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By Molly Taft

It was long predicted that Houston was unprepared for a hurricane like Harvey, yet the storm caught the city off-guard when it landed a year and a half ago.

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Downtown Houston surrounded by flooding and mist after Hurricane Harvey. Prairie Pictures / The Image Bank / Getty Images

The science is clear that in order to prevent more extreme weather events like hurricanes, we need to stop burning fossil fuels. Thursday, EcoWatch reported on a study that found major hurricanes in the past decade were made five to 10 percent wetter because of global warming, and another study last year calculated that the record rainfall that flooded Texas during Hurricane Harvey was made three times more likely due to climate change.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Flooding in Houston's energy corridor following Hurricane Harvey on Sept. 4, 2017. Revolution Messaging / Public domain

The burning of fossil fuels is the driving force behind climate change, and now the companies responsible want the government to help pay to protect them from the consequences.

Texas is seeking at least $12 billion to build a network of seawalls, levees, gates and earthen structures that would protect a stretch of the Gulf Coast from Louisiana to the area south of Houston that houses 30 percent of U.S. oil refining capacity, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

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"While roads around our plant are impassable, our ride-out crew has two boats that could be used to carry the crew out of the site," said a spokesperson for Arkema on Aug. 29, 2017 after Hurricane Harvey. EPA

A Houston chemical plant company did not properly prepare for hurricane season, resulting in a toxic accident during Hurricane Harvey last year, federal regulators have found.

The U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board on Thursday released an extensive investigation into the flooding-induced chemical fires at the Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas, finding that while the company's insurers flagged the high potential for flooding a year before Harvey, plant employees were unaware of the risk.

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Smoggy downtown Houston. Kyle Jones / Flickr

By Rachel Leven

Engineer Jim Southerland was hired by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1971 to join the nascent war on air pollution. He came to relish the task, investigating orange clouds from an ammunition plant in Tennessee and taking air samples from strip mines in Wyoming. Among his proudest accomplishments: helping the agency develop a set of numbers called emission factors—values that enable regulators to estimate atmospheric discharges from power plants, oil refineries, chemical plants and other industrial operations.

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By Tim Radford

The probability that some city in the U.S. state of Texas will be hit again by Harvey-sized hurricanes, rainstorms that will dump half a meter of water in a short space of time, has increased sixfold in this century and will have increased 18-fold by 2100, thanks to climate change driven by global warming.

In the late summer of 2017, Hurricane Harvey dropped 65 cms of water on the city of Houston in Texas. It was the start of the largest natural disaster in the U.S. since Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans in 2005. Harvey claimed an estimated 70 lives, and created more than $150 billion in damage.

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EPA/ Staff Sgt. Daniel Martinez

The toxic aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey continue to plague Houston as the city rebuilds three weeks after the devastating storm. Testing conducted by the New York Times earlier this week found instances of E. coli contamination 135 times the legal limit in standing floodwaters around the city.

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CBS Evening News

Toxic waste and pollution are emerging as a top concern as cleanup continued in Houston over the long weekend.

Owners of the Arkema chemical plant in Crosby, which suffered multiple explosions and fires last week, announced Sunday it would conduct controlled burns of the rest of the chemicals stored at the damaged facility as a "proactive measure."

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Hurricane Harvey approaches the Texas Gulf Coast in this satellite image by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Aug. 25. NOAA

Hurricane Harvey slammed into the Texas coast this weekend, growing from a regenerated tropical depression into a Category 4 hurricane in less than 60 hours.

The now-tropical storm has stalled inland over Texas, and the entire Houston metropolitan region is now flooding.

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Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance

Early this morning, eight individuals blocked construction of a pump station for TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on Seminole land-by-treaty in Oklahoma by locking on to equipment in the largest action yet by the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance. Nine people have been arrested. They managed to shut down the site until a volunteer firefighter reportedly injured one of the lockdowners, who is now in an ambulance. Others participating in the action unlocked out of concerns for their safety.

Four people are locked through the treads of an excavator.

The group took action today, physically halting the construction process, as a part of an effort to prevent the Great Plains from being poisoned by inherently dangerous tar sands infrastructure, as well as to demonstrate the necessity for direct confrontation with industries that profit off of continued ecological devastation and the poisoning of countless communities from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. This action comes during the first day of a nationwide week of coordinated anti-extraction action under the banner of Fearless Summer.

“As a part of a direct action coalition working and living in an area that has been historically sacrificed for the benefit of petroleum infrastructure and industry, we believe that building a movement that can resist all infrastructure expansion at the point of construction is a necessity. In this country, over half of all pipeline spills happen in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. Looking at the mainstream keystone opposition, this fact is invisible—just like the communities affected by toxic refining and toxic extraction,” said Eric Whelan, spokesperson for Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance. “We’re through with appealing to a broken political system that has consistently sacrificed human and nonhuman communities for the benefit of industry and capital.”

Two people locked down in front of a work trailer on site.

“The pipelines that poisoned the Kalamazoo River and Mayflower, Arkansas, were not the Keystone XL. Tar sands infrastructure is toxic regardless of the corporation or pipeline. For that reason we are opposed not only to the Keystone XL, but all tar sands infrastructure that threatens the land and her progeny,” said Fitzgerald Scott, who was arrested in April for locking his arm inside a concrete-filled hole on the Keystone XL easement, and is locked to an excavator today. “While KXL [Keystone XL] opponents wait with baited breath for Obama’s final decision regarding this particular pipeline, other corporations, including Enbridge, will be laying several tar sands pipelines across the continent. The Enbridge pipelines will carry the same volumes of the same noxious substance; therefore, Enbridge should get ready for the same resistance.”

Another two people locked to each other on top of a work trailer.

The Tar Sands megaproject is the largest industrial project in the history of humankind, destroying an area of pristine boreal forest which, if fully realized, will leave behind a toxic wasteland the size of Florida. The Tar Sands megaproject continues to endanger the health and way of life of the First Nations communities that live nearby by poisoning the waterways on which life in the area depends. This pipeline promises to deliver toxic diluted bitumen to the noxious Valero Refinery at the front door of the fence-line community of Manchester in Houston.

There is staunch resistance to the expansion of tar sands mining and infrastructure growing  across the heartland of North America, in areas long considered sacrifice zones. Currently activists are occupying an Enbridge pump station in Ontario, Canada to prevent the reversal of the Line 9 pipeline. The rise of Idle No More in defense of indigenous sovereignty across Turtle Island is in large part to protect lands and waters from toxic industries, and peoples of the Great Sioux Nation and tribal governments across South Dakota are avowing their opposition to the northern segment of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Visit EcoWatch’s PIPELINES and KEYSTONE XL pages for more related news on this topic.

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