CEC ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS UPDATE 10/1/04 - HOUSTON
HOUSTON’S ROADS MOST DANGEROUS IN
by Sarah Morgan
Houstonians are 149 percent more likely to be injured or killed in a car
crash when compared with national averages, calling for a serious look at
transportation issues, said Ned Levine, transportation program coordinator
for the Houston-Galveston Area Council’s Traffic Safety Program on
"We have an extremely serious safety problem," Levine said at a Gulf
Coast Institute/H-GAC Smart Growth Initiative meeting. Houston leads the
state in the number of serious auto crashes, he said, though Houston is home
to only 22 percent of the state’s population and is responsible for only 21
percent of total miles traveled statewide.
The H-GAC Traffic Safety Program is aimed at improving traffic safety
throughout the eight-county region.
H-GAC compiled data from the Texas Department of Public Safety, which
show that Houston racked up 252,240 serious crashes over the three-year
period from 1999 to 2001. This number includes 1,882 fatalities, or about
600 a year, and 281,914 injuries. The total does not include minor
fender-benders, as the DPS only registers crashes that result in a fatality,
injury, or serious property damage in which more than one car is towed.
Houston accounted for 26 percent of all crashes statewide and 27 percent of
The problem is not going away. Levine noted that the number of serious
crashes climbs about 5 percent each year.
"It’s almost, to my mind, at epidemic proportions," Levine said.
The high number of traffic accidents takes a toll on the city in a
number of ways, Levine said, driving up insurance costs, placing a large
burden on regional services such as police, clean up, and medical
departments, and adding to Houston’s already heavy congestion problem.
"Police spend about half of their time on traffic-related things," said
Levine. Further, the Texas Transportation Institute estimates that 60
percent of Houston’s congestion is due to accidents.
"We’re paying for this," said Levine, "one way or another."
Levine said that most of the crashes can be attributed to aggressive
driving behavior, with speeding as the number one cause, responsible for
about 39 percent of car crashes in Houston, versus only 13 percent
And though most would expect the majority of accidents to occur near
freeways, Levine said that studies show 53 percent of crashes occur on local
arterial roads and other non-state roads. The region has 344 hot spots where
more than 78 crashes occurred in the area each year, many of which are on
smaller, heavily traveled streets such as Westheimer.
Houston also leads the state in pedestrian and bicycle crashes, though
Levine said that the reasons for these high numbers are still being
H-GAC’s ongoing analysis will continue to monitor safety, identify
hazardous areas around the region, focus on roadway improvements and
education, and support the safety efforts of other organizations, said
The next Smart Growth meeting, Oct 27, will discuss how parks affect
LNG TERMINALS LATCH ON TO GULF COAST
by Sarah Morgan
LNG, or liquefied natural gas, seems to be industry’s latest solution to
energy needs, with many new power plants using the gas for fuel and new LNG
terminals popping up along the California and Texas coasts, including three
proposed terminals in the Houston-Galveston area.
According to Greenpeace, LNG is just as detrimental to the environment as
oil. The environmental organization points out that natural gas is a
non-renewable resource that requires drilling and exploration. LNG is also a
safety risk, the group contends, because of the possibility of leaks during
transportation and storage that could easily lead to explosions. Further,
the use of LNG is a roadblock in the development of cleaner, renewable
energy sources, says Greenpeace.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Freeport LNG has already won approval
for the construction of a terminal in Quintana, 70 miles south of Houston,
which should come on line in 2007. An Exxon Mobil affiliate has proposed a
new terminal for Sabine Pass, an area 10 miles south of Port Arthur, and an
environmental impact assessment is currently underway. Now BP has a proposal
for a terminal on Pelican Island, about 5 miles from downtown Galveston.
Each Texas terminal will produce between 1 and 2 billion cubic feet of
gas a day from imported liquefied natural gas. Most of the gas at the
terminals will be imported from Qatar in the Persian Gulf, according to
Exxon Mobil, which has an agreement with Qatar Petroleum. Qatar already
exports about 800,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the Houston
Chronicle. The country is home to the world’s third-largest natural gas
Before Qatar or any other country can export natural gas, the gas must be
cooled to the point that it changes into a liquid, which can then be
transported on special tankers. Once LNG arrives at a terminal, it is
converted back into gas and is then sent out through pipelines for
The proposed plant at Sabine Pass includes roughly 122 miles of pipeline,
which will feed into the nationwide natural gas network, and the terminal is
expected to serve about 200 LNG tankers each year. The BP plant proposed for
Pelican Island will fuel the nearby Texas City refinery, which uses 200
million cubic feet of natural gas to process 400,000 barrels of crude,
according to the Houston Chronicle. But the gas will also feed other needs
along the Houston Ship Channel.
According to Reuters News Service, the need for LNG is growing, with
Texas at the top of the list. Currently, LNG makes up about 2 percent of US
gas supplies, which will grow to about 10 percent by the year 2010.
Public comment on the Sabine Pass terminal will be accepted through Oct
20, while the project undergoes an environmental impact assessment.
For more information about the proposed Pelican Island terminal and the
environmental impacts of LNG, see the November issue of CEC’s Environmental
CEC 2004 SYNERGY ENVIRONMENTAL AWARDS CEREMONY
The 2004 Synergy Awards are almost here. The ceremony
will take place on Tuesday, Oct 12, at the Crowne Plaza-Downtown, 1700
Smith Street. For the past eight years, the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition
has recognized outstanding environmental excellence in several categories.
This year’s recipients are:
- Army and Sarah Emmett Environmental Conservation award:
- Community Activist Awards: John Wilson and the Houston-Galveston
Air Monitoring Project.
- Media Award: Josh Harkinson
- Corporate Awareness Award: Wabash Antique
and Feed Store
- Corporate Awareness Award: J. Michael Trevino
- Environmental Education
Award: Kathleen Ownby
- Lifetime Achievement Award: Mary Beth Maher
- Government Award: Issa Dadoush
of the City of Houston
- Sustainable Planning Awards: US Green Building
- Sustainable Planning Awards: Central Houston
- Founders’ Award: Ann Lents
- The President’s Award: Houston Farmer’s Market
- The President’s Award:
Midtown Farmers Market
Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be served between 6
and 8:30 pm. The awards ceremony begins at 8:30 pm. Tickets are $50 per
person; tables of six are available for $500. Dress is business casual.
Contact CEC at firstname.lastname@example.org or
GHASP AND MFCA VOTED BEST NONPROFIT
BY HOUSTON PRESS
The Houston Press’s annual "Best Of" issue hit stands this week, and gave
CEC member groups Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention and
Mothers for Clean Air a welcome surprise. GHASP was voted best nonprofit for
2004, with an approving nod to MFCA, the "feisty membership arm," of GHASP.
The brief in this week’s issue notes GHASP’s research and reports, and says,
"If Houston is to breathe new life into its economy, we’ll need groups such
as GHASP to make the city’s atmosphere attractive for everybody, not just
oil tycoons." To read more, visit:
RICE UNIVERSITY SHELL CENTER LECTURE
Rice University will be hosting a seminar that takes a serious look at
climate change. Julian Hunt will be giving a seminar on the impact of
climate change on coastal cities, including Houston, at the Shell Center at
Rice University. The seminar will be held in the McMurtrey Auditorium on
Monday, Oct 4, from 6 to 8 pm.
The Rice University lecture series will continue with a discussion on
meeting ozone standards set by federal and state agencies. Speakers for this
second event in the series, which takes place on Wednesday, Oct 6, include
Harvey Jeffries and Larry Soward, with a third speaker to be announced.
Julian Hunt has been a professor of climate modeling in the Department of
Space and Climate Physics, and Earth Sciences, and an honorary professor of
Mathematics at University College, London, since 1999.
Contact (713) 348-4700 or visit http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~eesi/scs/ for
62ND ANNUAL BULB & PLANT MART
The Garden Club of Houston’s big event is quickly approaching. The
sixty-second annual Bulb and Plant Mart will be Friday, Oct 8, from 9:30 am
to 5 pm, at the Westminster United Methodist Church, 5801 San Felipe at
The event will feature the widest selection of top-quality bulbs from
domestic and international suppliers and an expanded collection of
hard-to-find and unusual plants, perennials, trees, shrubs, and vines. Many
of the plants and bulbs are unique offerings from the gardens of club
members, grown specifically for the mart.
Parking is free. All you need to bring is money for the plants and your
own cart or wagon to load them. Contact the garden club at
http://www.gchouston.org for more information.
SUBHANKAR BANERJEE: AN EVENING IN
THE ARCTIC WILDERNESS
Subhanker Banarjee, a noted wildlife photographer and writer, will speak
in Houston on Thursday, Oct 28, as part of the Houston Seminar series.
Banerjee will show slides of his work and talk about the people, wildlife,
and land that he encountered during the two years he spent exploring 4,000
miles of wilderness in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He is an
advocate for permanent protection of the refuge, where he lived with tribal
Gwich’in Athabascan and Inupiat families, learning their way of life and
coming to understand their relationship to the land and the wild animals
that inhabit it. Banerjee’s photographs have been featured in exhibits at
the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco; the American Museum of
Natural History, New York; and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural
History, Washington, DC. Early registration is encouraged. For more
information call (713) 666-9000, or visit http://www.houstonseminar.org
GREEN GRANTS & JOBS
BUFFALO BAYOU PARTNERSHIP SEEKS HORTICULTURIST /
The Buffalo Bayou Partnership is seeking to fill
a full-time professional position funded through the Texas Forest
Service Urban Forestry Partnership Grant Program. Responsibilities
include advancing the BBP’s vegetation management plan, which involves
specific restoration objectives in the Buffalo Bayou Park. The
person hired for the position will work with volunteers and contractors
to accomplish many of these goals and will also be responsible
for monitoring tree health by performing Forest Health assessments.
Other responsibilities include reporting to the Texas Forest Service’s
urban forestry representative, seeking funding for a stream-bank
protection demonstration project, and working closely with the BBP’s
director of public relations to involve the media in newsworthy projects.
Some Saturdays will be necessary, to lead volunteer groups. Requirements
include a bachelor’s degree in a related field, good computer skills, local
flora knowledge, and leadership and presentation skills. To apply for this
position please send your resume to Scott Barnes at email@example.com or
fax your resume to (713) 223-3500.
THIS WEEKS EVENTS
CONGRESS EXTENDS WIND ENERGY TAX CREDIT
Congress extended through 2005 a popular tax credit for companies that produce
electricity from wind, enabling what an industry group said was about $2 billion
worth of wind energy projects to proceed.
BUSH SET TO OPEN OIL RESERVE SPIGOT
With oil near $50 a barrel, the Bush administration is set to allow oil
refineries to borrow from the government’s emergency petroleum stockpile to
make up for supplies disrupted by Hurricane Ivan, a congressional source
briefed on the pending decision told Reuters last week.
INADEQUATE GAS TAX FUNDS DRIVING TOLL ROAD PLANS
Houston Chronicle, 9/26/04
The Lone Star State got a lot of attention last week at the annual
gatherings of the trade groups representing state transportation departments
and worldwide tollway operators.
COMING SOON - GENE-ENGINEERED INSECTS
Coming soon to a jungle near you - mosquitoes genetically engineered so
they cannot give people malaria. But this time scientists want to do it
CAN THE SUBURBS MAKE YOU SICK?
Living in the suburbs may have once been part of the American dream but
it can lead to nightmares such as high blood pressure, arthritis, and
headaches, researchers have reported.
SAN FRANCISCO PLAN AIMS TO SLASH GREENHOUSE GASES
Three days after California regulators adopted tough rules to cut car
pollution, San Francisco’s mayor unveiled a plan this week to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, saying cities must take action because the Bush
administration is ignoring global warming.
ALCOA WILL CLOSE POLLUTING ROCKDALE BOILERS IN 2007
Austin-American Statesman, 9/28/04
Alcoa Inc. on Monday said it will close its three heavily polluting
Central Texas power plants by August 2007 and try to arrange for another
company to build clean-burning plants to help power the company’s massive
Rockdale aluminum smelter.
NATURAL GAS IS FUTURE, EMIR SAYS
Houston Chronicle, 9/28/04
Natural gas will be the primary energy resource of the future and the
tiny nation of Qatar is uniquely positioned to provide much of the supply,
says the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.
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.
To subscribe or unsubscribe, or to suggest items for inclusion,
send your request via e-mail to David Gresham at firstname.lastname@example.org.