EJ News from Air Alliance Houston

Received this morning from Air Alliance Houston..lots of news of good work by them, t.e.j.a.s., other participants in the Moving Forward Network, and EPA Region 6.

 Big Week for EJ
Two Huge Events Highlight Houston’s Role in the Environmental Justice Movement

Adrian Shelley, Executive Director, Air Alliance Houston

Last Tuesday, more than 130 people joined us in Galena Park for a hearing on new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulating toxic emissions from refineries. Together, we told the EPA that while we appreciated the agency acting to protect our health, these rules did not go far enough. Residual risk levels to vulnerable communities were unacceptable. So called “fenceline monitoring” doesn’t deliver real time information and only tests for a single toxic: benzene. While benzene is a known human carcinogen and near-ubiquitous emission, monitoring for it alone in the passive manner described is inadequate.

On balance though, the hearing was a huge success. The large, enthusiastic crowd delivered clear and direct comments on a difficult subject that affects their very lives. We have heard that EPA rule writers left with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and purpose in their work. We hope that is mixed with a moral imperative to act. Thank you to everyone who participated and who supported this work!

The day after the hearing saw the beginning of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Training Workshop. The workshop is the third in a series of EJ workshops that EPA Region Six Administrator Ron Curry pledge to hold in each state throughout the region (New Mexico and Louisiana have already occurred, Arkansas and Oklahoma are forthcoming ).

Everything’s bigger in Texas, including our EJ workshops. I heard from folks at EPA that the agency reserved 200 spots for the event, then had to reopen registration when those slots were quickly filled. Ultimately, more than 240 people registered and attended. The workshop featured an impressive array of speakers, including Dr. Bob Bullard, Derick Evans, Hilton Kelley, Vernice Miller-Travis, Juan Parras, Matthew Tejada, and others.

In addition to this amazing lineup, plenary sessions were followed by breakout groups featuring in depth conversations with a subject’s presenters. Group were ably led by facilitators and note takers generously provided by the Barbara Jordan Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs.

All told, the three-day event was an excellent opportunity to share stories, learn from our peers, and recharge. Thank you to everyone who attended, and especially to those who planned and presented the event!

If you weren’t able to attend these great events — or even if you didn’t know about them — all hope is not lost! Other opportunities will come, and you can learn about them by subscribing to the Air Alliance Houston newsletter, or by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Of course you can always call Air Alliance Houston with any question about public health and environmental quality.

Finally, many conference attendees expressed frustration with access to government. You can keep up with federal environmental actions that might impact you by monitoring EPA Region 6 online or subscribing to EPA email alerts. At the state level, you can subscribe to any of a myriad of email alerts from our friends at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality .

Memorable Meeting of the Minds
EPA Region 6 Environmental Justice Community Training Workshop

Scott Elder, Intern, Air Alliance Houston

The frenetic week of Houston Environmental Justice events ended this Friday with the conclusion of the EPA Region 6 Environmental Justice Community Training Workshop.

The week began with the Waste and Environmental Justice Summit at Texas Southern University on Saturday August 2nd. Then the EPA Refinery Rule Hearing on Tuesday August 5th in Galena Park, before being caped off by the three day EJ workshop.

The workshop brought together grassroots community-organizations, nonprofit institutions and all forms of environments groups from all over the EPA’s 6th region (Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas), giving these groups an opportunity to network and brainstorm among like-minded people. However, between the schmoozing, the workshop allowed for facilitated discussion between these groups and government environmental regulators.
It began with a “Toxic Tour,” through the nearby refineries in Manchester, Pasadena and Baytown. For out-of-towners such as myself, the tour highlighted in jaw-dropping fashion the decaying nature of these refineries and the alarming proximity to residential neighborhoods.
The conference then broke into several smaller, more intimate sessions. The focuses of these sessions ranged from land use planning to US Coast Guard’s involvement in public safety, and gave attendees ample opportunity to grill experts with questions in their field. 
The event also had several high profile speakers such as Dr. Robert Bullard (one of the founding members of the environmental justice movement) and Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas’s 18th Congressional District Representative) — both of whom gave powerful speeches on the state of environmental justice. 
Vernice Miller-Travis, one of the organizers of the event, gave a great summary of the event in her closing address. Mrs. Miller-Travis stated that everyone had gained great information and had formed many relationships over the course of the last three days, and now the emphasis was on us to take advantage of them to improve Environmental Justice in the United States. 

More Harm than Good?
The Dangers of Nuisance Mosquito Spraying
Phillip Lindhurst, Environmental Activist


In 2012, the Home Owners Association (HOA) of a local residential subdivision sprayed pesticides for nuisance mosquitoes an estimated fifty-seven times. By the end of that summer, residents began to notice that much of the avian wildlife in the neighborhood had nearly vanished. A member of Texas Parks and Wild Life speculated that it was because their food source had been killed off. At that point, several concerned residents began researching the pesticide that was being used. 

They learned that the Texas Structural Pest Control (TSPC), which is a branch of the Texas Agricultural Department, governs pest control companies in Texas. After a lengthy discussion with a TSPC official, residents received information on the chemical being used, which is called Kontrol 30-30. Although Kontrol 30-30 comes with a list of plants that it can safely be sprayed on, many of the plants, herbs, and citrus fruit in the neighborhood were not on that list.

Residents were also alarmed to discover that Kontrol 30-30 can lead to serious respiratory problems when inhaled. Since then, a group of residents have organized an awareness campaign that educates individuals on the dangers of large-scale residential pesticide spraying and how communities can advocate for safer alternatives. After circulating a community petition, the long standing pest control company decided not to renew their contract with the HOA. For more information please contact Phillip Lindhurst.