Category Archives: environmental news

Happy Earth Day!

This is the third Earth Day we have noted since Donald Trump became president.

Yes, the two elements are related.

There used to be a time when presidents of both parties would salute efforts to save our planet from ourselves. Donald Trump took office in January 2017 and immediately began dismantling environmental regulations and removing this country from a key worldwide environmental initiative.

He pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord. Then he knocked aside rules and regulations limiting carbon emissions; he has sought to open up public land to fossil fuel exploration; he has downplayed the exploration of alternative energy sources; Trump dismisses openly the effects of climate change.

Despite all of that, the sun rose this morning. It will set tonight. The cycle will continue.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the president continues to ignore the cause of climate change/global warming. He calls it a “hoax.” It is no such thing. It’s real. It needs to be dealt with seriously. We need presidential leadership to take command.

It was on the watch of President Nixon, a Republican, that the nation formed the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Republicans and Democrats for most of the time since then have embraced the EPA’s mission.

Is this the end of life as we know it? No. However, we need to pay attention to what’s happening out there. Earth’s temperatures are rising; the polar ice caps at both ends of the planet are shrinking; polar habitat is endangered; storms are becoming more frequent and more ferocious; human beings who live along our coasts are imperiled.

We have to care for this planet. It’s only one we have.

Happy Earth Day . . . even to you, Mr. President.

Mauro’s beach cleanup legacy lives on

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — Dang it, anyhow! I missed the chance today to visit with volunteers who flocked to this part of the Texas Gulf Coast to take part in an annual beach cleanup event.

My wife and I had a brunch date with friends. When we returned to our RV camp site, the Gulf of Mexico was at high tide, splashing all the way to the beach grass bordering the sand. The volunteers were gone.

But I want to offer a good word to the Texas General Land Office for continuing the program that began in 1986.

“The Adopt-a-Beach annual spring cleanup is always an amazing turnout for Texans to join together and volunteer their time to keep our Texas beaches beautiful. What better way to serve our great state than by spending the day at the beach? It is because of our wonderful volunteers that our annual spring cleanup provides the Texas coast with the care it deserves. The dedication of our fellow Texans to help keep our coast in pristine condition never ceases to amazes me,” said Land Commissioner George P. Bush.

I recall when the cleanup program began under the watch of one of Bush’s predecessors at the General Land Office. Garry Mauro had a vision and a drive to protect our state’s fragile coastline. He made coastal protection against erosion a top priority during his time as land commissioner. The cleanup was part of his overall strategy to emphasize coastal issues. I was a vocal and enthusiastic supporter of Mauro’s effort during my time as editorial page editor of the Beaumont Enterprise.

This policy matters to coastal states such as Texas. I am delighted to see Mauro’s initiative continue through successive land commissioners.

Mauro’s public life as a politician ended in 1998 when he got thumped by George P. Bush’s uncle, George W. Bush, who cruised to re-election as Texas governor over Mauro.

The effort to care for the state’s coastline remains one of Garry Mauro’s enduring legacies.

Gator alert: Stay away from this site

SEA RIM STATE PARK, Texas — We have just been advised that we are living for a couple of days among one of God’s more fearsome creatures.

A Texas Parks & Wildlife ranger informs us that this state park, right on the Gulf of Mexico, is home to at least one alligator.

She described him as a 5-footer — with three legs. “Do you suppose he lost his leg in a fight with another gator?” I asked. She didn’t know.

It doesn’t matter. I am going to presume the gator still gets around just fine. He inhabits a certain RV campsite, No. 10. “He’s there sometimes,” said the TP&W ranger.

Good to know.

So, with that I’ll inform you — and we’ve already told Toby the Puppy — that we ain’t going anywhere near the site. We’ll stay close to our fifth wheel for the time we’re here.

The gimpy gator — and those who park their RV there — can have it all to themselves.

There’s fate . . . and then you have this!

I believe I have just read what could be the most dramatic demonstration karma imaginable.

The Hill newspaper reports the following:

South African wildlife authorities say they have recovered the remains of a man suspected of poaching rhinoceroses, one of Africa’s most endangered great beasts.

But get a load of this . . . they believe the guy was killed by an elephant and his corpse was devoured by a pride of lions.

Check out the story here.

To be brutally candid, I don’t know how I’m supposed to react to this kind of story. I have heard about how some African governments have issued shoot-on-sight orders to park personnel who witness individuals killing wildlife illegally. Given that I am a devoted wild animal lover, I have cheered those reports.

Should I feel badly for this guy’s family? I suppose so. Park officials have offered their condolences, which is appropriate.

This development, if it turns out to be true, would buttress the old commercial jingle that over the years has turned into something of a cliché: It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.

Wind turbines cause cancer? Gosh! Who knew?

I have heard the complaints and criticism of wind energy.

It’s too expensive to produce wind-powered KWH. The turbines are a “blight” on our landscape. They get in the way of migrating birds.

Those criticisms are understandable. Donald Trump has actually referred to the fowl casualties that the turbines inflict.

However, the president said in a campaign rally speech that the turbine noise causes cancer. Yes. He said it with a straight face. I am left to presume that he believes what he said.

He is wrong. Of course! No surprise there. I won’t accuse him of uttering another bald-faced lie. He well might not actually know of what he speaks. Ignorance of a topic is one way to excuse someone of actually lying. So I’ll give him (sort of) a pass on the lying part.

However, when the president purports to know about something that flies out of his mouth, he actually ought to know it.

Thus, the Ignoramus in Chief doesn’t know anything about wind energy. Such as what he said about its unreliability. Why? Because the wind doesn’t always blow.

What he failed to acknowledge is that wind producers store excess energy generated by wind turbines to use on those days when the wind doesn’t blow sufficiently to produce more electricity.

Then again, that’s just his ignorance showing itself.

The cancer-causing element is pretty damn serious. Donald Trump should know better than to say something about which he knows nothing. He excuses himself, I am going to presume, because he’s the president of the United States. I guess that entitles him to say whatever he feels like saying.

If so, I feel the need to remind the commander in chief that his position as the world’s most powerful politician requires him to at least give more than a smidgen of thought before popping off.

Sen. Grassley seeks to school Trump on wind power

Now he’s done it. Donald Trump popped off about wind energy, disparaging it and in the process he pis*** off a key Senate sponsor of wind energy tax credits.

Did I mention that Sen. Chuck Grassley is a Republican, just like the president?

Grassley, from Iowa, disliked Trump’s comments running down wind power as an alternative energy source. He made some stupid remark about wind turbine noise causing cancer.

Again, Sen. Grassley took umbrage.

Don’t fret it, Sen. Grassley. Many of us take umbrage damn near daily at things that fly out of the president’s mouth.

Keep the faith. If you can.

We humans are such pipsqueaks

The story that is playing out in the Midwest is one that we see and hear about constantly.

Human beings seek to employ all their technological skill, know-how and expertise to corral Mother Nature.

So, what happens when levees burst? What happens when Mother Nature tells us in a voice so powerful that we cannot comprehend it? We experience tragedy, misery, mayhem. Many of us scratch our heads and wonder: How did this happen and what can we do to prevent it?

Look, I have no answer to any of that. I don’t farm the land. I don’t raise livestock. I do not seek ways to keep my land dry or to avoid the kind of flooding pictured in the photo attached to this blog post.

I simply am left to marvel at humankind’s continued effort to subdue forces that we cannot control, no matter how smart or knowledgeable we think we are.

Sure, we can count some successes in that effort. They built a seawall along Galveston Island in response to a 1900 hurricane that destroyed the growing town along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The seawall has essentially done its job.

Yet we hear about other attempts that fail. In recent years we have watched the Missouri River spill over levees in the Dakotas, destroying thousands of acres of agricultural production land. Then as now, it was the result of our meager effort to control the flow of a mighty river.

The lesson here? The river is going to go where the Almighty intended for it to go, no matter what we do to prevent it.

It’s just good to keep our human power in its proper perspective.

Trump shows off his energy ignorance

Just about the time you think Donald Trump cannot demonstrate any greater degree of ignorance on important matters, he pops off to one of his right-wing fanatics.

The president of the United States is insisting that wind energy is a waste of money, it doesn’t work when the wind doesn’t blow and that he intends to continue to push for revival of the coal industry.

He and Fox News’ Sean Hannity exchanged ignorant rants this week about wind power, which Trump has detested for years.

I believe the president needs to acquaint himself with the secretary of energy, Rick Perry. I would bet real money that the former Texas governor might have a markedly different view of the value of wind power than the man who nominated him to the Cabinet post.

It was on Perry’s watch as Texas governor that the state became a leading producer of wind-generated electricity. Perry signed off on legislation allowing for the construction of wind turbines all across West Texas. Yep, they turn constantly out there on the High Plains, the South Plains, along the Trans-Pecos.

The electricity generated by those turbines — or “windmills,” as Trump refers to them — is replacing energy produced by fossil fuels. DOE’s website says this: “Grid operators use the interconnected power system to access other forms of generation when contingencies occur and continually turn generators on and off when needed to meet the overall grid demand.”

Trump isn’t sold. He continues to foment the canard about the hazard the turbines pose for migrating birds. Yes, some birds are injured or killed when they fly into the turbines. The Energy Department says the numbers are insignificant and that wind turbines pose less of a threat to fowl than buildings. According to IJR Blue’s website: Wind turbines do present a threat to birds, but the Energy Department points out that these deaths are rare and that habitat destruction and development of infrastructures such as roads and powerlines poses a much greater threat.

Trump’s shallowness reminds me of the time U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a noted climate change denier, brought a snowball to the Senate floor one winter to say that because it was cold outside that day in Washington that Earth’s changing climate poses no threat to anyone or anything.

Yep. We are being governed by an ignoramus.

Texas AG becomes environmental watchdog

I’ll be candid. I never have considered Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to be much of an environmental watchdog, let alone an activist. 

So, what does the top state Republican legal eagle do? He files a lawsuit against a Houston company that owns a storage terminal that erupted in flames, pouring tons of chemicals into the air.

Intercontinental Terminals has been slapped with a lawsuit over the fires that detonated at its suburban Deer Park storage units. It has closed the Houston Ship Channel, one of the world’s busiest international shipping waterways. The fires have contaminated the air, pouring clouds filled with cancer-causing benzine.

The suit was filed on behalf of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It alleges that Intercontinental Terminals has filed the Texas Clean Air Act.

The company faces the possibility of stiff fines if the AG wins his lawsuit.

Company faces major fines

Environmental groups are cheering the attorney general on. I want to join them, even though it does surprise me.

Paxton was a GOP legislator from Collin County before he got elected as AG in 2014. He was re-elected to a second term in 2018. He’s had a bit of legal trouble, facing a probable trial on securities fraud later this year. But that’s another story.

I find his lawsuit to be a fairly refreshing and pleasant surprise.

The Deer Park fires have been buggers to extinguish. They have blackened the sky along the Gulf Coast. They have put thousands of Texans’ health at risk.

I stand with AG Ken Paxton in seeking justice.

Oh, the wind takes its toll

We awoke this morning, flipped on the TV and watched the Metroplex weather forecasters going apoplectic over the wind, rain, thunder and lightning that tore through the region.

Our lights in Princeton flickered off for about 20 seconds, then came back on. That was it. Yeah, it was a frightening time this morning before dawn.

The storm raced across the region, which turned out to be a bit of a blessing. It wouldn’t linger long and tear the daylights out of people’s homes, motor vehicles and assorted other structures.

Then we got word of the wind that roared across our former home in the Texas Panhandle.

Sustained blasts of 50 mph, with gusts of 80 mph.

But here’s where my heart breaks. A lot of trees blew over. The wind ripped them out of the ground by their roots. They fell into houses, onto motor vehicles, were laying on street surfaces. The good news is that I haven’t heard of any human casualties. For that we all should be grateful.

The heartbreak occurs because if you’ve seen the High Plains region of Texas, you know it lacks trees. They cherish their trees in that part of the world. There was the time, for instance, when the Texas Department of Transportation proposed culling some trees along U.S. 60 in Hemphill County; you would have thought TxDOT had hired the devil himself. The outrage was ferocious; TxDOT backed down.

Yes, I know you can plant new trees. They’ll grow and replace the flora that’s been destroyed by Mother Nature’s fury.

Still, I hate hearing about the loss.

Keep the faith, everyone.