- About Us
- Community Guidelines

Advertising on BOR
- Advertise on BOR


We're Counting On You.

Burnt Orange Report is redeveloping our website for the first time in almost a decade.

We're counting on your support to continue providing you free and frequent coverage of progressive issues that matter to Texans.

Help us build a website that is as great as the content we publish on it.

AL Armendariz

Your Environmental Roundup For Texas And Beyond!

by: Adam Schwitters

Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 02:39 PM CDT

Andrews County Nuclear Waste Dump Begins Accepting Waste, Paying County And State

  • Texas’s strapped budget coffers got an infusion of cash from a decidedly unsavory source this week, in the form of a $3.4 million check from Waste Control Specialists, the operator of a much maligned radioactive waste dump in Andrews, Texas, near Midland.  The dump site had caused a prolonged legal battle over concerns that groundwater (including the vast Ogalalla Aquifer) could become contaminated by the waste, but, on July 31, radioactive waste from across the country began moving to Andrews.  “TCEQ should never have granted WCS a license in the first place,” said Texas Sierra Club Conservation Director Cyrus Reed. “There are still serious questions about the hydrogeology under the site.”  Waste Control Specialists is owned by Dallas Billionaire, and Republican mega-contributor, Harold Simmons, who is known for, among other things, being sued by his own daughters for making illegal campaign contributions in their names.

Mile Long Band Of Oil Washes Onto Pristine Padre Island Beach

  • A mile long, 10 foot wide band of oil and tar balls washed on shore about 40 miles south of the Padre Island National Seashore visitor center.  Though the oil has not been “fingerprinted” to determine exactly where it came from, it was likely pushed to Padre Island by Hurricane Isaac, which struck Louisiana two weeks ago.  Padre Island is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world.

Environmental Groups Lobby PUC To Boost Solar And Geothermal Production

  • A coalition of environmental, public health, and labor groups launched the Clean Energy Works for Texas Campaign on Wednesday to lobby state lawmakers and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to help kick start “utility scale” production of solar and geothermal energy.  A 2005 law, the Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard, helped launch the booming wind industry in Texas that now provides 10% of the state’s power, but the law “also intended for a portion of the mandated renewables to come from non-wind sources, such as solar and geothermal. To date, the PUC has taken no action to implement this portion of the law.”  Al Armendariz, former EPA Administrator and current Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club said this about the group’s goals:

 While wind energy has taken off and provided thousands of jobs to Texans, the PUC has so far taken no action to implement the non-wind provisions, which leaves solar and geothermal power behind. Solar and geothermal power are clean, abundant, and don't rely on our precious water resources to generate electricity. With a push from the PUC, the rest of the state could experience the same economic boom that wind energy has brought to West Texas. Our filing today asks the PUC to take the final step in fully implementing  the renewable portfolio standard. Solar and geothermal are important to meet Texas's reliability needs and protect our water resources.

Speaking Of Wind, There’s Enough Of It To Power The Entire World

  • Two new studies from U.S. scientists show that Earth provides more than enough wind to power the energy needs of the globe.  One of the study’s, authored by Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institute for Science, found that wind has the potential to produce more than 20 times the amount of energy now consumed on Earth.  The economics of build the required number of turbines to actually accomplish this was not covered in the studies.  “To power civilization with wind turbines, I think you’re talking about a couple wind turbines every square mile,” Caldeira said. “It’s not a small undertaking.”

House And Senate Farm Bills Encourage The Worst Agricultural Practices, Will Accelerate Global Warming

  • Mark Hertsgaard, of the New America Foundation, wrote a scathing Op-Ed in the New York Times describing the insane approach to agricultural, and climate, policy shown by members of the US House and Senate as the race is on to pass a bill to replace the current farm bill which expires September 30.  Though there are a multitude of relatively easy and common sense measures that would limit farmers’ emissions and exposure to climate change, Hertsgaard argues, the proposed bills encourage the worst possible practices, including “fence-row to fence-row” monoculture planting, the exclusive use of chemical fertilizers, and others.  “The proposed farm bill would make American agriculture's climate problem worse, in two ways. Not only would the bill accelerate global warming by encouraging more greenhouse gas emissions, it would make the nation's farms more vulnerable to the impacts of those emissions.”  The bill has been held up because Republican members of the House want to limit food aid to the desperately poor.
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Former EPA Administrator Al Armendariz Joins Sierra Club After Being "Crucified" By Right Wing Mob

by: Adam Schwitters

Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 00:35 PM CDT

Last week, the Sierra Club announced that former EPA administrator Dr. Al Armendariz will join the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign using his “scientific expertise working on air, water, and climate science to help move Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas off coal-fired electricity and toward an economy powered by job-generating clean energy sources such as wind and the sun.”  Armendariz is most famous for being forced to resign in April after Sen. James Inofe unearthed a 1 minute 51 second clip of an hour long 2 year old video of Armendariz speaking at a town council meeting in Dish, Texas in Denton County, during which he likened his enforcement strategy to a Roman conquest:

 It is kind of like how the Romans used to conquer villages in the Mediterranean - they'd go into a little Turkish town somewhere and they'd find the first five guys they saw and they'd crucify them.  Then that little town was really easy to manage for the next few years.

The video prompted a storm of faux right wing fury which quickly led to the resignation.  At the time of that meeting in Dish, however, there was no publicity and no anger over his comments.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 379 words in story)

More Like No Bridge To Somewhere: Your Weekly Environmental Roundup For Texas And Beyond

by: Adam Schwitters

Fri May 04, 2012 at 03:51 PM CDT

An EPA Administrator is ‘crucified.’ An election in El Paso might hang on a bridge.  Spills, fines, and lawsuits abound.  The future might not be so bleak after all.  All that, and more, in this week’s environmental roundup for Texas, the nation, and beyond!


  • Al Armendariz, the EPA’s Region 6 Administrator based in Dallas, was forced to resign after a video surfaced in which he likens his enforcement strategy to a Roman conquest, “they’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw, and they crucified them.”  Needless to say, those comments have not gone over well with members of congress or the oil and gas industry in Texas.  Debbie Hastings, Executive VP of the Texas Oil & Gas Assoc, claims in a recent Op-Ed that Armendariz’s statement is part of a larger “federal undercurrent to undermine the oil and natural gas industry, which promotes our nation’s energy independence, provides millions of jobs and pays billions in taxes.”  EnergyWire is convinced that the feud between the Texas energy industry and the EPA will continue despite the resignation.
  • The 16th Congressional District Democratic primary contest might hang on the construction of a new international bridge between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez.  The incumbent, Silvestre Reyes, claims as many as 5,000 El Pasoans will be displaced by the bridge.  There is a slight problem for Reyes.  According to Roy Gilyard of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (which would be tasked with proposing the bridge in question), there is no current activity to build a new international bridge.  Reyes’s Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, called the controversy “the worst kind of pandering. [Reyes] is using lies to create anxiety and play upon that to try to win votes.”  O’Rourke has called for the construction of a new bridge, which, he believes, will increase international trade and keep El Paso competitive with other inland ports.
  • After last year’s wildfire season burned nearly 4 million acres in Texas, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced the creation of the Texas Wildfire Prevention Task Force.  The task force is a partnership between the Ag Commission, the Texas Forest Service, the Texas Division of Emergency Management, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, and researchers at Texas A&M.  It seeks to identify high fire risk areas and eliminate the risk through preventative measures, like controlled burns, before wildfires occur.
  • Four Southeast Texas marine-based entities have filed suit against BP, alleging that the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill “has had detrimental effects on the Gulf’s marine and coastal environments and is to this day affecting business and their ability to generate revenue.”  This follows last week’s $7.8 billion settlement in another suit against BP, and federal charges brought against a BP engineer for supposedly trying to cover up the extent of the spill.
  • Flint Hills Resources, a Kansas based refining and chemical company that is “wholly owned by Koch Industries,” was fined $46,450 by the TCEQ for incorrect valve settings which led to the release of 4,875.5 pounds of hazardous organic compounds into the air from its chemical plant in Port Arthur.  At a different Flint Hills facility in Corpus Christi, a leak was reported in an orthoxylene unit last week which led to the plant’s shutdown.  The extent of the leak remains unclear.
  • Port officials say there is no risk for an oil spill after a 750 tanker collided with a drilling rig on Wednesday off the coast of Port Aransas.  There were also no reported injuries from the incident.
  • While Houston remains the worst city in the US, outside California, for ozone pollution, its air quality has improved significantly, according to the State Of The Air 2012 report from the American Lung Association.
  • Austin’s transit agency, CapMetro, added a cool new toy this week.  It is a zero emissions hydrogen fueled bus that has previously operated in Columbia, South Carolina.  A privately owned hydrogen fuel station will fuel the bus.

The Nation

  • The Sierra Club has filed suit against dated coal-fired power plants across Oklahoma.  According to Whitney Pearson of the Sierra Club’s OK chapter, all coal plants in Oklahoma emit excess emissions, and the EPA needs to “end the free pass that large polluters currently have which allows them to emit unlimited amounts of pollution during certain phases of their operations. Because people need to breathe all the time, limits of the amount of pollution that polluters can emit need to apply all the time.”
  • Amory Lovins, an “energy theorist,” claims in this TED Talk that ending the US dependence on fossil fuels will actually be easier, and more cost effective than most of us realize.  His central point is that once industry, individuals, academics, and the military start moving beyond coal and oil we won’t need federal regulations or acts of congress to help us along.  He also believes that this movement will begin soon.  I hope, one day, to share his optimism.


  • A recent study shows that exposure to toxic chemicals can have risks over a much longer time frame than most of us realize.  Bruce Blumberg, a biologist at UC-Irvine, says, “it’s not just ourselves that are at risk. We’re condemning our descendants to have increased risks, too.”  
  • Greenland’s glaciers are still melting, but the rate of that meltdown is not increasing as fast as some climate scientists had predicted.  Earlier doomsday scenarios had the sea level rising by as much as 6 meters (20 feet) by 2100.  Now it looks, as if Greenland’s melting will only cause a 2 meter rise.  The vast majority of the Earth’s population lives less than 100 meters above sea level, so any rise could have a profound effect on millions of people.
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Republican Michael Burgess Calls for Investigation into TCEQ

by: David Mauro

Fri May 28, 2010 at 07:51 PM CDT

Congressman Michael Burgess has called on the Texas Attorney General's office to investigate the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, after the TCEQ reported inaccurate results to the Fort Worth City Council and then took weeks to report the error after they had discovered it.

The Republican congressman's rebuke of the TCEQ follows a week in which EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz told the Houston Chronicle, "I think the writing will be on the wall — unless we start seeing better permits that address our objections, we are very likely to begin federalizing others. The state is not following federal Clean Air Act requirements.”

As Phillp wrote yesterday (The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: "An Agency of Destruction"), Rick Perry's attempt to make the controversy surrounding the TCEQ a states' rights issue simply does not add up. During George W. Bush's term, the EPA pressured the TCEQ to improve its permitting process and to make its data public. To present the EPA's legitimate concerns as a new "federal power grab" is completely disingenuous, as members of Perry's own party are beginning to realize.

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

“Those responsible should be held fully accountable, and I believe that a robust investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s office would be appropriate,” Michael Burgess said in a statement.

Burgess said he was recently briefed by TCEQ on air quality issues related to gas drilling and he's not happy to find out now that he wasn't presented with all of the data.

“I relied on the information I was given, as did many others in North Texas,” Burgess said. “I find it personally offensive to find out that what I have been told may not be the full story on the air quality issues in the area that affect millions of North Texans.  There are a lot of questions that TCEQ needs to answer, and the public is right to demand accountability.”

There is one Republican in particular who seems eager to support Perry's position on the issue: Kelly Hancock, state representative for House District 91 in Fort Worth.

Hancock has spent much of the past few days on Twitter expressing outrage at what he describes as "the federal grab of the state's successful permitting process." Hancock is also the vice president of Advanced Chemical Logistics, a company that specializes in "the chemical needs" of the industrial and institutional formulators, oil field, water treatment industries, amongst others.

From the Star-Telegram:

"I think the key point to remember is, in February, the sites were retested, and they all came back significantly below the long-term exposure limits," Hancock said.

Hancock, a vice president at a chemical company, said he didn't understand why the agency bothered to retest the older samples in the air canisters.

"Actually the second tests were very unscientific," he said. "The canisters they used had been sitting on the shelves for a long time. ... If the tests had come back at lower levels, then everyone who's complaining now would want to throw those tests out."

Burgess has had a pretty awful environmental record since entering the U.S. House in 2003. In 2009, the League of Conservation Voters gave him a 0 rating. In 2008, Enviroment America did the same. The fact that Burgess, along with other Republicans, seem shocked about Perry's mismanagement of the TCEQ is a telling sign. There are only so many chemical company executives to defend Perry on this one.

If you haven't already, take some time to read the Texas Observer's recent cover story on the TCEQ. As much as Perry would like to neatly fit this into his Washington vs. Texas narrative, this is a losing issue for him that even some Republican lawmakers are beginning to catch on to.

Previously on BOR:

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

Amazon Referrals
Buying Back-to-School Books?

Use BOR's Amazon Referral and we'll receive a share of your purchase, at no cost to you!

Click here to shop.

Connect With BOR

2014 Texas Elections
Follow BOR for who's in, who's out, and who's up.

Candidate Tracker:
-- Statewide Races
-- Congressional Races
-- State Senate Races
-- State Rep. Races
-- SBOE Races
-- Austin City Council

Click here for all 2014 Elections coverage


Make a New Account



Forget your username or password?

Texas Blue Pages

Texas Blue Pages
A career network for progressives.


Shared On Facebook

Burnt Orange Reporters
Editor and Publisher:
Katherine Haenschen

Senior Staff Writers:
Genevieve Cato
Joe Deshotel
Ben Sherman

Staff Writers:
Omar Araiza
Emily Cadik
Phillip Martin
Natalie San Luis
Katie Singh
Joseph Vogas

Byron LaMasters

Blogger Emeritus:
Karl-Thomas Musselman

Read staff bios here.

Traffic Ratings
- Alexa Rating
- Quantcast Ratings

Powered by: SoapBlox