Friday, September 01, 2017

Plucking Mom out of East Texas

Later today (hopefully).

As with almost all things Golden-Triangle-related, her house went under water.  First time water ever  so much as came up the street in 57 years; she probably took in 4 feet or so.

She evacuated to the local Methodist church, which lost power.  A Good Samaritan friend in Beaumont rescued her, but as you might know, that city lost its water supply for the foreseeable future, so she got picked up via jet ski and evac'd again to Livingston.  Highways between Houston and there remain problematic, but by tonight she should be here at a nearby hotel, and moving in with my wife and I for awhile while she decides where she wants to be.

Posting even lighter than usual ahead, and the environmental calamity updates I promised will appear on Twitter (if you don't have an account, get one).   Here's an excerpt about what's finally dawning on some people this morning:

What began as a story about flooding, environmentalist groups say, has become about preventable environmental disaster.

Coastal Houston is the site of a large concentration of chemical plants, refineries, Superfund sites and fossil fuel operations. Some have suffered damage from Hurricane Harvey, releasing toxic compounds into the environment, and environmentalists, in turn, are pointing the finger at politicians and industry leaders who have sought to ax regulations.

Specifically, they're criticizing the Environmental Protection Agency for delaying a chemical plant safety rule once President Donald Trump took office. In part, the rule would have ensured first responders knew what chemicals they may come in contact with and how to handle those chemicals in an emergency response situation.

The intention was to help prevent and mitigate chemical accidents.

"The rules that were delayed were designed to reduce the risk of chemical releases," said Peter Zalzal, special projects director and lead attorney at Environmental Defense Fund. "This kind of situation underscores why we shouldn't be rolling these rules back."

Earlier this year, legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate that would repeal an EPA rule.

A report in the International Business Times noted the bill was cosponsored by a hefty handful of Texas Republican House members, and the companion bill in the Senate had the backing of both Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

Many who cosponsored the legislation, IBT noted, have accepted donations from the chemical industry, the American Chemical Council and Arkema, Inc.

About that EPA rule:

In June, about 10 weeks before explosions and fires would begin erupting at a chemical plant damaged by Hurricane Harvey near Houston, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt placed a 20-month delay on the implementation of rules designed to prevent and contain spills, fires and explosions at chemical plants.

In a public comment filed with the EPA in May, an association of emergency response planning officials asked that at least one portion of the rules be spared the delay and implemented immediately: a section requiring hazardous chemical facilities to coordinate with local first responders and planners in case of an emergency.

"Save for the act of coordination and providing certain information, if it exists, this provision simply and directly requires people to talk to each other," wrote Timothy Gablehouse, president of the National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials, an association of state and local emergency response commissions. "It is fully appropriate for regulated facilities to understand what local responders can and cannot accomplish during an emergency response."

Pruitt delayed implementation of the rules in response to complaints about the rulemaking process filed by chemical companies and industry groups, according to the EPA's filing in the federal register. States with large industrial chemical sectors, including Texas and Louisiana, also requested that compliance dates for the rules be delayed.

The industry complained that the emergency response requirements in particular did not specify limits on the information that emergency planners and first responders could ask for, and the EPA agreed to delay those provisions to allow for additional public comment, despite warnings from Gablehouse and environmental groups.

The decision to delay the rules -- particularly the section on sharing information with emergency planners -- is under intense scrutiny as environmental disasters unfold in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

"It's offensive that they refuse to share information with police and firefighters who have to risk their lives to go into those disaster [areas]," said Gordon Sommers, an attorney at Earthjustice, an environmental group that opposed the delay. "They risk their lives because they don’t know what risks they face … because the industry does not want to share information."

Do you remember when Greg Abbott said, "drive around"?

Bryan Parras of T.e.j.a.s. was on Democracy Now earlier this week detailing first-hand accounts of the air quality near the Houston Ship Channel and Manchester neighborhood, and the Superfund sites along the San Jacinto River, that he has long strived to call attention to.  Transcript here.

It's bad, our Texas Republicans lie at the root cause, our Texas Democrats can't stop them or even slow them down (even the ones that actually want to), the Trump administration is enabling all of it, and our local air and water is only going to get worse.  If you're working for an oil company, like Houston's allegedly leading blogger, you're not going to see much of this news (you will get your weekly video break and link dump, though).

If you're driving a car to work, you need to start rethinking that.  If you're raising children here ... think about living somewhere else.  And if you're poverty-class or homeless, you're fucked.

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