The Alamo The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club
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Newsletter
The Alamo Sierran e-Newsletter - March, 2013


* GENERAL MEETINGS *

Tuesday, March 19th: New Carsharing System - Efficient, Flexible

Bill Barker of the City of San Antonio’s Office of Sustainability will give an overview of the new, downtown carsharing system operated by Hertz On Demand. The recent background, expected impacts and current status of this system will be presented. Bill will provide the sustainability argument for this transportation option and show how carsharing is compatible with the significant shift in demographics and technology now taking place. Attendees will be given specific information on how to enroll and use the carshare system.

Tuesday, April 16th: Local Micro-Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles

Gary Krysztopik, through his venture ZWheelz, LLC in San Antonio, is in the process of developing very simple Open Source Electric Vehicle (EV) kits that are easy to manufacture and easy to assemble. The first vehicle is a two-seat, highway-capable, battery-electric vehicle. This project is also about creating a network of local micro manufacturers of EV's, and a global open source design community.

Tuesday, May 21st: Challenges of Climate Change

Attorney Darby Riley will present a program on climate change. Mr. Riley is the founder of the Texas Environmental Democrats, an environmental caucus of the Democratic Party.

Times, location and speaker bios are on our Events page.


Lion's Field Events
Monthly films and presentations for your edification and enjoyment

Wednesday, March 27th: All About Growing Fruit Trees

David Rodriguez, Texas AgriLife Extension Horticulturist, will teach us the essentials of growing peach, pear, and citrus trees.

Wednesday, April 24th: Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives

The film Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our lives, by Jeffery M Smith, author of best selling books on genetically engineered foods will be shown. Diane Baines, active in educating about the topic, will introduce the film and lead a discussion following the viewing.

May: There will not be a Lion's Field program this month

 

Our Lion's Field events are free and open to the public. They occur on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the Lion's Field Adult Center, 2809 Broadway @ Mulberry. Programs begin at 6:30 p.m..

Visit our Lion's Field Events page for maps and additional information.


Opportunities to Get Involved

Help with Water Legislation Policy

Save the date! Join Environment Texas for the San Antonio launch of our Save Texas Rivers campaign. Learn about current Texas water policy, the importance of conservation, and ways to ensure a sustainable water future. RSVP HERE.

Where: Whole Foods Market Meeting Room, 255 E. Basse Rd. #130 San Antonio, TX 78209
When: Wednesday, March 13, 6:30-8:00 PM

This event is free and open to the public. Friends, family and co-workers are also welcome. 

Get Certified in Native Landscaping

The San Antonio Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas is offering two levels of Native Landscape Certifications. The Level 1 course is 8 hours long and is offered March 16, and April 13. Their Level 2 classes are 12 hours long and offered April 27-28 and May 11-12. To learn more about the classes, costs and to register online go to NPSOT.

Tabling event for SC

Join in Climate Change Awareness

Calling all persons concerned about climate change, one of our most pressing environmental issues. We have put together a PowerPoint presentation with the help of 350.organd others. If you would like to assist in raising local awareness by making or facilitating such presentations, and other actions, please contact Darby Riley (darby15@swbell.net, phone 210-681-5889) or Barb McMillin (mcmillin5543@gmail.com). All help is welcome!

Tablings and Volunteer Opportunities

If you would like to help with community outreach, the Alamo  Sierra Club would love to have you volunteer with any of the upcoming events listed below. To sign-up please contact Gay Wright at alamo.sierra@yahoo.com OR 210-362-1984.


A Word from the Alamo Group Chair

The Texas legislature is in session and is making decisions on numerous issues that Sierrans care deeply about. Below are most of the environmental bills. Though many of them are small, piecemeal steps, Sierrans support most of them and are working with legislators to improve them. If you want to know more about the authors, sponsors, or details of the bills and their progress, it is available by clicking on the bill number that connects you to Texas Legislature Online. These and more bills are listed by Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed at Texas.sierraclub.org

Justice:

Air:

Water: Currently 89% of Texas in in drought, according to Texas water expert Ken Kramer, so water legislation is a high priority for top officials.

Energy: There are numerous bills that affect energy. Sierrans support all of them except HB2026, which alters the renewable energy code in ways that would kill the state’s renewable energy plans.

Oil and Gas Fracking: So far there appears too little legislative effort to rein in the most damaging aspects of the fracking boom.

Parks & Wildlife:

Trees: San Antonio’s tree ordinance is again under attack by this bill, which we hope does not pass.

Native Flora:

Xeriscaping:  Two bills have been introduced regarding home or property owner associations’ (HOAs or POAs) restrictions on resource conservation landscape features.

Waste: Four bills chip away at wasteful practices.

We need you to ACT now. Legislators pay attention to those who speak to them. Don’t let them hear only from industry lobbyists. Join me, other Sierrans and our partners in the Alliance for a Clean Texas Lobby Day at the Capitol in Austin on March 20.  To sign up now, go to http://www.acttexas.org/lobby-day-2013-in-austin/. As Smitty from Public Citizen urges, “If there’s only one day you can make it to Austin this year, make it March 20.” If you can’t go to Austin, please contact the committee chairs and your state representatives by phone, mail or email. Give thanks where it is due. Let officials know your position on these bills.
Margaret "Peggy" Day


Sign Up for Action Alerts

The Sierra Club is all about citizen action on critical issues. Quick citizen input often spells the difference between victory and defeat for important measures at the local and state levels. Sign up now to receive our local e-mail Conservation Action Alerts and let your voice be heard. Call (674-9489) or email Loyd Cortez and we'll add your name to our growing list of environmental activists.


Conservation Committee Report

The Conservation Committee had its last meeting on February 7, 2013. The next meeting is scheduled for March 14, 2013 at the Candlelight Coffeehouse on N. St. Mary's at 6:00 p.m. Thereafter, the meetings will continue to be on the first Thursday of every month at Candlelight Coffeehouse at 6:00 p.m.  

At the meeting on February 7, the committee focused on the State Park funding issue. The group determined that it needed to gather information on how the funding cuts are harming our park service. Some parks such as Lake Texana have been given to the counties in which they exist for the counties to maintain. Unfortunately, Lake Texana did not reopen until recently because the county could not afford to maintain it. Now, it is under the auspices of the Lavaca-Navidad River Authority and is opened under a new name, Texana Park and Campground. Other parks have either remained closed or have been stripped of their funding to the point of no longer being functional.  

The response of the Conservation Committee is to hold a press conference and get the word out about the situation in the state parks. One of the main topics of conversation at the next meeting will be the logistics of holding a press conference. Everyone is welcome to join the conversation either by attending the March 14th meeting or by going on the Sierra Club Alamo Group Facebook page and adding comments.  The state parks issue will be the main post of this committee while the Legislature is in session. 

Another topic to be addressed at the next meeting is an invitation from our new executive director, Scheleen Walker. She would like the opportunity to come down to San Antonio and meet with the club members in an informal environment. She is very interested in meeting us, and would like this opportunity to be a fundraiser since the club is on a very tight budget. It is something to consider and we will discuss this possibility at the March 14 meeting.

Finally, the committee wants to develop groups that will study and address the issues of transportation, recycling, inner city renewal and energy.  

Members and interested individuals are encouraged to participate in this committee. For questions or comments concerning conservation in the San Antonio area, please contact Karen Seal at 210-226-8101.
Karen Seal, Chair
Conservation Committee


ICO Needs Your Unused Camping Gear

Do you have unused tents, sleeping bags and other camping or backpacking gear still in good condition that's taking up space in your closet?  Inner City Outings would love to take them off your hands!  Please contact Anne Pearson, ICO chair, 210-408-6321. or ico.sanantonio@yahoo.com.


Phil Hardberger Park

Outings: Hikes that Lead Us Into Spring

Our Alamo Group outings participants will enjoy great weather for hikes in Scenic Canyon Natural Area, Government Canyon SNA, Hardberger Park and other beautiful places. Visit our Outings page for complete details or go to the Alamo Sierra Club Outings page on Meetup.


Bill Poses Threat to San Antonio's Trees

A bill to allow clearcutting of trees by developers has been filed in the Texas House. HB 1377 would allow developers to destroy every tree on a site regardless of size, age or historical significance.

Sierrans are strongly urged to oppose this bill by contacting:

It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, so watch this page to see when one is scheduled. I also encourage you to attend the hearing and speak or submit a card in opposition to the bill.

Encino Ridge clearcutting

Developers testified to San Antonio’s “abuses of regulatory authority” during invited testimony last September. This testimony was subsequently used to draft a bill that:

I want to emphasize that the bill's clearcutting provisions apply to every square foot of Texas, including sites inside city limits, in ETJs and everywhere else. Over time, HB 1377 would lead to:

An excellent op-ed on the bill, S.A. tree ordinance under attack, was published by Representative Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio). I encourage you to read it as it illuminates the politics behind this bill.
Richard M. Alles, P.E., Tree and Forest Contact


Keystone XL Pipeline Update

The Texas Drought Program is working to keep concerned citizens updated on the progress of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Recently the U.S. State Department issued a favorable Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline, stating that its construction and the processing of oil would have no measurable impact on the environment. To find out more and stay up-to-date, please visit the Texas Drought Program and join their mailing list.


Sierrans at Social Event

Let’s Party!
meet and greet your Sierra Club friends

This month's Social Event is at Cheddar’s Casual Café, 7403 Northwest Loop 410. Contact Loyd Cortez, (210) 674-9489, if planning to attend.

Friday, March 22nd
6 to 8 p.m.

On Friday, April 26th, we'll get together for another social at La Tuna, 100 Probandt Street, 6-8 p.m. Join us outside and enjoy San Antonio’s beautiful spring weather under the trees.

Visit our Social Events page for maps, times and information about these and other gatherings we have planned. If your not busy on these days, then get out of the house and join us for a meal and a chance to "meet and greet" some of your fellow members.

If you would like to be reminded about our upcoming Socials, email Loyd Cortez. Then one week before the next Social, you will receive an email notice reminder.


VIA Has Three New All-Electric Buses

 I decided to catch the Primo 100 to VIA's new all-electric bus celebration held at the Robert Thompson Transit Center on February 26.  I knew the Primo passed in front of the center and stopped at the Ellis Alley Transit Center, so I had a pleasant stroll alongside the Sunset Station.   I spotted the VIA signs, and then rode the elevator down to the opening.  I got a bird's eye view of the speakers, the folding chairs, and the people.  I love openings because I like to be on the cutting edge.

Students from San Antonio School for Inquiry and Creativity at the opening celebration of VIA's all electric bus
Students from San Antonio School for Inquiry and Creativity at the opening celebration of VIA's all electric bus

VIA's three new electric buses are definitely cutting edge.  San Antonio is right out front as one of only two cities in the country to have these silent, emission free, battery-operated, all-electric buses made by Proterra.  David Bennett, the head of Proterra, said the VIA team raised the bar for the Proterra team and that they liked working with VIA.  He stressed the environmentally friendly nature and the cost effectiveness of the new buses.  The buses charged in 10 minutes, he said.  And before we knew it, a bus pulled up, the photos were taken, and the process was described whereby the battery is recharged. The bus is steered by the driver, as a wireless operation moves the bus forward on a track to the recharge device.

The buses can get 30 miles on a charge and are to circulate in the downtown, and will return to the Robert Thompson Transit Center to be recharged.  See the website for Proterra for more details.

With the new, quiet, compressed natural gas VIA Primo 100, the streetcars coming on line in the near future that will run on steel tracks and be powered by electricity, the hybrid-electric buses already running in the core, and the new, battery-operated electric buses, the downtown will have much-improved air quality and noise reduction.  That means better quality of life for residents, visitors, and workers downtown.   Not to mention the health benefits of breathing cleaner air.  These changes are important, as downtown would have become more congested with buses, if these actions by VIA had not been taken.

Students from the San Antonio School of Inquiry and Creativity and others boarded the new ARC bus for the inaugural ride. More questions were asked of Mr. Bennett, who pointed out how quiet a ride it was on the interior--a conversation could be carried on easily.  Proterra made the buses as light as possible, which is also energy efficient. The company has a number of projects that are active or are being evaluated, one being a fuel cell project in Austin.

There is a symmetry that exists between environmentalism and urbanism. Sustainable transportation in an urban or suburban area encourages responsible mixed-use development, and this facilitates subsequent beneficial community and economic development. Once this is accomplished, there is much less incentive to pave over and sprawl into watersheds, aquifers, the hill country, and farmland.  For a glimpse at VIA's comprehensive plan, go to http://www.viainfo.net/Planning/PlanningMain.aspx.  Click on initiatives.

Students from the San Antonio School of Inquiry and Creativity and others boarded the new ARC bus for the inaugural ride. More questions were asked of Mr. Bennett, who pointed out how quiet a ride it was on the interior--a conversation could be carried on easily.  Proterra made the buses as light as possible, which is also energy efficient. The company has a number of projects that are active or are being evaluated, one being a fuel cell project in Austin.

We made our way back to the Robert Thompson Transit Center for more photographs. There are more questions informally.  I find out that a diesel bus costs $55,000 per year for fuel, and the electric bus equivalent cost for electricity is $8,000 to $9,000 per year.  The bus gets 21-23 MPGe, and has a capacity for 64 riders.  This means 87,000 lbs. of carbon savings annually per bus versus compressed natural gas.

I retrace my steps to the Ellis Alley Transit Center.  And this time I admire Copper Canyon Daisy plants in full foliage and an interesting vine growing along the wall at the Sunset Station.  A VIA Primo is already there for a break, so I check out the new facility, which is very attractive and full of information for making connections.  I made it home in 30 minutes from this stop. I am going to love the walks, the connections on these new exciting and fun-to-ride travel modes, and arriving stress-free and fast in the future.
Barbara McMillin, Transportation Contact