Archive for December, 2011
Texas environmental and public health groups welcome today’s new EPA safeguards to reduce mercury and other toxic air pollutants from the smokestacks of the nation’s aging fleet of coal and oil-fired power plants. The new public health protection has been developed over nearly twenty years and is required by law under the Clean Air Act, the landmark public health legislation passed during the Nixon Administration. The rules will be a significant benefit to public health and water quality in Texas since six of the top 10 worst mercury emitting power plants in the nation are in Texas. Twenty-three Texas lakes near coal plants are so contaminated with mercury that eating fish from those lakes could cause brain damage to unborn children. Information about the new health protection can be found at http://epa.gov/mats/.
“As a family doctor, I am regularly obligated to council young women to limit fish consumption. Mercury exposure during pregnancy can cause severe mental retardation, cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness, and seizures in children. Kids who eat contaminated seafood have demonstrated deficits in attention, fine motor function, language, visual-spatial abilities, and memory. Prevention is key — I can’t fix a child’s brain that has been damaged by mercury. The costs both to those families that are affected by mercury toxicity and to our society as a whole are staggering. At last there is good news. I applaud the EPA standards which could go a long way to clean up our air and reduce unnecessary exposures to mercury and other dangerous toxins,” said Dr. Lisa Doggett, a practicing Physician and co-president of Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility.
In July, more than 800,000 comments from across the country were delivered to EPA in support of the new mercury and air toxics rule, with more than 600,000 of these from Sierra Club members and supporters. Despite being the single largest industrial emitters of heavy metals like arsenic, mercury, and selenium, power plants have been exempt from Clean Air Act standards that apply to all other industry sectors.
“The only thing more shocking than the large amounts of toxic chemicals released into the air each year by coal and oil fired power plants is the fact that these emissions have been allowed for so many years,” said Ilan Levin, Environmental Integrity Project Associate Director.
According to a report based on utility data by the Environmental Integrity Project (available at http://www.environmentalintegrity.org), Texas is by far the nation’s top power plant mercury polluter. Texas coal-fired power plants emitted 16.9 percent of the total U.S. mercury air emissions for 2010, and Texas is home to 11 of the top 50 mercury polluters in the nation. Dallas-based Luminant (formerly TXU) operates the nation’s dirtiest power plant for mercury emissions; the Big Brown coal plant, located about halfway between Houston and Dallas, pumped 1,610.1 pounds of mercury into the air in 2010. Three of Luminant’s other large coal-fired power plants are also ranked among the top 50 dirtiest power plants in the nation: Martin Lake (number three), Monticello (number seven), and Sandow 4 (a single coal-fired boiler ranked number 28).
Other Texas coal-fired power plants owned by American Electric Power, NRG, and the Lower Colorado River Authority and City of Austin are among the nation’s top 50 worst mercury air polluters. EPA’s new rule is intended to reduce the levels of toxic metals and acid gases that these electric power plants emit into the atmosphere.
The list of the most polluting plants and states can be found here: http://www.environmentamerica.org/home/reports/report-archives/clean-air/clean-air/americas-biggest-polluters-how-cleaning-up-the-dirtiest-power-plants-will-protect-public-health
“Today’s new health protection will reduce mercury pollution in our air and water substantially over the next decade,” said Jen Powis, Senior Regional Representative with the Sierra Club. “Reducing mercury pollution will have a significant impact for Texans’ health, and all Texas power generators should look forward to the opportunity to promote the health of women, babies, and young children in our state.”
In addition to lowering mercury emissions, the rule will reduce other fine particle heavy metals like arsenic, chromium, and lead, saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars each year. EPA has estimated that the power plant air toxics rule will avoid between 6,800 and 17,000 premature deaths each year, and will result in annual savings of $48 to $140 billion.
“The hidden costs of toxic pollution from power plants far exceed the pennies that cleanup will cost each consumer. For every dollar spent on pollution controls we will get $5 to $13 in health benefits. Coal-fired power plants are also the single largest source of toxic mercury air pollution in Texas and the rest of the United States. Besides mercury, coal-fired power plants emit a suite of other toxic air pollutants, which can cause serious health effects, especially for children and developing fetuses. Studies by the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio have found correlations between high levels of mercury emissions and kids with autism in schools in Texas,” said Karen Hadden, Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.
Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen said, “For decades, the electric power industry has delayed cleanup and lobbied against public health rules designed to reduce pollution. They have decided that it was cheaper to invest in politicians than pollution controls and we see the result here in Texas. The technology and pollution control equipment necessary to reduce emissions of mercury and other dangerous air toxics are widely available and are working at some power plants across the country. There is no reason for Americans — and Texans in particular — to continue to live with risks to their health and to the environment.”
Stacy Guidry, Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment, Austin office, said, “The City of Austin has a ‘green’ reputation, but our very own Fayette Power Plant is right up there among the dirtiest – number 49 out of more than 450 coal fired power plants nationwide, in terms of sheer pounds of mercury emitted into the air. In 2010, the Fayette power plant, owned by the Lower Colorado River Authority and Austin Energy, reported spewing 360 pounds of mercury out of the smokestacks. Airborne mercury falls to the ground and contaminates water and soil. That’s not my definition of ‘green’ and the City of Austin can do better.”
EPA Rule Information
- Final Rule (PDF) (1,117pp, 2.4MB)
- Fact Sheet Overview (PDF) (3pp, 134k)
- Fact Sheet: Summary of the Rule (PDF) (6pp, 32k)
- Fact Sheet: Clean Air and Reliable Electricity (PDF) (6pp, 147k)
- Fact Sheet: Benefits and Costs of Cleaning up Toxic Air Pollutants (PDF) (3pp, 190k)
- Fact Sheet: Adjustments from Proposal to Final (PDF) (2pp, 114k)
- Regulatory Impact Analysis (510pp, 8.3MB)
- Integrated Planning Model (IPM) Analysis
- Mercury Risk Assessment (PDF) (196pp, 3.7MB)
- Emissions Overview Memorandum (PDF) (19pp, 2.5MB)
- Enforcement Response Policy for CAA 113 (PDF) (7pp, 2MB)
Planning for Texas’ energy future must include drought proofing our energy supply with energy efficiency and renewable energy, not propping up old dirty fossil fuel plants. To that end, we applaud the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT – the Texas electric grid operator) for calling Luminant’s bluff to shut down the aging Monticello coal fired plant in North Texas, and finding that we don’t need to pay a premium to run one of Texas dirtiest coal plants to keep the air conditioners running.
In October of this year, the EPA announced new regulations (called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule or CSAPR) to reduce air pollution from industrial facilities like coal-fired power plants on downwind communities. Prior to the release of this new rule, TXU/Luminant, the largest power generating company in Texas, blamed the impending EPA regulations for job losses and subsequently announced it would be shutting down two of its coal units at Monticello.
Three Texas Luminant plants (Monticello, Martin Lake, and Big Brown) are some of the dirtiest coal plants in the country, and would be impacted by any new air pollution rules the federal government might impose. But compared to other coal plants, these three plants alone are:
- 46.8% of all Texas coal plant emissions (19 existing coal plants)
- 41.5% of all Texas coal plant SO2 emissions
- 36.0% of all Texas coal plant PM-10 emissions
- 30.6% of all Texas coal plant NOx emissions
- 71.7% of all Texas coal plant CO2 emissions
and by all
rights should clean up their act or shut down. However, a report from TR Rose Associates shows in detail how Luminant’s shuttering of these coal plants is most likely due to poor financial management rather than regulation of their air quality emissions.
Right now in Texas, the drought and the expected heat wave next summer is far more of a problem than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules for water intensive plants like coal and nuclear electric generation plants. If we are to keep the lights on next summer, the Governor, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Public Utility Commission of Texas should develop a plan to use energy more wisely and efficiently during the summer and not worry about the shuttering of dirty old coal plants.
After receiving notice that Luminant, had filed a Notification of Suspension of Operations for Monticello Units 1 and 2, ERCOT – the grid operator – had to make a determination about whether it was okay for Luminant to retire the units rather than idle them so that ERCOT could call on them to run in a grid emergency. This is what ERCOT calls a “Reliability Must Run” (RMR) status determination. An RMR status for the old Monticello units would have meant that Luminant might have been getting paid a premium to run these units at full capacity next summer, with almost no limits placed upon the type or amount of emissions during that activity, the implications for Dallas/Ft Worth’s air quality would probably have been significant.
According to a release by ERCOT, “As required by Protocol Section 3.14.1(1), ERCOT has completed its analysis and determined that Monticello Units 1 and 2 are not needed to support ERCOT transmission System reliability (i.e., voltage support, stability or management of localized transmission constraints under first contingency criteria). ERCOT, in coordination with Oncor, has identified Pre-Contingency Action Plans (PCAPs) and Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) which will be used to ensure transmission security without the need for RMR Agreements associated with these Resources. . . Based upon this final determination, the Resources may cease or suspend operations according to the schedule in their Notice of Suspension of Operations.”
So to recap:
- Luminant threatens to shut down its two old units at Monticello coal-fired generating plant and blames the new EPA Cross State Air Pollution Rules.
- A report from TR Rose Associates shows Luminant’s shuttering of these coal plants is most likely due to poor financial management rather than regulation of their air quality emissions.
- ERCOT determines that these Monticello units are NOT needed to maintain grid stability.
Luminant 0 : State of Texas 2
Big Oil’s representatives in the House and Senate are pushing legislation that would rush approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Up until now President Obama has stood strong, threatening to reject any bill that includes the pipeline.
But in the last hour, some terrible news has begun to leak from DC. President Obama seems to be on the verge of caving on Keystone. There’s no way to sugarcoat it — if the President allows Keystone to move forward, he will be failing the single biggest environmental test of his presidency.
The next few hours will be absolutely crucial — the President needs to hear from you that cutting a back-room deal with Big Oil on Keystone XL is unacceptable. If he steps up and threatens to veto this bill, he can stop this pipeline in its tracks.
Can you make a call right away? Here’s the White House number: 202-456-1111
Feel free to say what you want on the call, but remember to drive this one message home: to keep his promises, President Obama needs to veto legislation that would rush approval of Keystone XL. This pipeline is a threat to our climate and jobs and needs to be stopped.
After you’ve called the White House, take 30 seconds to let us know how it went by clicking here.
(Don’t worry if you get a busy signal — it’s actually a good sign: it means we’ve flooded the White House switchboard and that the movement is sending an overwhelming message to the President. Just keep on trying until you get through.)
President Obama came into office promising to “end the tyranny of oil.” This is his chance to prove he was serious. If he’s not, he needs to know right now that there will be real consequences.
Big Oil cut a back-room deal with the dirtiest Members of Congress to attach this legislation to a must-pass tax cut bill. These kinds of deals exemplify the tyranny Big Oil exercises over our government, and underscores why the President needs to threaten a veto.
We have just a few hours to convince him to stand strong and veto any legislation to rush the Keystone pipeline. Can you make a call right now and tell him that we expect nothing less? Here’s the number again: 202-456-1111
Your calls right now are absolutely crucial, and you should also be getting ready to get back into the streets in the days and weeks to come. We’re dusting off our plans to go to Obama 2012 offices and raise some ruckus. Call the White House, but also get in touch with your friends to start plotting your next steps locally.
This fight isn’t over yet — not by a long shot — and you can make a difference.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended its review of the foreign ownership portion of the application to expand the South Texas Project nuclear plant over concerns that the owners haven’t done enough to ensure domestic control of the plant.
Toshiba Corp., based in Japan, could obtain an 85 percent ownership stake in the two nuclear plants proposed for the site outside of Bay City, the NRC found, meaning the company could have “the power to exercise ownership, control or domination over NINA,” or Nuclear Innovation North America.
NINA is a partnership between Toshiba and NRG Energy, which currently shares ownership of STP’s existing nuclear plants with CPS Energy and Austin Energy.
According to the Express-News, NRC staff, in its Dec. 13 letter to NINA, determined that the plan as submitted doesn’t meet the requirements of a federal law prohibiting foreign ownerships of a nuclear plant because, since NRG will not be investing additional capital in the project, “there is reason to believe that most of the financing going forward will be from Toshiba,” a foreign corporation.
This decision could push back a final decision on the license application:
The commission confirmed that the rest of the licensing application will continue to move ahead, but a license, which has been expected by sometime in 2012, will not be granted until the foreign ownership question is resolved.
Back in April of this year, federal officials said French owned UniStar Nuclear Energy was not eligible to build a third reactor at Calvert Cliffs because it is not a U.S.-owned company. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said although a review of the application for the $9.6 billion reactor in Southern Maryland will still take place, a license would not be issued until the ownership requirements were met. That application now lies languishing for want of U.S. based investors.
Earlier this week, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Sandy Creek Energy Associates filed a consent decree with a federal court settling legal challenges to the Sandy Creek Energy Station near Riesel, TX. Although the U.S. Court of Appeals had previously ruled in favor of Sierra Club’s and Public Citizen’s lawsuit against this proposed plant for Clean Air Act violations, construction of the Sandy Creek Energy Station is mostly complete. The proposed consent decree requires Sandy Creek to slash its emissions of toxic mercury and particle pollution from this plant and make significant clean energy investments in the local community.
Jen Powis, Campaign Representative with Sierra Club, said, “With this settlement, Sierra Club and Public Citizen were able to secure more than $400,000 for solar generation around the Riesel community, creating clean energy jobs and boosting the state’s solar capacity. This settlement also achieves a significant reduction in pollution, which benefits Texans and our neighbors.”
Specifically, the settlement requires Sandy Creek to lower its pollution levels and reduce the impact this plant will have on Texas’ already severe air quality problems.
“The federal courts found that we were right on the law,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, “but the plant is now almost complete, so emission reductions and solar on school rooftops are a good compromise that will both reduce pollution and help bolster reserve capacity for next summer. This would not have occurred if the citizens in the area had not gotten together to oppose the plant as it was originally proposed.”
The clean energy investments required by this settlement include a proposed solar panel installation at the nearby school. Kent Reynolds, the Superintendent of the Hallsburg Independent School District said, “Hallsburg ISD is very fortunate to be the beneficiary of a settlement allowing Hallsburg School to install solar panels on our facility for electricity production that will directly benefit the district. The savings on electricity realized by this project will allow the school to spend that money on the over-all instructional program for the students.”
“This is a great settlement for our community and our schools,” said Robert Cervenka, co-chair of the local organization, Texans Protecting Our Water Environment and Resources (TPOWER). “As a result of our efforts, this new settlement will reduce emissions of mercury by 50 percent and particle emissions by another 25 percent. This in addition to significant reductions we had already achieved as a result of citizens standing up for their rights, with the added bonus of a solar system being built on one of our local schools. This just shows the power of people in a community working together to maintain the quality of life we moved here for and I’d like to thank everyone for all the help.”
Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and other public health and environmental groups continue to fight Texas’ other proposed coal plants in court and with grassroots pressure. Renewable energy, especially wind power, continues to demonstrate its reliability and affordability across the state.
A draft finding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could have a chilling effect on states trying to determine how to regulate the process.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping pressurised water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas to the surface.
The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath the Wyoming community of Pavillion where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals.
Health officials advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found hydrocarbons in their wells.
The EPA announcement has major implications for the vast increase in gas drilling in the US in recent years. Fracking has played a large role in opening up many reserves.
The industry has long contended that fracking is safe, but environmentalists and some residents who live near drilling sites say it has poisoned groundwater.
The EPA said its announcement is the first step in a process of opening up its findings for review by the public and other scientists.
“EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion residents have access to safe drinking water,” said Jim Martin, EPA regional administrator in Denver. “We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process.”
At this time, the EPA is emphasising that the findings are specific to the Pavillion area. The agency said the fracking that occurred in Pavillion differed from fracking methods used elsewhere in regions with different geological characteristics. Further studies need to be done in specific areas and the finding of this report should not be extrapolated to other areas of high activity.
This feels a bit like the EPA is hedging their bets and is scant consolation to those folks in other parts of the country who have the sideshow ability to light their water taps on fire. Nevertheless, this finding may make it easier for other communities to have their voices heard when they express concerns about pollution of their water supplies. This will be particularly important in Texas which is looking at a multi-year, record breaking drought in their future.
The fracking occurred below the level of the drinking water aquifer and close to water wells, the EPA said. Elsewhere, drilling is more remote and fracking occurs much deeper than the level of groundwater that anybody would use.
In Colorado, regulators are considering requiring oil and gas companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in fracking
The public and industry representatives packed an 11-hour hearing on the issue on Monday. They all generally supported the proposal but the sticking point is whether trade secrets would have to be disclosed and how quickly the information would have be turned over.
Industry representatives say Colorado and Texas are the only states to have moved to consider disclosing all fracking chemicals, not just those considered hazardous by workplace regulators.
Posted in Nuclear, Radioactive Waste, Water, tagged environment, radipactove waste, TCEQ, Texas, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, waste control specialists, WCS on December 8, 2011 | Leave a Comment »
Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) is seeking several amendments to its Radioactive Material License # R04100 from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Five of the amendments request design changes to the Compact Waste Disposal Facility (CWF) and the Federal Waste Facility (FWF) for commercial and federal low-level radiactive waste disposal. The other two amendment applications set forth new Waste Acceptance Criteria that includes rates and contract considerations and new pavement design considerations.
Just as important, TCEQ is considering revising language and definition for waste of international origin, acceptance criteria, reporting of inventory and liability coverage as well as the issued TCEQ waste water permit.
TCEQ is accepting public comments and requests for a public meeting. These can be submitted by mail to:
the Office of the Chief Clerk
P. O. Box 13087
or electronically at www.tceq.state.tx.us/about/comments.html by December 17th.
If you need more information about the license application or the licensing process, please call the TCEQ Office of Public Assistance at 1-800-687-4040.
We will post the link to the amendment applications as soon as we are able to find them. TCEQ recently migrated its database and the links no longer work. Makes finding materials to base written comments on a bit more complicated.
As 2011 winds to a close, the Weather Channel reports that it has been a volatile year of weather across the United States and the tally of weather-related disasters exceeding a billion dollars set a record for the most billion-dollar weather disasters in a single year earlier this year and now the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) has tacked on another two events to list.
To date, there have been a twelve billion-dollar disasters with a combined cost exceeding $50 billion and a winter storm is heading toward the highly populated East Coast threatening more flooding before the end of the calendar year. The previous record for a single year, since records began in 1980, was nine in 2008.
The additions were to split wildfires and drought into two separate categories plus another severe thunderstorm/tornado event in June. Evaluations are still underway for several other extreme events this year, including Tropical Storm Lee and “Snowtober”. However, the available data to NCDC at this time keeps them below $1 billion.
Below is Weather.com’s look back at these twelve disasters starting with Hurricane Irene and ending with the Groundhog Day Blizzard.
Irene’s path history
Irene made its initial landfall over coastal North Carolina and moved northward along the Mid-Atlantic Coast before making a final landfall over New York City as a tropical storm.
Highlights: Caused torrential rainfall and catastrophic flooding in portions of the Northeast. Wind damage in coastal N.C., Va., and Md. was moderate with considerable damage from falling trees and power lines. More than 7 million lost power from Hurricane Irene. Coastal erosion was severe in portions of the North Carolina Outer Banks.
Caused more than $7.3 billion in damage and 45 fatalities in the U.S.
Upper Midwest Flooding
River flooding in Minot, N.D. Image: AP
Current economic losses are estimated to exceed $2 billion dollars.
Highlights: Estimated 11,000 evacuated from Minot, N.D. where estimated 4,000 homes flooded from the Souris River. Numerous levees breached on Missouri River, flooding thousands of acres of farmland.
The flooding was caused by melting of an above-average northern Rockies snowpack, and heavy spring and early summer rainfall.
Top 10 wettest Jan – July in N. Dakota, S. Dakota, and Montana. Records date back to 1895.
A major concern with the flood was rising waters that infiltrated a nuclear power plant on the river whose flood controls nearly failed.
River flooding in Memphis (Image credit: NASA)
Current economic losses are estimated between $3 billion to $4 billion dollars.
Preliminary breakdown:$500 million to agriculture in Arkansas, $320 million in damage to Memphis, Tenn., $800 million to agriculture in Mississippi, $317 million to agriculture and property in Missouri’s Birds Point-New Madrid Spillway, $80 million for the first 30 days of flood-fighting efforts in Louisiana.
The flooding was caused by heavy rains in April from northern Arkansas and southern Missouri to the Ohio Valley. This water all flowed downstream into the Mississippi River, resulting in record flooding.
April was the wettest month on record in Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Missouri, Arkansas and Tennessee all finished with a top five wettest April.
Much of the range and pasture conditions were rated very poor in Texas and Oklahoma throughout the 2011 crop growing season.
Total direct losses to agriculture and cattle are approaching $10 billion.
The Texas state climatalogist is predicting the state is in a multi-year drought pattern and that the state can expect the drought and high heat conditions to continue into the 2012 summer. Some communities are already out of water and are not expected to recover for quite some time. In the meantime, this summer had record breaking heat shattering records right and left (Austin 90 days of 100+ degree days, blasting past the previous record of 69 days set in 1925, and other Texas cities set similar records)
Las Conchas wildfire in New Mexico (AP photo)
Drought conditions and extreme heat fueled a series of wildfires across these states.
Bastrop Fire in Texas – Most destructive fire in Texas history. Over 3 million acres were burned across Texas this year.
Wallow Fire in Arizona – Consumed over 500,000 acres, making it the largest fire in Arizona history (See Photos).
Las Conchas fire in New Mexico – Largest fire in New Mexico history, consuming over 150,000 acres
Total losses from wildfire activity across all three states exceeds $1 billion.
June 18-22 Midwest/Southeast Tornadoes and Severe Weather
Tornado near Benedict, Neb. on June 20, 2011 (iWitness Weather user mistyand chad)
Outbreak of 81 tornadoes over central states (OK, TX, KS, NE, MO, IA, IL)
Additional wind/hail damage over TN, GA, NC and SC.
More than $1.3 billion in total losses.
Destruction in Joplin, Mo. (AP photo)
Severe storms and an estimated 180 tornadoes hit a large swath of the country from the Midwest to the South and Northeast. Insured losses are more than $6.5 billion. Total losses are greater than $9.1 billion.
Tuscaloosa, Ala., tornado
Massive outbreak of severe thunderstorms and estimated 343 tornadoes from the South into portions of the Midwest and Northeast. Total losses are now estimated to be at $10.2 billion.
321 fatalities combined in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. Of those, 240 occurred in Alabama.
Damage in Tushka, Okla. (AP photo)
Three-day siege of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes from the central and southern Plains to Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia and the Carolinas. Total damage estimate over $2.1 billion.
Preliminary number of tornadoes: 177
38 fatalities combined in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia.
A truck was tossed into this basement in Pocahontas County, Iowa (Image credit: yfrog.com ktivnews)
Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes hit portions of the Midwest, South and Plains. Total damage estimate of more than $2.2 billion.
Severe damage and several injuries were caused by a tornado in Pulaski, Va., on April 8.
An EF3 tornado leveled Mapleton, Iowa, on April 9 .
At least 14 confirmed tornadoes in Wisconsin on April 10, a record for any April day in the state. An EF3 tornado heavily damaged Merrill, Wis.
Tree crushes a car in Memphis, Tenn. (Image credit: twitgoo.com OOHH_My)
A massive wind damage event with tornadoes swept from the Ohio Valley to the South and mid-Atlantic. Total damage estimate is greater than $2.8 billion.
More than 1,350 damaging wind reports. Estimated 46 tornadoes.
Cars abandoned in Chicago (Source: twitpic.com/EddiesTPWong)
Affected many central and eastern states, causing at least $1.8 billion in total losses.
This is a guest blog by departing Public Citizen intern Chantelle B.
In recent months, Nebraska’s government has taken a strong stand against the Keystone XL Pipeline’s route, which currently passes through the ecologically fragile Sandhills region and North America’s largest aquifer – the Ogallala – which, if polluted, could have disastrous effects. The majority of this aquifer lies under Nebraska, and provides the state with 70% of its freshwater. But the Ogallala aquifer’s importance goes beyond Kansas. It is one of the most important sources of water in the Plains Region, used for residential and industrial purposes as well as agriculture, the base of the economy in the area. Texas is one of the leading states irrigating from the aquifer, accounting for about 40% of Texas’ water use. Officials in the Nebraskan State government, such as Governor David Heinman, have signed a bill to ensure that TransCanada will not be able to build their behemoth of a Pipeline through the precious Sandhills region.
On November 10th, President Obama delayed the date for granting TransCanada a permit to construct the Pipeline across the U.S.-Canada border until after the 2012 Presidential elections. One component of the President’s decision to postpone the Pipeline’s construction was to ensure a Department of State-approved rerouting that satisfies Nebraska’s demands. Unfortunately for the environment, Nebraskans are showing a proclivity to support the Pipeline generally, and only stress the environmental importance of the delicate Ogallala and Sandhills region. TransCanada is set to collaborate with the Nebraska department of environmental quality and the DoS, which will audit its alternate route to ensure it avoids the regions in question, making it only marginally more environmentally sound. However, TransCanada’s President for Energy and Oil Pipelines, Alex Pourbaix, still affirms his belief that the Pipeline would have been equally safe even if the original route were implemented.
Although a new route will protect the most ecologically sensitive locations in Nebraska, there remains the problem that a daughter project already in play, the Keystone 1 Pipeline in the northern Great Plains, has already exceeded its projected spill figures. Despite TransCanada’s prediction that this smaller pipeline would spill around 11 times throughout its lifetime of approximately 50 years, it has already had more than it’s lifetime number of spills within its first year of operation. So while the Sandhills region and Ogallala may be spared from catastrophe the land traversed in the new route will still be subject to as devastating a fate, like the 6 story geyser of diluted bitumen seen in the worst Keystone 1 spill.
Everyone in the way of this pipeline should become aware of the history of ecological damage these types of pipelines have already experienced. And those of us near the terminous – where heavy crude oil refineries may be gearing up to refine this most polluting of all crudes, spilling more toxins into the air around Houston, Beaumont and Port Arthur, TX or the ports will load large ships with the diluted bitumen and send them out into the Gulf of Mexico – well, we have other pollution worries to consider.
One of the great things about living in Texas is our winters are mild enough that many outdoor activities are year round activities, including fishing. BUT . . ., before you eat that fish, be sure to check out the mercury advisories for the state’s waterways on the Texas Department of Health website to make sure that fish is safe to eat – especially for children and pregnant women.
The main source of mercury in Texas waterways comes from coal fired power plants. Check out www.stopthecoalplant.org for more information.
According to a story in the New York Times, landowners across the country have signed millions of leases allowing companies to drill for oil and natural gas on their land, but some of these landowners — often in rural areas, and lured by the promise of quick payouts — are finding out too late what is, and what is not, in the fine print.
Energy company officials say that standard leases include language that protects landowners. But a review of more than 111,000 leases, addenda and related documents by The New York Times suggests otherwise:
- Fewer than half the leases require companies to compensate landowners for water contamination after drilling begins. And only about half the documents have language that lawyers suggest should be included to require payment for damages to livestock or crops.
- Most leases grant gas companies broad rights to decide where they can cut down trees, store chemicals, build roads and drill. Companies are also permitted to operate generators and spotlights through the night near homes during drilling.
- In the leases, drilling companies rarely describe to landowners the potential environmental and other risks that federal laws require them to disclose in filings to investors.
- Most leases are for three or five years, but at least two-thirds of those reviewed by The Times allow extensions without additional approval from landowners. If landowners have second thoughts about drilling on their land or want to negotiate for more money, they may be out of luck.
The leases — obtained through open records requests — are mostly from gas-rich areas in Texas. If you want to read the entire New York Times story, click here.
For the second year, 24/7 Wall St. has reviewed data on financial, health, standard of living and government services by state to determine how well each state is managed. Based on this data, 24/7 Wall St. ranked the 50 states from the best to worst run. The best-run state is Wyoming. The worst-run state is California. And Texas falls right in the middle at 25 but we tie with California for worst in the country in one category.
- State debt per capita: $1,240 (2nd lowest)
- Pct. without health insurance: 23.7% (the highest)
- Pct. below poverty line: 17.0% (9th highest)
- Unemployment: 8.5% (23rd highest)
Texas managed to spend the third least per capita in 2009, and as a partial consequence has the second lowest debt per capita, a mere $1,240 per person. Austere spending comes at a price, however. Nearly a quarter of the state’s residents are without health insurance. Also, only 80.9% of Texans 25 years or older graduated from high school. While this is an improvement from its 2003 rate of 77%, it is tied with California for worst among all states.