Texas environmentalists talk latest troubles and strategies

by | Apr 8, 2022 | Environment, Policy

This week, activists and allies with the Texas Campaign for the Environment held their annual meeting, updating members on strategy and the ongoing work of climate crisis organizers.

TEC Executive Director Robin Schneider spoke about the renewed push for crude oil, plastics and liquefied natural gas, which she said were the fossil fuel industry’s profit centers of the future. 

“That’s where we are really digging in right now,” Schneider said, showing a map of proposed Gulf Coast and offshore rigs.

One Brazoria County project would have approximately 568 spills and 20 large oil spills throughout its lifetime according to a federal analysis, Schneider said. 

“This has implications for our economy, for commercial and recreational fishing, for ecotourism and of course for the endangered species and other species that call our Gulf Coast home,” she said.

Schneider said the Russian invasion of Ukraine had pushed liquified natural gas from obscurity into focus. 

“It sounds nice, it’s natural right? In fact it’s 90 percent methane and in the short run methane emissions are worse than carbon dioxide,” Schneider said.

Schneider also updated supporters on the “No fossil fuel money pledge,” a pledge for politicians and candidates to not knowingly accept contributions from fossil fuel companies, lobbyists or executives. 

“We had nearly 50 new pledge signers in the 2022 primary races, and many of those signers are moving onto runoffs,” Schneider said. 

On the congressional level, Schneider said two candidates have taken the pledge so far, Jessica Cisneros in Texas’ 28th Congressional District and Jasmine Crockett in Texas’ 30th Congressional District. 

John Beard, founder of the Port Arthur Community Action Network, spoke about his time at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in November (COP26). 

“It was a lot of talk but very little action,” Beard said. 

Beard said one of the first speakers he heard from was John Kerry, who was serving as a special presidential envoy for climate at the conference.

“What he said gave me chills,” Beard said. “We always had this discussion about not exceeding the 1.5 degree Celius. It’s been said that by 2040 we would have to reduce our carbon output by 40 percent in order to not go past 1.5 degree Celisus, which would be the tipping point to where there would be no return from the effects of global warming that climate change would induce.” 

“But Kerry went out to say that was impractical and that it was not doable, in fact it would crash economies of the world and it would also crash the industry,” Beard said.

“So essentially what he’s telling me and what he’s saying to all of us is that our government and big oil has already accepted what they consider to be the inevitable,” Beard said.

TCE coastal bend fossil fuel exports organizer Chloe Torres spoke about the build up of fossil fuels that disproportionately impact communities of color. Torres said residents around the gulf coastal bend have been subjected to new oil, gas and petrochemical buildout. 

“For far too long we have witnessed politicians on a local, state and federal level take oil & gas contributions for their campaign while working class people in the coastal bend are left to fend for ourselves when natural disasters made worse by climate change destroy our homes, when we’re paying for expensive hospital visits due to our worsening respiratory health, and when we experience mass layoffs when these fossil fuel projects become too expensive to maintain or these companies decide to hire out-of-towners instead,” Torres said.

Jeffrey Jacoby, deputy director for TCE, announced the launch of the “Save Texas” campaign.

The campaign will focus on naming names and putting a common activist line by labor organizer and singer Utah Phillips into action: “The Earth is not dying — it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.”

“And they do,” Jacoby said. “You have Energy Transfer and Kelcy Warren who profited the most during Winter Storm Uri, $2.4 billion .. you have Enterprise Products, one of the other profiters.”

“Save Texas is our effort to name those names and connect these struggles,” he said.

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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