Environmental Headlines for the Houston Region: September 16, 2019

Harris County sues Houston refinery over recent toxic gas release

(Houston Chronicle, Perla Trevizo, Updated 09/13/19. Photo by Michael Ciaglo.)

“A Houston refinery is facing its second environmental lawsuit in as many years after releasing more than 320,000 pounds of toxic gases last week …

Short-term exposure to sulfur dioxide can harm the respiratory system, making it difficult to breathe, especially for vulnerable populations such as children or people with asthma. And hydrogen sulfide is an extremely hazardous gas that could be deadly in large concentrations. And although 300,000 pounds, the amount of last week’s release, is considered a large one, it is not the company’s biggest.”


Houston Botanic Garden’s edible ‘rooms’ will lead visitors around the world in an acre

(Houston Chronicle, Molly Glentzer, Updated 09/12/19. Photo by Jon Shapley.)

“Construction is underway to create an entrance from Park Place and transform the heart of the 132-acre site … Several feature areas, each a different kind of living laboratory, will fill the curvy island.

While the 3-acre Global Garden highlights an array of plants from around the world, with a focus on conservation, the 1-acre Edible Garden will celebrate Houston’s cultural diversity in ways that inspire local vegetable, fruit and herb growers — even those who have less than an acre to play with and are blessed (or cursed, depending on one’s point of view) with shade.”


Trump administration rolls back clean-water rule for streams and wetlands

(Houston Chronicle, Perla Trevizo, Updated 09/16/19. Photo by Brandon Thibodeaux.)

“The Trump administration on Thursday rolled back an Obama-era clean water rule, a move that won’t directly affect major waterways like the Houston Ship Channel but that some environmentalists contend will put wetlands in the region’s coastal prairies and more than 140,000 miles of streams at risk.

“It is unconscionable that we’re jeopardizing the drinking water of one in three Americans — not to mention damaging the waters where we swim and fish and that wildlife calls home,” said Anna Farrell-Sherman with Environment Texas.”


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Houston Environmental News Update September 11, 2019

National Estuaries Week, Xtreme Hummingbird Xtravaganza, Bill McKibben talk, State of the Park breakfast, Green Film: Hot Grease, Green Jobs, and more

Beginning this Saturday, September 14, and continuing through September 21, America celebrates National Estuaries Week, “a celebration of our bays and estuaries and the many benefits they provide to local communities.” Now in its 31st year, the event’s goals are to: create broad public awareness and support for the nation’s estuaries and coasts; encourage active engagement and participation with local estuaries through volunteer and educational events; and communicate the value and importance of our estuaries and coasts to key decision makers at the local and federal levels.

As noted by the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program, “estuarine environments are among the most productive on earth, creating more organic matter each year than comparably-sized areas of forest, grassland or agricultural land. The sheltered waters of estuaries also support unique communities of plants and animals specially adapted for life at the margin of the sea.”

Of course, one of the nation’s most important estuaries is our very own Galveston Bay. As the Galveston Bay Foundation notes, the Bay is “where fresh water from the Trinity and San Jacinto Rivers and the extensive bayous and creeks of the ‘Bayou City’ and surrounding areas mix with the salty water of the Gulf of Mexico.” The Bay’s watershed, which stretches from the Oklahoma border to the Gulf, is about 24,000 square miles, and half of the state’s population lives within it. Galveston Bay is the most productive bay in Texas, the GBF notes, and is one of the most productive bays in the country, trailing only Chesapeake Bay, which is eight times its size.

Last month, the GBF and the Houston Advanced Research Center released the 2019 Galveston Bay Report Card, giving the Bay an overall grade of “C.” The Bay received a “B” for Water Quality, a “B” for Pollution Events & Sources, a “C” for Wildlife, a “D” for Habitat, a “C” for Human Health Risks, and a “C” for Coastal Change. Find the full PDF at galvebaygrade.org. (The GBF will discuss the Report Card at its quarterly membership meeting on September 19. See description below.)

The good news is, you can help. As one of the volunteer events across the nation, the GBF is partnering with the Texas General Land Office and Port of Houston on Sept. 21 for an Adopt-A-Beach cleanup of Morgan’s Point, and there’s plenty of time for you to register. It’s just one of the many cleanups along the Texas Gulf Coast in the annual Fall Adopt-A-Beach Cleanup (see description below).

The banner image is courtesy of the Galveston Bay Foundation.


Houston Green Films: Hot Grease

The Houston Green Film for September 18 will be Hot Grease (filmed in Houston), the surprising story of how the biodiesel industry is turning an ostensibly worthless raw material — spent kitchen grease — into a green energy source capable of fueling all the trains, ships, and trucks across the country (see this clip). Following the film, panelists will offer thoughts about the themes in the film and answer audience questions. Panelists include Dr. Jody Gibson from Energy Institute High School, Chris Powers, founder of Houston Biodiesel, Michael McClere from Dependable Cooking Oil, Alondra Hernandez with the Corral the Grease program through Houston Public Works and Ted Driscoll with the Cease the Grease campaign through the Galveston Bay Foundation. Socializing from 6:30 p.m., film at 7 p.m.

Wild About Houston: A Green Film Festival

Join CEC, the Houston GREEN Film SeriesRice Media Center and additional partners on October 16, 2019, for “Wild About Houston: A Green Film Festival.” We will showcase local short films that tell environmental stories. Please watch the contenders on the CEC YouTube Channel, and give a thumbs up to your favorites to see them on the big screen. Submit a film for consideration via our Google Form. Secure a ticket today, or register to host an exhibit table, via Eventbright.

Earth Day Houston

Earth Day Houston, part of the 50th worldwide observance, will be held at Discovery Green on Sunday, April 19, 2020. Opportunities to volunteer, sponsor, and exhibit will be available soon.

Interested in serving on the CEC Board or a Committee?

CEC is seeking individuals who might be interested in joining our board of directors in January 2020, or volunteering to serve on one of our committees starting this year. We are hosting information sessions for prospective board and committee members to learn more about the commitment and opportunities. Upcoming sessions include the evenings of September 23, and October 15. For more information (including directions to our top secret world headquarters), please email [email protected]

Scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community, or view the emailed version of the newsletter, which includes a green job listing.

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Galveston Bay Foundation seeks Environmental Educator

The Galveston Bay Foundation is seeking an enthusiastic outdoor educator to serve on an as-needed basis, aiding our Environmental Education Team in delivering GBF’s youth environmental education programs. The goal of these programs is to instill knowledge and appreciation of the Galveston Bay ecosystem, inspire participants to break down barriers and open themselves up to new experiences, and empower students to become life-long advocates for a resilient Galveston Bay. Selected educator will have an opportunity to choose from a list of multiple dates during the school year. Most dates require a full day commitment during the work week, and hours will vary depending on scheduled events. Educators can expect to work 10-30 hours/week during the fall and spring months and less during the winter months. View the full job description at galvbay.org. To apply, email resume and cover letter to [email protected] by October 1, 2019.