OP-ED: Texas Environmental News

ConocoPhillips aims to drill in the Arctic

Houston-based ConocoPhillips is proposing to drill in the Arctic in a field known as Willow, inside the heavily guarded 23-million-acre National Petroleum Reserve on the Alaskan North Slope. Inside Climate News reports that climate advocates say the project is incompatible with President Joe Biden’s goal of setting the nation on a path to net-zero carbon emissions. Jeremy Lieb, attorney at Earthjustice, said, “We’ve been clear from the beginning that it’s an unacceptable project.” Environmentalists who note the planet is rapidly warming are calling on Biden to reject the proposal. The Texas corporation worked diligently with the Trump administration to fast track the project, but an Alaskan federal judge vacated the project’s approval in August, sending the Willow project back to the drawing board.

Environmental agency says “no” to monitoring air quality

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued a statement last Friday saying monitoring air quality in Texas during and after climate events such as hurricanes and Arctic blasts are “often unnecessary.” Led by Toby Baker, Governor Greg Abbott’s hand-picked man, the agency in charge of protecting Texans’ safety wrote to The Guardian, “During the first few days of a natural disaster, collection of air monitoring samples may be physically impossible due to loss of power, flooding, impassable roadways.” Past air quality sampling during and after natural disasters show a sharp rise in emissions, in what industry officials call upsets or flare and vent-offs of gasses under pressure. The Texas Gulf Coast, the biggest petrochemical complex in the world, is noted for emitting carcinogens like benzene and bronchial restrictors like sulfur dioxide even during calm weather periods. Exposure to these pollutants, especially for people living close by the refineries, increases the likelihood of respiratory diseases, heart disease and various types of cancer.

Biden Administration gives billions to clean up wells

Unplugged, leaking and abandoned oil and gas wells are getting the attention of the federal government. The Biden administration announced last week that it will send $1.15 billion to states to clean up thousands of orphaned wells. Texas leads the nation in the number of abandoned oil wells and the nation as a whole, according to the EPA, with over 3 million abandoned wells, most often abandoned due to their drop in production (i.e. economic non-viability). According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration will begin enforcing rules that are already in place for leaking pipelines, dairy and beef farms. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement the federal funds are “enabling us to confront the legacy pollution and long-standing environmental injustices … ” The White House also announced they are forming an interagency group to better monitor the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA considers rule that could reduce methane emissions

Environment America reports that a new rule now being considered at the EPA could keep 41 million tons of methane out of the environment. The proposed rule, similar to New Mexico’s already instated methane leak rule, would significantly reduce methane emissions if enforced. Methane warms the planet 28 times faster than CO2. Environment America Executive Director Lisa Frank said, “Climate change is the challenge of our generation. These new rules could be a historic moment for climate action.”