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February 3, 2002
BIG BEND REGIONAL SIERRA CLUB Newsletter

Issue 60

[A personal note: As some of you know, I again had surgery in January and am now recuperating. Hence the simple format of the newsletter. I plan to continue writing the newsletter and serving as conservation chair. Fran Sage]

NATURAL WEST TEXAS

John Karges Featured Speaker for February Program

Members and the public are invited to the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club's February 19th program at 7 PM in Room 309, Lawrence Hall on the Sul Ross State University campus. John Karges will present a slide show entitled "Natural West Texas," taking a panoramic sweep across some of the outstanding natural features that makes West Texas so rich and unique. The presentation spans from the national and state parks to private conservation preserves to other scenic and sometimes obscure special places. The central theme includes the life zones at different elevations and the animals and plants found in these unique places, spanning the Chihuahuan Desert of Trans-Pecos Texas from the Pecos River and Rio Grande up to the forested "sky island" mountain ranges.

Karges is a long time Texas resident, having grown up in Fort Worth and attended Texas A & I University in Kingsville and the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his MS in Biology. He has worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and as a naturalist at the Fort Worth Nature Center, before joining the Nature Conservancy's staff. Karges moved to West Texas in 1991, to establish and manage the Trans-Pecos program as the West Texas Land Steward. He is currently the Nature Conservancy's Conservation Biologist for the West Texas Program. His professional specialty is southwestern vertebrate ecology and distribution. He has extensive field experience with Chihuahuan Desert biota and landscapes, as well as in south Texas and northern Mexico. From TNC's Fort Davis office, Karges currently is responsible for the ecological management and biological surveys of Conservancy preserves and potential conservation lands in the Trans-Pecos.

OUTING PLANNED

On Feb. 23 Big Bend Regional Sierra Club members and guests will travel to south Brewster County to hike on the Rancherias spur trail in Big Bend Ranch State Park. Those driving from Alpine may work out carpool arrangements from the parking lot behind La Placita Building. La Placita is on Holland, across from the Food Basket grocery store. We should leave by 7:30 AM. Those coming from other areas may either meet in Alpine or meet at the Warnock Center in Lajitas no later than 9 AM. Participants will be responsible for park fees, which are $6 per person.

Hiking will begin at the West Rancherias trailhead on Hwy 170. For those who don't want to make the trip in one day, primitive camping is available at Colorado Canyon River Access, close to the trailhead, and at Madera Canyon River Access about 10 miles east. We will probably leave the trail at about 2:30 or 3:00. The spur trail is a nice walk up a drainage that allows you to walk a short way or the entire 10-mile round trip. We encourage everyone who can to join us.

BBRSC ELECTS NEW OFFICERS

The newly elected Big Bend Regional Sierra Club Executive Committee in its January 30th organization meeting, elected the following officers for 2002. [You may recall that under Sierra Club bylaws, the entire membership votes via secret mail ballot for members of the Executive Committee, and then Executive Committee chooses officers from its ranks.]

Chair: Don Dowdey
Vice-chair: Luanne Hirsch
Secretary: Linda Hedges
Treasurer: Virginia Campbell

The other ExCom member is Liz Hightower who is Water Issues Chair. Don Dowdey asks the membership to please volunteer to provide backup for Linda Hedges at the public meetings when she is unable to attend. Please contact Don at (915) 837-3210 or ddowdey@wildblue.net

The ExCom also set its meeting calendar for 2002 as follows:

April 24
July 31
Oct 30

1:30 to 4:00 in the Board Room of the West Texas National Bank in Alpine

CHAIR'S COLUMN

By Don Dowdey

New Source Review Update

Recent national action on the Clean Air Act has focused on a portion of the Act known as New Source Review. Under the Clean Air Act's current New Source Review provision, when new plants are built or old plants are significantly modified, they must update their pollution control equipment. Under the guise of "streamlining," over the Christmas holiday, the Bush Administration issued proposals that will gut this crucial clean air provision. Among the most troubling proposals is one that will allow plants to make up to $100 million per year in modifications without installing pollution controls. This could potentially allow whole units of coal-burning power plants to be built over the course of several years without having to meet modern standards as long as they were in an 'attainment' area.

Another proposed change would allow plants to avoid installing updated pollution controls unless modifications made at a plant will cause the plant to emit more pollution than it emitted in the dirtiest of its last ten years of operation. This means that grandfathered plants in Texas will get a ten-year cushion, where they can continue polluting at their current grandfathered levels.

The Administration's plan also threatens pending enforcement actions for violations of the Clean Air Act initiated under the last Administration. According to Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition, "These enforcement actions have confirmed that 91 power plants and refineries across the U.S. have violated the Clean Air Act and 318 plants are still undergoing investigation. Settlements in these enforcement actions would cut pollution by 120,000 tons per year. Under the Administration's proposal it is unlikely that we would see new enforcement actions and even pending enforcement actions may be jeopardized."

Katy Hubener, Director of the Blue Skies Alliance says, "The Clean Air Act ' reforms' being recommended by the Administration would guarantee that pollution in Texas will increase. Texas stands to be severely affected by these changes. New Source Review rollbacks would threaten the hard-won clean air plans (SIPs) for Dallas/Ft. Worth and Houston. If industrial plants are allowed to increase their emissions without the necessary pollution controls, or if some of the refineries that already broke the law are let off the hook, efforts to get these areas to meet federal air quality standards are likely to be derailed."

For those of us in the Big Bend, where air pollution comes from miles away, and from sources outside of Texas, national clean air legislation, combined with negotiations with Mexico, are our best hopes for clearer skies and cleaner air. Final action on the Bush proposals is expected later in the spring. For now, if you want to communicate your views to EPA Administrator Christine Whitman and Region VI Administrator Gregg Cooke, you can send them an online fax from http://www.seedcoalition.org/act.epa.clean.air.htm

Or you can contact them at:

Christine T. Whitman, 1101-A US EPA Headquarters, Ariel Rios Building,
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W., Washington, DC 20460
Phone: (202) 260-2090
Fax: 202-501-1450

Mr. Gregg Cooke, Regional Administrator, Region VI,
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Fountain Place, 12th Floor, Suite 1200
1445 Ross Ave.
Dallas, Texas 75202-2733
Phone: (800) 887-6063
Fax: (214) 665-7113

To receive timely alerts on this and other topics of interest, subscribe to the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club alerts list at: http://texas.sierraclub.org/bigbend/alert.html

LONE STAR CHAPTER, SIERRA CLUB
CONSERVATION PRIORITIES 2002-2003

Ken Kramer, Chapter Director of the Lone Star Chapter, sent out the following report based on the state ExCom decisions at its January 19, 2002 meeting.

The Executive Committee of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, with input from volunteer leaders throughout the state, has adopted the following priorities for Chapter conservation action during 2002 and 2003. In pursuit of these priority issues and other conservation action goals the Lone Star Chapter is committed to achieving environmental justice for all Texans and is dedicated to promoting environmental education in our schools, homes, and communities for people at all age levels but especially for the youth of our state.

The first set of priorities focuses on issues to which a significant commitment of both Chapter staff and volunteer time and resources is being made. The other priorities described are those being undertaken in Texas primarily by volunteer leaders, regional Sierra Club staff, or other organizations with more limited involvement by Chapter staff. The Chapter is cooperating with other organizations, especially the Alliance for a Clean Texas, in pursuing both sets of priorities.

Water Resources Management & Protection

Protection and promotion of environmental water needs, water conservation, and rational drought management in the regional water planning process and in the development of the state water plan; promotion of proper groundwater management and protection of groundwater quality; protection of clean water and achievement of the highest levels of surface water quality; and strengthened regulation of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to lessen their impacts on water quality

Clean Air

Implementation of the legislation regulating upset air emissions and closing the "grandfather" loophole for dirty old industrial air polluters; effective air quality clean-up plans for Texas cities; improvement of air quality in the Big Bend region; maintenance and implementation of a strong federal Clean Air Act

Land Conservation

Establishment of a sufficient level of public funds at the state and federal levels for the next ten years to enhance, manage, and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas (through parkland acquisition, wildlife habitat protection, purchase of development rights, conservation easements, and other mechanisms) for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations

A Responsible and Environmentally-Sound Energy Policy

Action to achieve higher levels of energy efficiency and to increase the use of renewable energy sources in Texas and in the nation; opposition to energy policies that promote the use of nuclear power or the dependence of the United States on oil, coal, and other polluting sources; protection of the environment from the harmful impacts of energy development and production, including action to reduce the generation of radioactive wastes and properly manage those wastes which are generated.

Other Lone Star Chapter Conservation Priorities:

Environmental Agency Reform

Implementation of the legislation reforming the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), which is being renamed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, to make the agency more responsive and accountable to the public and less tied to the polluting industries the agency regulates; provision of adequate funding to TNRCC to carry out its environmental protection mission and enforce pollution control laws

Logging in National Forests

Support for an end to commercial logging in the national forests of the United States in order to protect our nation's old growth forests, end the draining of nutrients from the soil and the washing of topsoil into streams, preserve wildlife habitat, eliminate taxpayer subsidization of destructive logging in our national forests, and prevent degradation of recreational opportunities

Sprawl

Promotion of responsible land use management and other policies to curb "sprawl" (scattered land development that increases traffic, pollutes our air and water, worsens flood damages, destroys open space and productive farmland, wastes taxpayers' money, and crowds our children's schools) with an emphasis on promotion of mass transit, bicycling, pedestrian pathways, and other alternatives to our heavy dependence on automobiles and trucks to meet our transportation needs in Texas cities

CONSERVATION PLAN PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY TO
INCREASE PARKLAND AND PROTECT HABITAT

Texas Parks & Wildlife has begun taking steps to develop the State Land and Water Resources Conservation Plan that was mandated by the Texas Legislature this past session. The Conservation Plan is critical because it will lay the framework for future land, water, and wildlife habitat conservation actions by the state. The development of the Conservation Plan will provide the public with a great opportunity to significantly advance land and wildlife habitat conservation in Texas.

The legislation requires Texas Parks & Wildlife to inventory all land and water associated with historical, natural, recreational, and wildlife resources in the state that are owned by governmental and nonprofit entities that provide public access. The inventory will then be used to develop a Conservation Plan that will guide future Parks & Wildlife decisions on how to meet the state's growing conservation and recreation needs.

The Conservation Plan will rely heavily on a large volume of data that was generated by the Texas Parks & Wildlife for the 21st Century study that was conducted by Texas Tech University. One of the highlights of the study is the recommendation that an addition 1.4 million acres of state parkland and 550,000 acres of local parkland be acquired by 2030 to meet the growing need for conservation and recreation areas. In addition to identifying priorities for land conservation and recreation the study also involved the largest public opinion survey on natural resources in Texas. The public opinion survey indicates that there is overwhelming support among Texas citizens for an increase in the amount of land dedicated for conservation areas and parks.

The Conservation Plan is underway and has one year to be completed. The legislation mandates that the Conservation Plan must be completed by October 15, 2002. A draft of the Conservation Plan will be submitted to the Parks & Wildlife Commission in late May 2002. The public comment period for the draft Conservation Plan will be held during the summer of 2002. Public involvement will be critical to ensure that the Conservation Plan adequately meets the growing conservation and recreation needs of Texas.

This spring the Lone Star Chapter will provide updates on the development of the Conservation Plan and information on how you can get involved on its web site at www.texas.sierraclub.org

For more information about the Conservation Plan or how you can get involved contact Brian Sybert at 512/ 477-1729 or briansybert@earthlink.net.

THE LONE STAR SIERRA CLUB PLANS ENERGY/RADIOACTIVE WASTE CONFERENCE
LATE APRIL

Erin Rogers of the Lone Star Chapter (state organization) announces an Anti-Nuclear Workshop on Saturday, April 27, 2002 from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM at Lake Whitney State Park, located about 60 miles southwest of Ft. Worth and very close to the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant. It is 15 miles west of I-35 near Hillsboro. The goals are to broaden, strengthen, and structure the anti-nuclear movement in Texas; to encourage anti-nuke people from the urban areas such as Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin as well as other areas to meet those from West Texas; to educate ourselves on national, state, and local nuclear and energy issues; to begin to formulate strategies for the 2003 legislative session (anti-nuke dumping as well as a proactive sustainable energy platform), and just possibly to have fun, share music and culture, and get to know each other .

While the program has not yet been fully worked out, tentative plans include a series of educational panels in the morning and a series of strategizing sessions in the afternoon. More plans will be firmed up shortly. The Lone Star Chapter expects other organizations will help sponsor the conference.

Cost: Sponsoring organizations will most likely be able to cover the cost of the room, lunch, and some of the travel expenses. Everyone will have to pay his/her own $2 entrance fee to the park. At 6:30 there will be a communal dinner and campfire. The workshop will be held in an air-conditioned room seating 70. The room also has a kitchen and bathrooms. People can sleep in the room on a cot or sleeping bag, or camp. Hiking, swimming, and bird watching are available. For those who don't wish to camp, there are hotels and B & Bs in the area.

For those of us from the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club, expenses may be covered. The Executive Committee voted to allocate money so that members may go to the Conference. CONTACT DON DOWDEY (915) 837-3210 or ddowdey@wildblue.net IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ATTENDING.

SIERRA CLUB SUES TO MAKE PUBLIC INFORMATION PUBLIC

[Following is a report released by the national Sierra Club on January 25th. You can also access this at www.sierraclub/org. See left hand column and click on story.-Ed.]

Vice President Cheney has admitted to meeting with Enron CEO Kenneth Lay on at least six occasions last spring, at a time when the White House was busily crafting its national energy policy. He has refused to give further details.

After numerous attempts by members of Congress and the General Accounting Office to find out what influence industry leaders, including Lay, had on that policy, the Sierra Club has filed suit in federal court in San Francisco. The lawsuit demands a full and detailed accounting of meetings between energy executives, the task force, and various task force subcommittees as required by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA).

"If the White House had conducted their meetings in the light of day, we wouldn't need this lawsuit," said Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. "If the Administration built its energy policy on the recommendations of the likes of Enron, Americans deserve to know about it before it's too late. Vice President Cheney is acting like the public has no business asking about the closed-door meetings that shaped the Administration's energy policy. We're here to say that the future of energy in this country is every citizen's business."

Setting the Record Straight

The suit comes on the heels of White House suggestions that the Sierra Club had equal access to the Energy Task Force. Asked by a reporter about the propriety of the Vice President's meetings with Mr. Lay, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer responded by saying, "The President thinks that access should be across the board. And that's why the Sierra Club, for example, as you know, met repeatedly with the energy task force."

In truth, representatives of the Sierra Club met with Administration officials on only two occasions and only AFTER the release of the Bush energy plan. Furthermore, Sierra Club representatives never met with the full task force.

BIG BEND REGIONAL SIERRA CLUB NEWS

KUDOS FOR CALENDAR SALES

Ginny Campbell, treasurer, announces that the BBRSC has cleared $ 805.33 from its fall calendar sales. Many thanks to Ginny and those who helped her sell the calendars. While all help is appreciated, we would like to particularly thank Tammy West and Nelson Guda from Austin who sold 29 calendars. Others in Austin and in the Big Bend contributed to our success. We sold over 130 calendars. Combined with our contributions for last year, we will be able to plan more activities to involve more members and others in our work. Thanks again to all who sold and bought calendars.

INCREASED BUDGET ALLOCATED BY EXCOM

The newly elected Executive Committee met January 30th and adopted a bold budget to cover increased training and travel for members. The exc. believes the single most important goal of the organization is to increase the number of active members. While we have built a sizeable members list, we do need to have the work of the organization spread around. The budget is set based on achieving that goal.

CONTRIBUTIONS

Campbell also announces that the BBRSC received $ 14 in donations and $10 in pledges for December, bringing the total for 2001 to $ $2056.12. [This total is slightly lower than would be expected from my figures from last month, but it turns out we had one figure in twice last year.-Ed] In addition, we had $70 in tee-shirt sales. All in all a wonderful year. Thanks to all of you for making this happen. January pledges for 2001 came to $60.

FLANDERS WEBSITE

The Big Bend Regional Sierra Club has added a link to information on Hal Flanders. The website is http://www.texas.sierraclub.org/bigbend. Bob Patterson, webmaster formatted the tributes and put in the photo gallery.

The site is now up to date.

DONATIONS FOR THE HAL FLANDERS MEMORIAL

The family has asked that anyone wishing to make memorial donations may send them to the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club % Virginia Campbell, Treasurer, P. O. Box 474, Marathon, TX 79842, or to the Unitarian/Universalist Service Committee, 130 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139-1845. To date, $1460 has been donated. At its October Executive Committee meeting, the ExCom decided to reserve the funds for a special project, not yet designated.

FLANDERS MEMORIAL FUND DONERS

Last newsletter (December 2001), the BBRSC published a list of donors. Since then we would like to add Joel Gormley and Mileniusz and Mary Jo Spanowicz to the list and extend our thanks to them.

WEBSITE PHOTOGRAPHS

Many thanks to Brian Cassell for his photographs which are being placed on our website. Cassell has a body of photography relating to the Big Bend area and has allowed them to be used by BBRSC. Check out the website for the photographs as well as other additions.

Big Bend Regional Sierra Club
50 Sunny Glen, Alpine, Texas 79830

Officers:

Chair: Don Dowdey (see above address) (915) 837-3210
Vice-Chair: Luanne Hirsch, HC 65, Box 37, Alpine, TX 79830
Secretary: Linda Hedges P. O. Box 2103, Ft. Davis, TX 79734
Treasurer: Virginia Campbell P. O. Box 474 Marathon, TX 79842


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