CEC ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS UPDATE 03/18/05 - HOUSTON
ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS SAY NEW MERCURY RULE NOT ENOUGH
by Sarah Morgan
The US Environmental Protection Agency announced the nation's first rule
to limit mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants this week,
invoking a backlash from environmental groups that say the new rules are
weak and could lead to mercury "hotspots."
The new rule, the Clean Air Mercury Rule, calls for a cap-and-trade
system where mercury emissions would be capped at 38 tons each year by 2010,
and 15 tons each year in 2018, compared with current annual emissions of
about 48 tons for the nation's 1,100 coal-burning plants.
According to an EPA press release, "taken together, the recently issued
Clean Air Interstate Rule and the new Clean Air Mercury Rule will reduce
electric utility mercury emissions by nearly 70 percent from 1999 levels
when fully implemented."
But, according to the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international clean water
advocacy organization, 38 tons is the same amount of mercury that would be
emitted if industry were simply to comply with the other provisions set
forth in the Clean Air Act.
Instead of requiring emission reductions from each individual plant, the
new rule allows utilities to swap pollution rights. Actual emissions could
continue to be higher for several years because the new rule allows the EPA
to distribute credits for years in which a company has reduced more than the
Bill O'Sullivan, director of air quality at New Jersey's state
environmental agency, told Reuters that because of the trading system, some
plants could continue to emit more mercury than others, creating dangerous
hotspots or pockets of mercury.
According to Reuters, utilities say the cap-and-trade system allows them
to keep electricity costs down by not forcing them to switch to more
expensive natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal.
The EPA said the Clean Air Mercury Rule is a big step, but the problem
goes beyond the United States' reach. An EPA press release stated that most
Americans are exposed to mercury by eating fish, and close to 80 percent of
the fish that Americans buy comes from other countries or waters "beyond our
reach and control." EPA officials said they hope the new rule will be an
example to the rest of the world.
In 2004, EPA estimated that 630,000 children are born each year in the
United States with unsafe levels of mercury in their blood. Forty-five
states have issued mercury fish advisories for many freshwater fish, and 35
percent of our lakes and 25 percent of our rivers contain unsafe levels of
mercury. This includes 329,784 acres of Texas lakes that have posted health
warnings due to mercury, according to the Texas Public Interest Research
US power plants in Texas emit more mercury than plants in any other
state, some five tons annually, versus 0.004 tons in California and 0.5 tons
in New York, according to TxPIRG.
Mercury exposure can affect a child's memory, comprehension, and learning
abilities, and can even lead to blindness, deafness, and mental retardation.
Women who are pregnant, nursing, or of childbearing age are especially at
Though EPA officials are standing by the new rules, Reuters and the Los
Angeles Times reported that the EPA's inspector general and the Government
Accountability Office both said that the EPA's process may have "put
political motives ahead of scientific value."
OLD-GROWTH FORESTS NO LONGER PROTECTED FROM LOGGING
By Sarah Morgan
Despite multiple protests, logging began Monday in Oregon's largest
roadless forest as part of the biggest logging project planned for an
old-growth forest reserve since the creation of the Northwest Forest Plan
more than ten years ago.
About 370 million board feet of trees in the Siskiyou National Forest in
southwest Oregon, a federally protected old-growth reserve, are slated for
cutting as part of the largest US Forest Service timber sale in modern
history - the Biscuit Logging Project. The project plans to cut enough trees
to fill 74,000 log-hauling trucks, including almost 13,000 acres of
old-growth reserves, Late Successional Reserves in the Northwest Forest
Plan. These reserves are areas that, until now, were off limits to
large-scale commercial logging, according to the Heritage Forests Campaign.
Also, the Biscuit logging project will cut over 8,000 acres designated as
Inventoried Roadless Areas.
Monday, protesters lined up for the third time at the "green bridge" to
the only access road into the Fiddler old growth reserve, in an effort to
prevent trucks from entering the forests.
One of the protesters, 72-year-old Joan Norman, had already been arrested
March 7 for protesting the logging.
"I'm sitting here to protect the land for my children. This is our home
and this is our river that we swim in. We don't want to ruin it, not only
for us, but for generations to come," Norman said in a phone interview
before she was arrested for the second time. Norman said she has been an
area resident since 1985.
"There's no law for the people, there's only law for the corporations,"
According to the Forest Service, the reason behind the extensive logging is
the 2002 Biscuit fire, a naturally occurring, weather-driven fire that
burned in a "mosaic" pattern, according to the HFC.
Forest Service officials say logging will help the restoration process by
removing dead trees that could be fodder for future fires, and generate
revenue that could be used to help pay for restoration projects in the
burned areas, according to the Associated Press.
But Annette Rasch, another protester on Monday, said, "This place has
evolved with fire. It is a very necessary process. . . This is not a dead
forest by any means."
Environmentalists hold that burned trees, over time, transform into
"legacy trees," which are critical for animal habitat and soil protection
Also, critics say, the logging will choke salmon streams with erosion and
the big trees that will be taken out are the building blocks of a new
Old-growth reserves were set aside in the Northwest Forest Plan in order
to safeguard habitat for rare plants and animals that depend on older
forests to survive, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
"It's insane to be cutting here," said Jem Mara, another protester at the
bridge. "We set aside these places to be saved, and they're not saved. . .
This land is for the whole country. When we cut down a whole forest, it
really affects the whole world. I think about what my children will say. I
want to be able to say that I did what I could."
NEW BILL TO ADDRESS AIR TOXICS IN HOUSTON REGION
State Rep. Joe Moreno, D-Houston, filed a new bill yesterday created to
address the public health concerns the East End communities in Houston face
because of their proximity to many of the area's chemical plants and
The bill, House Bill 2792, would require the state to adopt screening
levels for air contaminants where currently there are only unenforceable
guidelines in place. Under HB 2792, polluters who exceed the standards would
be subject to fines and injunctions, as the state would be given the power
to force companies to lower air pollutant emissions.
"This is the first time someone has taken such a positive step," said
D. Wilson, executive director of the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog
Under the new bill, larger plants that are major sources of emissions
would have to install daily fence-line monitoring and report the obtained
data to the state. HB 2792 would also require companies to monitor their
actual pollution rather than just assume low emissions.
Speaking about the bill to the Houston Chronicle, Moreno said, "Many will
classify this as an environmental issue, (but) I see it as more of a public
health and economic development issue." Moreno's district includes many
communities bordering plants along the ship channel.
GEARING UP FOR EARTH DAY
Got plans for Earth Day 2005? April is fast approaching and, to coordinate the efforts of local groups and organizations, the Citizens' Environmental Coalition is putting together a comprehensive collection of Earth Day related activities around the Houston region for inclusion in a huge Houston Earth Day guide being distributed throughout the community. If your group is planning an event, or you know of a group planning one, let us know by dropping us an e-mail at email@example.com.
TPWD ENDANGERED SPECIES CONSERVATION FUNDS AVAILABLE
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is seeking proposals through April 16
from universities, cities and counties, private conservation groups, and
others interested in acquiring land or conducting conservation planning for
This spring, TPWD will accept proposals and award grants using federal
funds made available to state wildlife agencies through the Cooperative
Endangered Species Conservation Fund, under Section 6 of the Endangered
Species Act, for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. Any
grant proposals submitted by TPWD will compete with other proposals from
around the nation; there are no funds earmarked for Texas.
These are generous 75:25 matching grants that require applicants to
provide only 25 percent of total project costs from non-federal funding
Project proposals must concern a fish or wildlife species (or a suite of
species) that is on the federal threatened or endangered species lists or
that is a candidate for federal listing.
The deadline to submit a grant proposal is April 16. TPWD anticipates
awarding grants in late spring.
For grant proposal guidelines, visit
JAPHET CREEK RESTORATION: AN EXTREME ECOLOGICAL MAKEOVER
A stream meandering through an eastside neighborhood is trashed. Plastic,
Styrofoam, tires, scrap metal, and concrete rubble share the flowing water
with fish, turtles, frogs, wading birds, and bugs. Also, a family of beavers
has been spotted where the creek empties into Buffalo Bayou. In an effort to
improve their habitat and our neighborhood, the Japhet Creek Restoration
Coordinating Team is engaging in a clean up of Japhet Creek. Some of the
team participants who have pledged support of the project include Buffalo
Bayou Partnership, Harris County Pollution Control, the Bayou Preservation
Association, and the Japhet Civic Association. They will need lots of help
over the year to complete this project successfully. For more information,
or to follow the progress of the restoration, visit
All who are interested in preserving and restoring this green space can
help with this project, by attending The First Big Clean Up of Japhet Creek
at the Emile Street bridge (one block south of the 4400 block of Clinton),
at 8 am, Saturday, March 19. Wear boots or sturdy shoes and long sleeves.
For additional information or directions contact Brian Herod at
firstname.lastname@example.org, (713) 480-6303, or Jim Ohmart at JMOhmart@aol.com,
HELP NEEDED FOR SEA TURTLE SATURDAY
Organizers of the first Sea Turtle Saturday are looking for people to
assist with staffing booths and the refreshment station, selling t-shirts,
and gathering signatures for a petition. Sea Turtle Saturday will be April 9
at the Galveston Campus of Texas A&M University. The event is being
sponsored by the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and HEART (Help Endangered
Animals-Ridley Turtles), Texas A&M University at Galveston, and the NOAA
Fisheries Service (formerly National Marine Fisheries Service). Registration
will begin at 8 am, with presentations starting at 9 am. Andre M. Landry,
Jr., professor of Marine Biology, Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, and
Marine Sciences of the Texas A&M faculty, will open with remarks about "Sea
Turtles of the Gulf and Galveston," followed by Joe Flanagan, senior
veterinarian of the Houston Zoological Gardens, known as the "sea turtle
doctor." The event will feature presentations on sea turtle recovery,
program status, and more. It will also be a great opportunity to ask
questions about Kemp's ridleys and other sea turtles of the Gulf. There will
also be a special training for anyone interested in patrolling for sea
turtles this spring and summer, followed by a tour of the turtle house at
the NOAA Fisheries Service.
Those interested in volunteering should e-mail JuneRodriguez@aol.com by
Saturday March 20. For further information on the event, visit
GREEN GRANTS & JOBS
EDUCATION FOUNDATION OF HARRIS COUNTY SEEKS ENVIRONMENTAL CONSULTANT/ADOPT-A-SCHOOL BUS PROGRAM COORDINATOR
The Education Foundation of Harris County, an independent nonprofit
organization, seeks an environmental consultant/Adopt-A-School Bus Program
coordinator. Specific duties include managing the Adopt-A-School Bus Program
to help public school districts replace and retrofit old diesel buses with
clean fuel technologies; performing as environmental consultant between
various entities, including local independent school districts,
Houston-Galveston Area Council, EPA, and other state agencies; preparing
monthly programmatic and financial reports for federal and state grants;
maintaining records for school district fleets and grant applications, and
Candidates must have a bachelor's degree and relevant experience in
environmental programs, preferably with clean air related initiatives.
Applications for the position will only be accepted via e-mail. Please send
e-document with attached MS word resume, e-mail titled as Environmental
Consultant to: AASBjobs@educationfoundation.info.
More information about the foundation can be found at
THIS WEEKS EVENTS
BILL WOULD SET UP DAILY MONITORING OF POLLUTION
Houston Chronicle, 3/11/05
AUSTIN - Industrial facilities would be monitored daily for air
contaminants along their fence lines and could face fines and injunctions if
toxic air exceeds healthy levels under a bill filed Thursday.
EPA ENACTS LONG-AWAITED RULE TO IMPROVE AIR QUALITY, HEALTH
Washington Post, 3/11/05
The Environmental Protection Agency enacted a broad new rule yesterday
aimed at significantly reducing levels of health-damaging ozone and
atmospheric soot caused by emissions from power plants in eastern and
FOR IRAQ'S GREAT MARSHES, A HESITANT COMEBACK
New York Times, 3/08/05
BU SUBAT, Iraq, March 1 - The family of marsh Arabs that had lived in
this smashed house was named Tweresh, said Hamid Muhamed Hashim, walking
carefully in his cracked leather sandals over the fallen bricks.
PILOT STUDY TO MEASURE MEXICAN TRUCK EMISSIONS
Houston Chronicle, 3/14/05
NOGALES, ARIZ. - Trucks waiting in line to cross the Mexican border into
Nogales will have more than their loads inspected and paperwork checked in
BUSH TO PERMIT TRADING OF CREDITS TO LIMIT MERCURY
New York Times, 3/14/05
The Bush administration this week will propose the first federal controls
on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The new rule will abandon
the Environmental Protection Agency's original tilt toward a remedy favored
by most environmental groups in favor of a system of tradable pollution
allowances that is more congenial to industry.
CITY TO CONSIDER BAN ON SMOKING
Galveston Daily News, 3/11/05
GALVESTON - Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas wants to know what residents and
businesses think of the idea of banning smoking in at least some public
POWER PRODUCERS SEEK LATEST MODELS OF NUCLEAR REACTORS
New York Times, 3/15/05
Like the taxis in Havana, American nuclear power reactors are in heavy
use, important to the economy and really, really old. The most modern was
ordered in 1973.
POLLUTION FROM UPSETS AT PLANTS REDUCED
Houston Chronicle, 3/15/05
Pollution from episodic releases at area chemical plants and refineries
dropped by 15 million pounds from 2003 to 2004, a leader of the state
environmental agency said Tuesday.
LEGISLATORS SEEK LIMITS ON CORRIDOR
Houston Chronicle, 3/16/05
State Rep. Garnet Coleman has filed a bill seeking to bar the state from
spending money on the Trans-Texas Corridor until 2007 and calling for a
committee to study the corridor plan and its use of toll and bond financing.
SENATE VOTES TO OPEN ALASKA WILDLIFE REFUGE TO OIL DRILLING
Associated Press, 3/16/05
Amid the backdrop of soaring oil and gasoline prices, a sharply divided
Senate voted today to open the ecologically rich Alaska wildlife refuge to
oil drilling, delivering a major energy policy win for President Bush.
ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION
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