San Antonio has long been a leader in environmental protection. For example, according to our research, San Antonio ranks 5th in the United States for solar energy capacity. But it’s clear that we still have a lot of work to do. Every day, we see more heartbreaking evidence of the damage being done to our planet: climate change, plastic pollution, wildlife disappearing forever. But 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. We’ve prepared the following recommendations for the City of San Antonio to take to protect our environment in 2021.
In 2018, San Antonio experienced 49 days of degraded air quality and Bexar County is 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. According to a 2017 City of San Antonio study, at least 24 deaths could be avoided annually if San Antonio reduces pollution from power plants, cars and trucks, and other sources.
We urge the City to:
- Shut down both units of the Spruce coal-fired power plant by 2030.
- Expand the use of electric vehicles, including in the city fleet, buses for VIA and local school districts, and for the general public.
- Launch a program to educate car dealers about electric vehicles
We joined with Council Member Sandoval in 2018 to advocate for more electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Photo credit: Gabe Hernandez
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. Despite our wealth of resources, renewable energy supplies just about 22% of our CPS Energy’s electricity. 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:
- Implement solar and EV ready requirements for residential and commercial properties
- Power municipal buildings with 100% renewable energy (like Austin, Houston and Dallas do)
- Adopt the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s SolarAPP to streamline the permitting process for residential solar
- End rebates for natural gas appliances
Mayor Nirenberg joined us for a tour of San Antonio solar facilities in 2017. Photo credit: staff.
64% of San Antonio waterways that were tested for bacterial contamination were unsafe for swimming on at least one day during 2017. While the city is a leader in water conservation and use of nature-based infrastructure, our 2020 report Texas Stormwater Scorecard gave the city a grade of 69% 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:
- Update the Unified Development Code to promote compact and connected development and expand water quality requirements to the whole 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
- Implement year round watering restrictions
A 2020 stakeholder meeting in Confluence Park on nature-based infrastructure. Photo credit: Francisco Perez
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 oceans and rivers 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 the airport
- Adopt an ordinance requiring businesses only offer single use plastic straws upon request
Our San Antonio intern David Howk picked up a whole bag of trash, inc a lot of polystyrene foam, on a 50 yd stretch of sidewalk in Encino Bluff near his home. Photo credit: Staff.
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.