Purpose of this website

Texas_PSRPurpose of this website

Texas PSR has designed this website to post relevant information and links as we expand our services throughout the entire State of Texas.

The posts will scroll down the page from newest to oldest.

There is a Search feature and the Category Tab at the right to select a specific topic you would like to see. In addition, the Resources Tab has information about the legislative process and a direct link to the Texas Legislature Online.

Oftentimes, a news article will be shorted or removed from a website. Or, an editorial can be lost in the middle of a series of posts. This website provides a place to archive and link to those specific types of posting.

Thank you all for your support and Enjoy!

Director – Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility

TOSAC Reform – Updating the Toxic Substance Control Act Will Save Lives

Updating the Toxic Substance Control Act Will Save Lives

For the last twenty-one years the Port of Houston has been ranked first in U.S. imports, and is a major driver of industry for Texas and the U.S. However, imports and exports are only a portion of this successful industry hub. Other chief economic engines include the construction and petrochemical industry; which both employing large numbers of area residents. Despite the impressive economic statistics, almost a quarter of the people living in the 29th District live below the poverty level, and the median household income is less than $37,000.

The environment and its impact on health are a common concern for local residents. Two neighborhoods in Houston depict the connection between good health and environmental quality. East Houston-Settegast and Downtown-East End, have the largest proportion of residents in fair or poor health according to the Health of Houston Survey. At the same time, residents face the largest number of environmental problems.

Houston area residents believe their environment is being adversely impacted by pollution. Almost 1 in 5 have concerns about their drinking water, hazardous waste dumping and being exposed to air pollution. Studies have proven time after time, that lower income residents suffer disproportionately from these environmental hazards.

One way to improve health while also keeping Houston competitive in trade is the enforcement of smart environmental protections. Federal chemical policy reform done right -can protect the health of area workers and their communities, drive innovation and create jobs.

Updating the Toxic Substance Control Act (TOSCA), the federal law that regulates and manages chemicals, to protect public health will allow Houston workers to have safer jobs while making safer products.

By taking steps toward sustainable production, prompted by sensible and health-protective chemical policy reform, area chemical manufacturers can become more competitive by:

  • lowering costs for industry,
  • guaranteeing access to important global markets,
  • limiting future cost pressures from non-renewable fossil-fuel inputs,
  • and meeting demands from consumers for safer and more sustainable products.

Furthermore, reducing exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace and in our communities will improve health by controlling preventable causes of disease. There is a growing body of research linking chemical exposures to numerous chronic conditions that impact the daily lives of our communities including, cancer, learning and developmental disabilities, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reproductive health and fertility problems and asthma.

Federal chemical policy reform must:

  • require chemical testing to ensure that the chemicals are safe to remain in use, rather than requiring that they be shown harmful in order to be removed,
  • address the special vulnerabilities of children, pregnant women, workers, and communities heavily affected by toxic chemicals.
  • preserve the power of state government to regulate chemicals,
  • and require the EPA to move quickly on the worst chemicals, including bans and phase-outs where necessary.

Texans deserve to safe and healthy lives. As part of the Safer Chemicals Healthy Families Coalition, the Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility is calling on all elected officials to support Federal TOSCA reform to building a cleaner, more efficient, American economy that will create jobs, and protect public health and safety.

Kathy Attar – Toxics Program Manager, National PSR

Chris Masey – Director,  Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility

 

Air Quality Lecture – San Antonio

http://m2.i.pbase.com/o4/51/19551/1/57419192.SASkyline_8x12.jpgForum on San Antonio’s Air Quality Issues
Tuesday, February 11, 7:00-8:30
Northrup Hall 040, Trinity University
San Antonio, TX

http://goo.gl/maps/yilWE

We used to be able to boast that this is the largest city in the U.S.A. in compliance with air quality standards, but not any longer!

•What are the main pollutants and their sources?
•How do these pollutants harm people’s health?
•How serious is our city’s/region’s problem and why is it growing?
•What can we do to stop the pollution and preventable sickness?

Speakers:

  • Former State Epidemiologist Dr. Vincent Fonseca, MD with specialization in Preventive Medicine, MPH
  • Peter Bella, Director of the Natural Resources Department of the Alamo Area Council of Governments (AACOG); -his primary focus is the Air Quality Issues of the entire region affected by EPA non-compliance problems; Medical Sociologist Dr. Meredith McGuire, Trinity University Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Free and open to the public

(Northrup Hall is the main administration building, with handicap access from Trinity Place, a cul-de-sac off Stadium Drive; however, public parking is in the lower floors of Laurie Auditorium, which is reached from the driveway just north of Trinity Place off Stadium Drive.]

Further information: Dr. Meredith McGuire 210-999-8560, mmcguire@trinity.edu

TCEQ Commissioners Meeting

October 23, 2013
TEXAS COMMISSION ON ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
9:30 A.M.
12100 Park 35 Circle
Room 201S, Bldg. E
Austin, TX

At the meeting, the commissioners will be asked to consider creating new rules to amending the Texas Administrative Code to further limit nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions from specific electric generating units in East and Central Texas, and for a public hearing to provide stakeholder input. The meeting will be held at the TCEQ offices in Austin on October 23, 2013. Please feel free to e-mail us directly for more information, or directions.

Texas PSR will be there supporting the Dallas County Medical Society. Will you?

Full Agenda

Agenda Excerpt:

PETITION FOR RULEMAKING

Item 38

Docket No.  2013-1612-RUL

Consideration of a petition for rulemaking under Section 20.15 of 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 20, Rulemaking. The petition was filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality by the Dallas County Medical Society on August 28, 2013. The petitioner is requesting amendments to 30 TAC Chapter 117, Control of Air Pollution from Nitrogen Compounds, Subchapter E, Multi- Region Combustion Control, Division 1, Utility Electric Generation in East and Central Texas. The petitioner is requesting a rulemaking that further limits nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions from electric generating units in East and Central Texas by requiring that certain coal-fired power plants in East Texas meet more stringent NOX emission standards based on selective catalytic reduction technology within five years, specifically the eight coal-fired electric generating units located at Big Brown Steam Electric Station (Freestone County), Monticello Steam Electric Station (Titus County), and Martin Lake Electrical Station (Rusk County). The petitioner is also requesting that the commission hold a public hearing to accept comments on this rulemaking.

(Javier Galván, Terry Salem) (Project No. 2013-060-PET-NR)

Trader Joe’s should provide antibiotic-free meats

Re: Routine use of feed antibiotics in animal food production

There is a growing body of research that links antibiotic-resistant infections in humans to higher incidences of antibiotic resistant bacteria in milk, poultry, turkey, beef, and pork products.

Why is this happening? Because of the overuse of non-therapeutic antibiotics used in industrial animal food production. This industry practice is unnecessary. “Feed antibiotics,” which are identical, or very nearly so, to human medicines that are used to promote faster animal growth and to prevent disease outbreaks (often due to unhygienic production conditions) instead of being used to treat a specific diagnosed disease.

Numerous health organizations including the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Health Care Without Harm have called for an end to this practice.

A food supply contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria is especially dangerous for vulnerable populations including the elderly, children, and those with compromised immune systems.

Resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat with commonly used antibiotics and can cause life threatening illnesses and even death. For example, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, known as MRSA, is one “super-bug” that has become resistant to the antibiotics typically usually used in treatments. Antibiotics are one of a doctor’s most powerful tools to help patients. However, many of our current antibiotics are losing their ability to treat diseases, and new effective antibiotics are not being found and produced quickly enough to meet the growing need.

A simple solution to begin to alleviate this serious problem is for consumers to purchase antibiotic-free meats. However, many grocers do not provide any such alternatives. Whole Foods currently has a “No Antibiotics” policy that eliminates consumer burden of obtaining antibiotic-free meats.

The Texas Physicians for Social Responsibility (formerly Austin PSR) encourages Trader Joe’s to become a leader among grocery stores and adopt a policy that provides the consumer with only one choice of meat products. Antibiotic-free meat. In addition, we also encourage the public and local hospitals to preferentially purchase meat and poultry produced without non-therapeutic antibiotics.

Diane Papillion MPH, RD

Texas PSR (formerly Austin PSR) Board Member

UT Nutrition Department Faculty

and

Carrie Gonzalez RN, MSN

Texas PSR Member

and

Chris Masey

Director – Texas PSR

Doctors, environmental groups want tighter emissions limits on Energy Future Holdings’ coal plants

Article published in the Dallas Morning News.
http://www.dallasnews.com/news/metro/20130827-doctors-environmental-groups-want-tighter-emissions-limits-on-energy-future-holdings-coal-plants.ece

By RANDY LEE LOFTIS
Environmental Writer
rloftis@dallasnews.com
Published: 27 August 2013 10:54 PM
Updated: 27 August 2013 11:51 PM

Expecting Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings to file bankruptcy soon,
doctors and environmentalists will try Wednesday to force pollution
cuts at the company’s oldest coal plants — either through costly
upgrades or replacement with cleaner energy sources.

The Dallas County Medical Society and several environmental groups,
backed by a Texas Medical Association resolution, said they will file
a formal petition for rulemaking that asks the Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality to tighten emissions limits on three plants
effective in 2018.

A spokesman for Luminant, EFH’s generating arm, said Tuesday that no
new rules are needed.

Doctors said they were taking the rare step of making the medical
society a formal party in state environmental proceedings to protect
public health in North Texas. They said they feared that
bankruptcy-related cost-cutting might postpone a cleanup by Luminant.

“We can’t sit back,” said Dr. Robert Haley, professor of internal
medicine and director of the Division of Epidemiology at UT
Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

The deadline would give EFH and Luminant, or a future owner, five
years to replace decades-old coal plants with other options or install
new pollution controls costing several hundred million dollars.

The doctors presented a cost and emissions analysis of several
alternatives prepared by a Rice University expert.

The TCEQ will have 60 days to decide whether it will grant or deny the
request to start writing the tougher emissions limits. The final
decision is up to the agency’s three full-time commissioners, all
appointed by Gov. Rick Perry.

Luminant, Texas’ biggest generator, will also be heard.

“In response to those wanting even more regulations, the record is
clear that existing laws and regulations are working, with Texas air
becoming cleaner,” Luminant spokesman Brad Watson said.

The three plants are operating legally and are not causing air-quality
problems, he said.

But Dr. John Carlo, Dallas County’s former chief medical officer,
chief epidemiologist and health authority, said local doctors’
experience clearly showed otherwise.

“The failure to solve air quality has been at the cost of health,”
said Carlo, now CEO of AIDS Arms Inc., a Dallas-based nonprofit that
fights HIV/AIDS.

“You can just look at the hospitalizations and asthma. The effect is
abstract — unless you’re the one experiencing it.”

The plants singled out in the doctors’ petition are Big Brown in
Freestone County, Martin Lake in Rusk County and Monticello in Titus
County. Each burns lignite coal from Texas mines, plus coal from
Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.

In 2012, Big Brown and Martin Lake ranked first and second in
sulfur-dioxide emissions from Texas coal plants, according to
Environmental Protection Agency data. Sulfur dioxide is linked to
tiny, inhalable airborne particles.

Martin Lake was first in Texas in nitrogen oxides, an ingredient in
smog, and in carbon dioxide, a factor in climate change. All three
plants are among the five biggest mercury sources nationwide.

The issue comes up now because of EFH’s precarious finances. Private
equity investors created the holding company in the $45 billion buyout
of Texas power giant TXU in 2007.

Since then, Texas wholesale electricity prices have stayed depressed
and retail electric customers have left for other providers. EFH faces
a $4 billion payment on its debt this year alone.

EFH has been in talks with creditors about how to structure a possible
bankruptcy filing. Transferring ownership of Luminant to the creditors
is among the discussion items the company has acknowledged, although
no details have been available.

It’s not certain what response EFH might get to a for-sale sign on its
oldest coal plants. Other bankrupt generators have shed old plants and
come out healthier and more efficient.

A sale under a bankruptcy court’s supervision could include all assets
or just selected ones.

Martin Lake and Big Brown already face multiple attempts to force
Luminant to upgrade pollution controls. The Sierra Club is suing
Luminant in federal court over alleged emissions violations.

And on Aug. 16, the Justice Department and the EPA sued Luminant in
federal court alleging permit-rules violations.

Luminant has denied any violations.

A bankruptcy filing would stay other legal proceedings. However, the
bankruptcy court could oversee the government’s pending enforcement
action.

Michael Friedman, a partner in the New York law firm of Richards Kibbe
& Orbe who specializes in corporate bankruptcies, said Luminant’s old
plants will produce cash for their owner if they can keep running
without upgrades. But requiring expensive environmental improvements
might change that.

“If they have no value, there will be no market,” Friedman said.

Regardless of the plants’ fate, their electricity would have to be
replaced. The doctors and their environmental allies are encouraging
the state environmental commission to consider a raft of alternative
sources.

The lowest-cost and least-polluting option would be to boost energy
efficiency enough to cover the plants’ production, said Daniel Cohan,
a Rice University associate professor of environmental engineering.

Other options are more expensive or create more emissions, Cohan said.

Luminant’s Watson rejected Cohan’s analysis.

“This isn’t a realistic plan for a growing state like Texas that must
have reliable electric generation as demand increases for power,” he
said.

Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen, one of the groups joining the
Dallas County Medical Society in the petition, said the five-year
deadline is meant to provide plenty of time to find cleaner power
options.

“That allows the market to plan rationally,” he said. “None of us
wants the lights to go out.”

Let’s get rid of coal

Letters to the editor – Austin American Statesman (August 8th) {must be a subscriber}that ties together coal pollution, water shortage and the Fayette coal plant.

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————
Let’s get rid of coal

A recent article on drought woes in the Colorado River Basin is a solid examination of the strains on our region’s lifeblood. Another strain on water supplies is the dirty Fayette coal plant, which sucks more than 5 billion gallons of water annually from the Colorado River and the Highland Lakes upstream of Austin. The Fayette coal plant, owned by the city of Austin and the Lower Colorado River Authority, belches out so much carbon dioxide, lead and soot, it’s in the top ten in Texas for those pollutants.

Austin’s recently approved wind energy contracts are cheaper than it costs us to generate electricity by burning coal. Austin and the LCRA must work together to close this 19th century energy source and replace it with clean energy and energy efficiency. Doing so will keep more water in our lakes, rivers and bays, while eliminating nasty pollution from coal. – Colin Clark, Austin Beyond Coal

Kill the coal plant

Kill the coal plant

Posted: 12:48 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, 2013 (letters to the editor – Austin American Statesman)

I would like to see the City Council phase out the Fayette coal plant as quickly as possible. Aside from the climate change, the immediate public health risk of burning coal is childhood asthma. Asthma now strikes nearly 1 out of every 10 school children and is the number one health issue that causes kids to miss school. Children are at a greater health risk from smog produced by coal-fired power plants because they are more likely to be active outdoors and because their lungs are still developing.

Austin has become a leader in the renewable energy field, and I’m very proud of that. Our “dirty secret” is the coal plant, however. The short-sighted approach is to sell the plant. However, that prolongs the active life of the plant, meaning that Texans will still be inhaling toxic lung irritants even though we no longer “own” the plant. The responsible and forward-thinking approach is to retire the plant and lead other cities in the courage to make sustainable energy decisions.

Suzanne Rittenberry

Less talk, more action on climate change, please

Adams, Gray: Less talk, more action on climate change, please

Posted: 6:58 p.m. Thursday, June 20, 2013 (Austin American Statesman)

BY SUSAN ADAMS,ANNA GRAYBEAL – LOCAL CONTRIBUTORS

In the United States, unlike any other country in the world, climate change has become a hot-button topic. The voices are so strident it seems the science itself is actually up for debate. Indeed, some intentionally perpetuate this idea, using the claim that the science is uncertain as a way to delay action.

Amid this cacophony, how are we to understand what’s really going on? Well, how do we know anything about how the world works? Usually, we know something because we were taught it by reliable sources, because it fits in with what we already know, and because we see it in practice. For example, most of us are not aeronautical engineers, but we rarely question whether our next airplane will get us safely to our destination. Why? Simple: the experts say it should, we have some vague idea that the physics of flight make sense, and we know that flights get where they’re going every day.

In the case of climate change, these same conditions are met. First, among climate scientists, there is a 97 percent consensus that warming is happening and is caused by human activity. The U.S. National Academy, along with national academies of all the industrial nations and virtually every scientific society in the United States, agree. Second, the basic scientific principles underlying global warming have been well established. As far back as 1859, scientist John Tyndall realized that increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in a tube of air held under a light caused the temperature in the tube to rise. Third, we can read about the effects of a warming climate in the daily paper — the Arctic ice is melting, fish populations are heading towards the poles, tropical diseases are arriving on our temperate shores, etc.

So why does it seem like the science of climate change is in doubt? Because a concerted effort is being made to suggest that it is, as a way to delay action. For example, a recent piece in the American-Statesman by Kathleen Harnett White claimed that “global warming has ceased for 16 years.” How could White arrive at such a conclusion? When you look at a graph of global temperatures over the past century, you see a line that wiggles a fair amount, but the underlying trend is undeniably upward, the past 16 years included.

White gets the result she wants by cherry-picking her numbers. Any story can be told from any set of data, depending on which data you include; it’s just that not all stories are equally valid. If you pick your cherries and compare two specific data points 16 years apart, you can draw a flat line, but is that really a fair representation of the underlying data? No, of course not.

Why would White and others touting similar cherry-picked claims (our own U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith among them) want to distort the facts on climate change? As they say in detective work, when in doubt, follow the money. In White’s case, she works for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry. These corporations, and those in their pockets, really want to keep selling fossil fuels, just like the cigarette companies really wanted to keep selling cigarettes.

So, you may ask, what is our agenda? We are both moms of little girls, and we’re worried about their future. We know we have a lot of work to do to wean off fossil fuels, and we want the politicians to stop dithering over distorted scientific claims and start implementing the steps we need to take.

Can we actually transition away from fossil fuels without tanking our economy and our way of life? It turns out we can, and the path forward is widely agreed upon by experts and policymakers from across the political spectrum: put a price on carbon emissions. Right now, fossil fuels are enjoying a massive subsidy because we the people pay for the cost of their emissions, recently estimated by the International Monetary Fund to exceed $800 billion per year, in the form of health care costs, property damage, insurance payouts, agricultural loss, etc.

What’s stopping us is nothing more, or less, than political will. But if enough people speak up, we can turn this tide, and for our daughters’ sakes we maintain hope that we will. All the ingredients are there, but we must give up the pretense that the science is in doubt and begin. As a wise man once said, “A little less conversation, a little more action please.”

Adams, a technical writer, and Graybeal, a clinical psychologist, are co-leaders of the Austin chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

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