Houston is a leader in environmental protection. In just the last year, the City has signed a contract for 100% renewable energy for city buildings, created tax incentives for nature based infrastructure, and adopted Walkable Places and Transit-Oriented Development ordinances. But, every day, we see more heartbreaking evidence of the damage being done to our planet: climate change, plastic pollution, wildlife disappearing forever. We also see the solutions all around us, practically begging us to adopt them: solar and wind power, electric cars and buses, a more walkable and “bikeable” city, reusing and repairing stuff instead of throwing it away, and on and on. Houston must continue to take action to protect our air, water and land. We’ve prepared the following recommendations for the City of Houston to take to protect our environment in 2021.
In 2018, Houston experienced 110 days of degraded air quality and Harris County remains in nonattainment with the Clean Air Act. Breathing polluted air increases the risk of premature death and can also trigger asthma attacks and other adverse health impacts. Climate change will worsen air pollution as rising temperatures speed up the formation of ozone. We urge the City to:
- Expand the use of electric vehicles, including in the city fleet, buses for METRO and local school districts, and for the general public by adopting EV-ready building codes.
- Keep fighting plans to expand I-45
- Push Port Houston to strengthen its Clear Air Strategy
- Push NRG to close the polluting Parish coal-fired power plant, the largest point source of emissions in the region
Announcing the settlement of our lawsuit against Pasadena Refining for violations of the Clean Air Act
Texas is home to an abundance of clean energy options — the sun’s power, the mighty winds of west and coastal Texas, the earth’s heat, and even the energy leaking from drafty windows in our homes and businesses. By using energy more efficiently and tapping our vast renewable resources, we can move to energy that doesn’t pollute, doesn’t contribute to climate change, and never runs out. Environment Texas urges the City to:
- Create a pilot program to bulk purchase renewable energy for Houston residents
- Adopt the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code to save energy in new buildings
- Adopt the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s SolarAPP to streamline the permitting process for residential solar
We presented Mayor Turner with a “Shining City” award in 2019 – solar capacity in Houston quadrupled in the two previous years.
It’s not safe to swim in most Houston-area waterways due to high levels of pollution. Our 2020 report Texas Stormwater Scorecard gave the city a grade of just 50% for its efforts to fight stormwater pollution. In addition, carcinogenic PFAS “forever chemicals” and lead in school drinking water pose risks to public health. Environment Texas recommends the City:
Ban the use of toxic AFFF firefighting foam
Work to get lead out of school and daycare drinking water
Ban the toxic pesticides chlorpyrifos, neonicotinoids, and glyphosate
In Houston Waterways, 96 out of 100 Test Sites Had Unsafe Bacteria Levels at Least Once in 2017
Wildlife Over Waste
Every day, people throw away tons of single-use cups, containers and other plastic “stuff.” Among the worst forms of plastic pollution is polystyrene foam (the stuff most of us call Styrofoam), which never fully degrades. Nothing we use for a few minutes should be allowed to pollute our bayous and oceans and threaten wildlife for centuries. While the Legislature preempts cities from bans on private property, cities can still stop the use of single use plastics on their own property. Environment Texas recommends the City:
- Ban single use plastics on city property, including at Hobby Airport
- Adopt an ordinance requiring businesses only offer single use plastic straws upon request
Executive Director, Environment Texas
As the executive director of Environment Texas, Luke is a leading voice in the state for clean air, clean water, clean energy and open space. Luke has led successful campaigns to win permanent protection for the Christmas Mountains of Big Bend; to compel Exxon, Shell and Chevron Phillips to cut air pollution at three Texas refineries and chemical plants; and to boost funding for water conservation and state parks. The San Antonio Current has called Luke "long one of the most energetic and dedicated defenders of environmental issues in the state." He has been named one of the "Top Lobbyists for Causes" by Capitol Inside, received the President's Award from the Texas Recreation and Parks Society for his work to protect Texas parks, and was chosen for the inaugural class of "Next Generation Fellows" by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at UT Austin. Luke, his wife, son and daughters are working to visit every state park in Texas.