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2018 Year in Review: Texas

Fighting for Healthy Communities

In a year that experienced sizzling temperatures, Public Citizen’s Texas office pressed cities throughout Texas to take tangible steps toward curbing climate change. We engaged activists and policymakers in three of the state’s largest cities – Houston, Dallas and Austin:

  • In Austin, we helped the city develop a climate action plan, which creates an inventory of greenhouse gas emissions; establishes a target for emissions reductions; designs an implementation plan; and monitors success. We also successfully pressed for almost $2 million to be included in the Austin fiscal year 2018-2019 budget to fully implement recycling in all Austin Parks and Recreation facilities. And our staffers worked with the Austin Resource Recovery department to develop a fair methodology for scoring local landfills based on their ability to capture emissions of methane, a gas linked to global warming. Because of our advocacy, the city will use the scores when awarding future contracts.
  • We successfully persuaded the city of Dallas to allocate $500,000 in its next biennial budget to develop a climate action plan.
  • In August, we hosted a climate town hall in Houston that drew 200 attendees. Soon after, the mayor announced that the city will develop a climate action plan, which is to be finalized by winter 2019.

Public Citizen’s Texas office also worked to improve public health. In April, we successfully prompted the governor to reinstate the 46 public health and environmental protections that the state suspended across 60 counties for more than six months in response to Hurricane Harvey.

And we continued working with allies to oppose two proposals to store tons of high-level radioactive waste in Hobbs, N.M. and Andrews County, Texas. In April, equipped with an inflatable full-scale mock radioactive waste transportation cask, Public Citizen and local organizations launched an anti-nuclear waste tour through New Mexico to provide media and local citizens with information about the dangers of storing highly radioactive waste. The tour started in Albuquerque and stopped in Santa Fe, Gallup, Roswell, Hobbs, Artesia and Carlsbad. In the fall, the tour went through Texas, starting in Houston and traveling to San Antonio, Dallas, El Paso, Midland and Andrews County. We held press conferences at railroad crossings where the radioactive waste might travel, and we hosted educational community meetings

The awareness campaign paid off; those opposed to the Texas proposal submitted 25,760 comments, 10,561 of which came from Public Citizen supporters. And on Nov. 12, the Midland City Council unanimously opposed consolidated interim storage or permanent disposal of high-level radioactive waste in West Texas and New Mexico, as well as the transportation of the radioactive waste through or around the corporate limits of the city of Midland.

In 2018, Public Citizen’s Texas office also:

  • Organized a petition calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to take measures to better protect the public from the environmental catastrophe when a hurricane hits. Suggestions included restoring chemical right-to-know standards so that first responders and those living near industrial facilities can fully understand the potential hazards of plants’ chemical inventories and keeping environmental protections in place after major storms, rather than suspending them. At press time, the petition had generated 8,870 signatures.
  • Teamed up with University of Houston researchers to demonstrate the benefits of cleaning up emissions from the transportation sector. The failure to implement new emissions control strategies in Houston would lead to an additional 122 deaths in the year 2040, the analysis found.