Houston Environmental News Update March 18, 2020

#flattenthecurve, Energy Infrastructure Symposium, Envision sustainable infrastructure, EarthEco Water Challenge, Coronavirus=Cleaner Air, Cancelations, and more

With concerns over the novel coronavirus and the associated COVID-19 disease, designated last week by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic and by President Trump as a national emergency, our lives have definitely entered into new territory. The CEC is not alone in hosting events online, or cancelling or postponing events, in order to comply with federal, state, and local guidelines and to help #flattenthecurve.

In our “Coalition and Community Notes” section below, you’ll find fewer in-person events to attend in the coming weeks; however, there are several online events in which you can participate. Thankfully, the restrictions on meeting in groups don’t necessarily prevent us from visiting (while still practicing social distancing) many of the wonderful outdoor facilities in our region, including Memorial Park, the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center, Hermann Park, Gulf Coast Bird Observatory, Mercer Botanic Gardens, Exploration Green, Armand Bayou Nature Center, the bird sanctuaries of Houston Audubon, Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center, and many more.

With the extra room in the newsletter, we will bring back our “Environmental Headlines” section. Let’s kick off the expanded coverage with a story about the relationship between COVID-19 and air quality.

Scroll down to read notes from our member organizations and the community.


Earth Day HoustonSuspended

In response to the outbreak the Discovery Green Conservancy is canceling, or postponing, all events scheduled through May 15, including Earth Day Houston, previously scheduled for Sunday, April 19, 2020. We will let you know if the event is rescheduled. We will be emailing additional information to exhibitors, sponsors, and volunteers.

Greater Houston Environmental Summit – Call for Presenters

Share the story of your environmental work and inspire our community to take action! CEC is soliciting proposals for table talk hosts and presenters for the Greater Houston Environmental Summit on Friday, August 7, 2020. Learn more and submit your proposal using this Google Form. Proposals due April 31, 2020.

Summer Internships with CEC

The CEC will be hiring several interns this summer, and is conducting interviews this month. If you or someone you know would like to help with and learn about communication, marketing, policy, government, publications, journalism, digital media, fundraising, event coordination, business development, filmmaking, bookkeeping, and/or accounting, we invite you to learn more at cechouston.org. We post opportunities with our member organizations can be found on CEC’s Green Jobs page.

Interested in volunteering with the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition? Volunteer Info Session March 31

CEC seeks individuals who might be interested in volunteering to help with our website and newsletter, plan events, design graphics, serve on one of our committees (programs, communications, finance, fundraising and development, membership, and governance) this year, or possibly joining our board of directors in January 2021. We are hosting information sessions for prospective volunteers to learn more about the ongoing opportunities. Upcoming sessions include the evenings of March 31, May 19, and June 30. For more information, please email [email protected], or join us online at Google Hangouts.

The Living Coast and Montopolis at MATCH

On June 12, 2020, MATCH will present The Living Coast, combining a gorgeous nature film, dynamic storytelling and live music performance to explore the Texas Gulf Coast (see the trailer). Montopolis features members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra and Texas’ best rock musicians touring with an environmental scientist. The show is a love letter to the region as well as an opportunity to discuss broader environmental challenges. Proceeds will be be donated to the Matagorda Bay Foundation and the Citizen’s Environmental Coalition. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit matchouston.org.


We have endeavored to confirm the opportunities listed below. Please consider confirming directly with the hosts, particularly in light of concerns about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as there are continuing cancellations of events over the next several weeks.

Houston Arboretum vies in “Worth Saving” Landmarks Contest

The Houston Arboretum & Nature Center is one of four national landmarks participating in the second annual “Worth Saving” Landmarks Contest hosted by the American Association of Endodontists (AAE). Voting has begun and is open until April 22, 2020. The landmark with the most votes will receive $20,000 and the city it is located in will receive $30,000 or more in free endodontic services. These funds would greatly help the Houston Arboretum in its dual mission of conservation and education. Vote for the Arboretum at aae.org/landmarks. Learn more about the contest at newswise.com.

SPARK receives $5 million from Houston Endowment and Kinder Foundation to build and improve parks at 30 Houston-area schools

SPARK, a Houston-based non-profit organization that helps public schools develop their playgrounds into community parks, recently announced its commitment to 30 additional park projects, supported by grants of $2.5 million each from Houston Endowment and Kinder Foundation. Phase II of SPARK’s efforts to mitigate ‘park deserts’ throughout Greater Houston will create 15 new parks and update, or ‘re-SPARK,’ 15 more over the next four years. Read the full press release at sparkpark.org.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary recruiting for Advisory Council

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is seeking applicants for one seat on its advisory council, a community-based group of individuals that provide advice for sanctuary management. The sanctuary is accepting applications for one Oil and Gas Industry seat. Candidates are selected based on their expertise and experience in relation to the seat for which they are applying, community and professional affiliations, and views regarding the protection and management of marine resources. Applicants who are chosen as members should expect to serve 3-year terms. Applications for this recruitment cycle are due Thursday, April 16, 2020

UH Energy Symposium: Energy Infrastructure

On March 19, 2020, beginning at 4 p.m., UH Energy will host an online-only Energy Symposium titled “Energy Infrastructure: Bottleneck or Enabler?” The event will focus on how aging and “old energy” generation infrastructure is increasingly being retired while new generation and storage infrastructure is displaying the classic early technology challenges and not as reliable and causing significant economic impact. For more information, visit uh.edu.

Birdathon 2020 begins March 20

Houston Audubon will present Birdathon 2020, the birder’s equivalent to a walkathon, from March 20-May 11, 2020. Teams of two or more compete to count as many bird species as possible in a consecutive 24-hour period. Birdathon is primarily a fundraiser, so teams also compete to raise the most money for the best cause: bird conservation. For more information and to register, visit houstonaudubon.org.

EarthEcho Water Challenge

The EarthEcho Water Challenge is a program of EarthEcho International that runs annually from March 22 (the United Nations World Water Day) through December and equips anyone to protect the water resources we depend on every day. The Water Challenge builds public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world by engaging citizens to conduct basic monitoring of their local waterbodies. For more information on how to participate, visit monitorwater.org.

Earth Hour 2020

On March 28, 2020, from 8:30-9:30 p.m. local times, communities across the globe will celebrate “Earth Hour 2020,”  a symbolic lights-out event that began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, Earth Hour is now one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment, engaging millions of people in more than 180 countries and territories. It has become a catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes by harnessing the power of the people. To learn more about Earth Hour and how you can participate, visit earthhour.org.

Webinar: The Wonders of the Deep Sea

On March 29, 2020, from 6-7 p.m., Christ the King Evangelical Lutheran Church will lost a webinar titled “The Wonders of the Deep Sea,” featuring Professor Hyun-Min Hwang of Texas Southern University, who will discuss the myriad forms of life in the deepest parts of the ocean. For more information and register, visit eventbrite.com.

EcoCareers 2020 Conference

The annual National Wildlife Foundation’s EcoCareers Conference started out as an entirely online conference four years ago for two reasons: sustainability and accessibility. This year’s conference will be held April 1-2. If you are an educator temporarily moving to distance learning requirements, this online learning opportunity is for you. For all high school audiences, this conference is entirely free. Higher education institutions can become conference sponsors, automatically making the conference free to the entire faculty and student bodies, or encourage their students to unlock free registration by joining the NWF EcoLeader online community. Note that if sponsorship or registration cost is a concern for higher education audiences, we encourage you to reach out to us at [email protected]. To learn more and to register, visit nwfecoleaders.org.

Urban Harvest’s 2020 Edible Academy Summer Workshop registration open

Urban Harvest will hold its 2020 Edible Academy Summer Workshop, called “Cultivating the Outdoor Classroom”, designed for teachers environmental educators, and parent garden coordinators, from June 23-25, 2020. The workshop is limited to 24 participants with a maximum registration of two attendees per school or garden site. Additional participants may be admitted, space permitting. Registration is open through March 31. For more information and to register, visit urbanharvest.org.

TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife

Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3 p.m. each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Texas City, Galveston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD’s YouTube Page.

  • Three Texas universities have teamed up with the Parks and Wildlife Department to determine how agriculture may affect mule deer movements and survival in the Panhandle
  • At the far southeast corner of Texas lies a remote and unique coastal park that few folks know about. From coastal fishing, to crabbing, to kayaking the marshland, Sea Rim State Park has something for everyone
  • Dinosaur Valley State Park has some of the best preserved dinosaur tracks in the world, a group of researchers is working to keep it that way

Additional Upcoming Events


NO2 levels in Wuhan, China comparing Jan and Feb in 2020 - Less NO2 after COVID-19 outbreak.

Why China’s Air Has Been Cleaner During The Coronavirus Outbreak
(Lauren Sommer, NPR, 3/4/2020. Banner image, above: NASA Earth Observatory Image of the Day.)

As illustrated by the banner image above, air quality observations from NASA satellites indicate that levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2, a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities) have dropped dramatically since Chinese authorities began limiting transportation and business activities in order to reduce the spread of the disease. “There is evidence,” write’s NASA’s Earth Observatory, “that the change is at least partly related to the economic slowdown following the outbreak of coronavirus.” npr.org. Learn more from NASA about How the Coronavirus Is (and Is Not) Affecting the Environment.

Similar decreases in NO2 emissions were also seen over Italy, and the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service has found decreases in particulate matter (PM2.5) that are likely related to measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

At least one researcher has indicated that the reduction in air pollution in China may have saved more lives than COVID-19 has killed directly. “China’s coronavirus lockdown likely saved tens of thousands of lives by slashing air pollution from factories and vehicles, according to a new analysis by a Stanford University scientist.” www.forbes.com

Will we see decreases in air pollution in the Houston region? “The coronavirus and spring break have done in Houston what 50 years of lane widening and transit investment could not: It cured traffic, albeit for only a few days so far and for a grim reason,” writes Dug Begley in the Houston Chronicle.

I Spent A Month Trying To Find Out What Chemicals Are Stored Near My Home. I Still Don’t Know
(Kim McDaniel, Houston Public Media, 3/16/20. Photo by Kirk McDaniel.)

“Its been one year since the Intercontinental Terminals Co. storage facility in Deer Park caught fire, releasing toxic chemicals like benzene into the atmosphere for days. Kirk McDaniel is an intern with Houston Public Media, and a lifelong Deer Park resident. He had questions about the incident about which chemicals were stored at the facilities in the area. Answers weren’t easy to come by.”

A&M study: The future of Texas depends on climate preparedness
(Kiah Collier, The Texas Tribune, 3/5/20. Photo by Steve Overby.)

“Texans should expect warmer weather, more wildfires and urban flooding, and increased impact from hurricanes through 2036 thanks to climate change, according to a new study from the Office of the Texas State Climatologist at Texas A&M University. The study of historic and future climate trends says the state has already experienced such changes in recent decades and that ‘the future of Texas depends on its resilience to the natural hazards of the future.'”

Op-Ed: Hurricane Harvey led to stronger policies. Chemical fires should too.
(Op-Ed by Allyn West, Houston Chronicle, 3/14/2020. Photo by Brett Coomer.)

“It’s been a bad year. We’ve gone through at least six major chemical disasters in our region. Last March, thousands of gallons of naphtha, a liquid that is used to make gasoline, started leaking at Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park. Most of us had never heard of ITC. Then, all that naphtha ignited.”

Hundreds pursue lawsuit against Union Pacific over rail yard contamination, cancer cluster in Houston (Erin Douglas, Houston Chronicle, 3/14/20.)

Whooping cranes set to soar home (Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, 3/15/20.)

Houston activist fights industry in backyard and beyond (Sergio Chapa, Houston Chronicle, 3/15/20)