profit-driven interest in the land.
The Bush administration seems to have had it out for the rule since day
one, as it was one of the Clinton administration¹s initiatives frozen when
Bush took office. Then the rule took another hit in December of 2003 when
the Bush administration declared that the Tongass National Forest in Alaska,
the nation¹s largest at eight times the size of Yellowstone, was temporarily
exempt from the roadless rule, despite receiving 250,000 comments in
opposition to this proposal.
A 60-day public comment period on the new proposal to rollback the
Roadless Area Conservation Rule will begin this week.
For more information, visit:
TRANSPORTATION EQUITY ACT STILL AT A CROSSROADS, ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS CONTINUE TO SURFACE
by Sarah Morgan
The Transportation Equity Act, the bill that defines the budget and
guidelines for nearly every transportation project in America, has been at
the center of a debate among the House, Senate and Bush administration,
concerning conflicting budget numbers and possible changes to environmental
provisions that could effect many communities.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA 21, was a
six-year plan that provided more than $200 billion for transportation
projects including highways, public transportation, railroads, waterways,
aviation, and oil and gas pipelines. The bill also outlined the
responsibilities for planning, construction, maintenance and regulation of
various transportation projects. TEA 21 expired in September of 2003 and has
gone through a series of extensions as the federal government hashes out the
provisions for a new six-year transportation act that would take us into
2009. The Senate, House, and the President have each brought their own draft
of the bill to the table.
The main conflict, it seems, is that each party has their own ideas about
just how much money is required to support the nation¹s growing
The President has threatened to veto a bill for anything over $275
billion, while the Senate is pushing for a budget closer to $318 billion.
Transportation groups say the more the better, with many supporting the
"For Houston, the amount has to be very high," said David Crossley,
president of the Gulf Coast Institute. Crossley explained that Houston¹s
projects are at the bottom of a long list for federal funding with projects
for many other cities taking priority.
Another growing issue for Houston is sprawl. The Bush administration¹s
version of the bill proposes to reduce the federal funding match for public
transportation projects to 50 percent from 80 percent while continuing to
fund up to 80 percent for highway projects. This change would require local
governments to scrounge up an additional 30 percent to cover the costs of
burgeoning light rail projects or bus lines. Critics including the Sierra
Club point out that this provision would put several transportation projects
across the country on hold, including rail lines in Florida, Georgia, and
Louisiana, causing state transportation planners to favor highway projects
The Sierra Club¹s report, Missing the Train, outlines the benefits of
public transportation, including the creation of jobs, boosting local
economies, and lowering stress levels of Americans who spend hours sitting
in heavy traffic.
"The Bush administration proposal maintains a severe imbalance between
overall road and transit funding where roads receive $4 for every $1 spent
on public transit," the report states.
Though the Sierra Club¹s report puts Houston¹s light rail on its list of
compromised projects should this funding proposal pass, Houston¹s
Metropolitan Transit Authority says it would not affect the expansions of
the rail system.
"Some of our transit funding is already 50/50," said Russ Frank, manager
of government affairs for METRO. "That¹s nothing different than we¹ve
But Sierra Club contends that this proposal shows Bush¹s lack of
understanding about issues concerning lower income communities and others
that rely on public transportation.
"The Bush administration has again failed to maximize opportunities for
economic growth that benefits both the workforce and the environment," says
Also, many nature and historic preservation groups are concerned about the
possible rollback of section 4(f) of the Transportation Equity Act. This
section concerns the protection of historic sites, public parks, recreation
areas and wildlife refuges. The current language requires that
transportation projects using federal funds are prohibited from the use of
land from those resources unless there is no "prudent and feasible
The House version of the bill includes "heavily watered-down" provisions
of section 4(f), according to the Galveston Houston Preservation
Association. These revised provisions could eliminate the existing
requirements for public involvement in the planning process and concurrence
by state preservation officials on transportation projects, according to
GHPA. These revisions would streamline the process of approval for some
transportation projects, reducing the possibilities for public comment and
environmental impact reviews.
Most recently, the nonprofit group Environmental Defense has sent out a
warning to environmentalists that the Senate¹s version of the bill may
contain "secrecy provisions." The group says that important information
concerning oil spills, nuclear waste transportation, and air pollution could
be deemed "sensitive security information," and therefor could be withheld
from the public.
The TEA 21 has been extended until July 31 when the government is expected
to pass a new version. However, with the deadline nearing, another extension
could occur, possibly putting off the revision until after the presidential
election, and keeping some transportation projects in a holding pattern
until that time.
SYNERGY AWARDS 2004
The Citizens’ Environmental Coalition is accepting
nominations for the
2004 Synergy Awards. Each year, the CEC acknowledges individuals and
who are working hard to make a difference in the Houston area. The Synergy
Awards represent cooperative action where the total effect is greater
what each would have achieved independently. We are seeking nominations
the eight award categories including awards in the areas of conservation,
community activism, corporate awareness, environmental education, media,
government, sustainable planning, and lifetime achievement.
The 2004 Synergy
Awards ceremony will be held on October 12. Please email
details or to submit nominations. Nomination deadline is July 30, 2004.
GBCPA TO SUE TCEQ OVER OZONE VIOLATION
The Galveston Bay Conservation Preservation Association has filed a notice
of intent to sue the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, stating that
TCEQ has failed to make the region's air safe to breathe.
The Houston-Galveston region has been out of attainment with the one-hour
ozone standard since the passage of the Clean Air Act of 1970, according to
a press release from GBCPA.
On these grounds, GBCPA will file suit under the citizen suits provision
of the Clean Air Act. This provision allows anyone to take legal action
against a state agency that is in violation of a U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency order on a timetable of compliance with the act.
Numerous members of GBCPA live in the Houston-Galveston non-attainment
area. Many live in the eastern part of Harris County, where residents are
subject to some of the higher levels of ozone air pollution within the
HREG AND THE BENEFITS OF RENEWABLE ENERGY
Houston Renewable Energy Group is a local chapter of the Texas Solar
Energy Society. Their mission is to further the development of renewable
energy and related arts, sciences, and technologies, with concern for the
ecological, social, and economic fabric of our local community. One of
HREG¹s primary goals is public education and to highlight the advantages of
the infinite power of renewable energy. HREG is member-supported and
consists of architects, engineers, teachers, business people, and concerned
citizens. To learn more about HREG or to join, there will be a meeting
Sunday, July 25, from 2pm to 4pm at Texas Southern University School of
Technology. For more information, contact (281) 326-1853, or visit
LEADERSHIP HOUSTON AND MFAH EVENT
Leadership Houston, founded in 1981, is a nonprofit leadership community
organization dedicated to identifying and developing adult leaders
representative of the greater Houston area. Once a year, Leadership Houston
makes applications available for a group of existing and emerging leaders
who are then trained throughout the year to better understand and address
the complex issues facing the Houston area and to enhance their leadership
skills. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Leadership Houston will host a
private, complimentary event, a Networking Mixer, Wednesday, August 4, from
6pm to 8pm at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For more
information, contact (713) 529-2231 or visit
MEMORIAL PARK CONSERVANCY SEEKS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The Executive Director will report directly to the
Board of Directors and is responsible for the following activities:
- Assisting the board in establishing and implementing a 5-year
plan based on the recently completed master plan
- Administrative management of the Conservancy, including coordination
board and committee activities, development of budgets, and maintenance
- Development and coordination of capital improvement projects
in the park
- Development and implementation of fundraising strategies for
expenses and capital improvement projects to ensure the fiscal
- Development and coordination of community outreach and volunteer
within the park
- Coordination of all activities with the City of Houston Parks
Recreation Dept. and the Memorial Park Administrator
The Conservancy is seeking candidates with the following qualifications:
- Demonstrated executive skills and leadership qualities
- Demonstrated personal initiative in previous positions
- Possession of effective people skills and ability to be an articulate,
- One professional skill set in a core activity of the organization
- Demonstrated interest in parks and natural resource issues
- Experience managing both budget and personnel
- Development experience and proven ability
Please send a letter of interest and personal resume to Memorial
Conservancy, Inc., P.O. 131024, Houston, TX 77219.
GREEN GRANTS & JOBS
TEXAS FOREST SERVICE 2004 URBAN FORESTRY PARTNERSHIP
The Texas Forest Service, the agency responsible for protecting and
enhancing the state's forest resources, offers financial assistance in the
form of challenge grants. The Partnership Grants are designed to start or
improve a local urban forestry program or to educate the public about the
importance of urban trees. Grant awards range from $1,000 to $10,000 and
must be matched dollar-for-dollar (except for the application for a new
professional staff position, for up to $30,000). Applicants may include any
local or state government entity, schools, or nonprofit groups.
Application deadline is July 15, 2004. To apply, e-mail the program
secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit:
Go to the Urban Forestry page and
click the link for grants.
CONSUMER GUIDE DETAILS ILLS AND ALTERNATIVES FOR
A free online consumer guide published in March by
the Worldwatch Institute describes the environmental, social, and
health harms associated with a wide range of products, including
appliances, baby products, DVDs, clothing, cell phones, and food.
The guide takes a behind the scenes look at how products are made,
and offers simple advice and alternatives that enable people to
reduce some of the ills associated with the things they buy.
For each product, the guide also describes successful efforts by governments,
businesses, and nonprofit groups around the world to reduce negative impacts
associated with common products.
NEW REPORT IN PARKS FOR PEOPLE SERIES
The Trust For Public Land’s Parks for People
initiative works in cities across America to ensure that everyone--in
particular every child--enjoys access to a park, playground, or
open space. A new Parks for People report by Peter Harnik, director
of TPL's Center for City Park Excellence, highlights the need for
parks in Newark, New Jersey. The report's release follows by several
months the publication of TPL's Parks for People white paper, which
makes the case for new city parks nationwide. Upcoming Parks for
People publications will focus on other US cities.
A HANDBOOK FOR ACTIVISTS
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Wilderness
Act, Wilderness Forever has created a handy-dandy guide to taking
action. Learn how to draft your own action letters, organize enjoyable
activism events, and get in touch with local media.
To obtain your own tree-free version of the guide:
Learn more about the Wilderness Act:
EPA SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS
The EPA Summer Opportunities for Students website
is now up and running. The site provides a web portal through which
students may enter to learn about EPA programs, offices, and summer
employment opportunities. They also will be able to submit a job
application directly to the EPA location where there is a vacancy.
THIS WEEKS EVENTS
CLIMATE WARNING FROM THE DEEP
BBC News Online, 7/12/04
Strange things are happening in the North Sea. Cod stocks
faster than over-fishing can account for, and Mediterranean
species like red
mullet are migrating north.
TOLL-ROAD PLAN GETS THE GREEN LIGHT
Austin American-Statesman, 7/13/04
Central Texas, which until now had waded just shin-high into the chilly
waters of toll roads, took the full plunge Monday evening.
DELL, HP EXPAND RECYCLING PROGRAMS
Associated Press, 7/14/04
The world's two largest personal-computer manufacturers have gotten a
little greener. Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. announced free, temporary
programs Tuesday to encourage U.S. consumers to recycle toxin-filled
computers and electronics.
SOARING OIL PRICES, BUT NO NEW BOOM IN HOUSTON
New York Times, 7/14/04
As soaring energy prices over the last year have produced bonanzas in the
world's oil patches, many people in Houston, which has the largest
concentration of energy companies anywhere, are perplexed. In a departure
from past oil booms, this one is having an unusually subdued effect here.
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION SOUGHT OF CLEAN AIR VIOLATIONS
IN TX ALLEGED BY AMERICAN ELECTRIC POWER WHISTLEBLOWER
Environmental Media Service, 7/13/04
The nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project today formally petitioned
the U.S. Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of American
Electric Power for what appears to be extensive violations of the Clean Air
Act taking place over multiple years, as outlined today by a whistleblower
fired by AEP in May 2004 after calling attention to the problems.
SHANKLE NAMED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL AGENCY
Austin American-Statesman, 7/15/04
Texas environmental commissioners Wednesday tapped Glenn Shankle, an
agency insider and protégé of the late Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, for the top
staff job at the state's primary environmental enforcement agency.
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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