Home page Alert Committee Members Meetings Membership Minutes Newsletter Related Sites Volunteer Contact Us

November 3, 2001 BBRSC Newsletter

Issue 58

"Wild by Law" PROGRAM

The November 20th program scheduled for 7 p.m. in room 309, Lawrence Hall on the Sul Ross State University campus will offer a lively video entitled Wild by Law providing a history of the environmental movement, focussed upon the works of three men in the first half of the twentieth century. The Wilderness Act of 1964 marked an astonishing reversal of the common belief that the natural world exists to be exploited. But the decree took over four decades to accomplish and the lifelong commitment of the three men: Bob Marshall, founder of the Wilderness Society; Aldo Leopold, author of Sand County Almanac; and Howard Zahniser, who relentless lobbied members of Congress to support the measure. The video is narrated by Academy-Award winning actress Linda Hunt and is produced by Florentine Films. The film is made available through the Texas Council for the Humanities. The meeting is open to the public.

Upcoming Programs: The December 18th program will feature Jim Glendinning offering a nature/travel program through Copper Canyon in Northern Chihuahua, Mexico, with additional slides possible from the area. The meeting will conclude with our annual Christmas Party.

The following scheduled program will be February 19th and will feature John Karges, a well-known naturalist in West Texas, and a biologist for the Nature Conservancy. His program is entitled "Natural West Texas." The tentative March program will feature Erin Rogers, staff from the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, updating us on water and radioactive waste issues.

CHAIR'S COLUMN

By Don Dowdey

Remembering Hal Flanders

Hal Flanders was one of the first people I met in Alpine; in fact, I met him on a trip here to interview for a job at Sul Ross. At that first meeting, I remember him saying, "Everything is part of a web of life. If one strand of the web is changed, the rest of the web is changed somehow as well." The last time I talked with Hal, he had just come from a city council meeting where he had once again made a plea for recycling, specifically asking that a new cardboard bailer be purchased. He told me, in his self-depreciating way of seeing wonder everywhere, "The audience applauded when I was done. I guess they agreed with me."

In between the first and last, Hal talked with me about many things. About plants, and golden eagles. About humming birds -- would it surprise anyone who knew Hal to learn that he had observed a hummingbird nest with eggs in it? He told me of seeing the Davis Mountains from the rim of the Chisos, and regretted that people today can't experience that. He taught me about Monarch butterflies and the fungus that grows on cactus that was used by the Aztecs to make purple dye. At the Presidio Onion Festival one year, I listened as he talked to high school students about plans to irradiate food, about ways to clean up the Rio Grande, and ways to clean up the air. A year later, I saw one of the students at Sul Ross, and he asked me about that "old guy with the beard who knew so many interesting things."

Hal told me about how dogs experience motion, and about the ecology of ferns that grow at desert springs. He told me to look for acorn woodpeckers in Pine Canyon, and about their communal habits of storing food. He taught me the "polite" name for dog cactus, and the name to use "when you're not in mixed company." Once, we talked about wolves, and I remember him saying that people could learn something from them about living together. "Wolves," he said, "will fight each other to determine who will be the dominant one in the pack. They fight hard, and it isn't over until one has the other at his mercy, usually on his back with his teeth at his throat. But, the winner almost never destroys the loser, realizing," Hal said, "that oftentimes during a hunt, you need the second strongest to help out."

As I heard the story, after Hal fell, he seemed to be all right. It wasn't until later, when the things he said didn't make sense, that it became clear that something was wrong.

When the things he said didn't make sense, it became clear something was wrong.

It occurs to me that that's not a bad epitaph for a man.

Farewell friend.

FLANDERS WEBSITE UNDER CONSTRUCTION

The Big Bend Regional Sierra Club has added a link to information on Hal Flanders. While the website to date has only an obituary, plans are underway to include reminiscences from friends of Hal Flanders as well as pictures. A number of testimonials and stories have been sent to Fran Sage. Please send any writings on Hal to
sage@brooksdata.net . The website is http://www.texas.sierraclub.org/bigbend.

In addition, 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. A list of contributors will be in the next newsletter.

TEXAS CENTER FOR POLICY STUDIES CREATES NEW RESEARCH WEBSITE

Check out the new Texas Environmental Profiles Web site http://www.texasep.org. One may find information on the state of the Texas environment, including issues such as air quality, water quality, water supply, waste disposal, wildlife and biodiversity, energy, and pesticides. In addition there is data on each county using 50 indicators of environmental quality. Finally there is a mapping tool (somewhat tricky to learn how to use) which would allow one to create statewide maps of particular environmental indicators. The site also has a Take Action section, with options to make one's voice heard with more to be added in that section soon. Finally one can get a copy of a new guidebook on using the site by contacting Cyrus Reed by e-mail cr@texascenter.org or calling (512/ 474-0811.

BIG BEND AIR POLLUTION: THE BRAVO STUDY


By Fran Sage

At a meeting on air pollution in the Big Bend, representatives of the Environmental Agency (EPA), Region Six, in Dallas, the National Park Service (NPS), and the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) told the audience that a number of measures will help reduce the sulfates that reduce visibility. But the major topic for discussion was the BRAVO study and its use.

The BRAVO (Big Bend Regional Aerosol and Visibility Observation) study was conducted from July through October 1999. Essentially the EPA put tracers (inert compounds) into several power plant smoke stacks, the Big Brown unit of Texas Utilities (TXU) about 100 miles southeast of Dallas and the Parish plant owned by Reliant Energy near Houston and into the air in two areas, in San Antonio for the urban environment, and Eagle Pass on the Mexican border just across from Piedras Negras, Mexico. As Mexico chose not to be part of the study, the Eagle Pass site was a surrogate for Carbon I and II, two large coal-burning power plants near Piedras Negras. Monitoring stations in the Big Bend area would reveal what pollutants arrived at Big Bend National Park (BBNP).

Mark Scruggs, NPS, explained that pollution in the Big Bend has been increasing from 1988 - 1999, both in general emissions and in sulfate emissions. He said that of all the national parks in the country, only two or three have increasing pollution and BBNP is one of them. He also showed graphics of the types of pollutants and then relative amounts during each season of the year. What was clear was that regardless of the time of year, sulfates were always the major pollutant.

Jim Yarbrough, EPA, showed a number of graphics revealing the relative percentages of time that all the tracers showed up at BBNP. The tables did not quantify the amounts of particulates and sulfur dioxide pollutants but rather what percent of the time the tracers showed up at San Vicente, K-Bar, and Persimmon Gap in BBNP as well as in Marathon, Ft. Stockton, and Monahans. Although the percentages varied from monitoring station to monitoring station, all recorded tracers reaching the areas. His graphics also showed that the pollutants came on wind patterns directly from the northeast (Texas and other United States locations); down the Texas coast and across Mexico and into the Park; and from the South-Mexico. He made clear the tracer study is not intended to pinpoint exactly specific sources but rather areas.

In addition he outlined the timetable for the final report which will be out in August 2002. The final draft will be written by the BRAVO Steering Committee consisting of persons from the three agencies, from TXU and Reliant Energy and from two environmental organizations, Environmental Defense (EDF) and the Texas Center for Policy Studies (TCPS). EDF and TCPS have years of experience with border air pollution problems.

In fact, the Steering Committee met the afternoon of October 18th to see the presentation and to ask questions. As the two environmental groups were not able to come out to Alpine, Don Dowdey and Fran Sage of the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club as well as Fred Richardson of the state office, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, sat in and asked questions. Karen Hadden of Sustainable Energy & Economic Development (SEED) in Austin also was present.

It was in the presentation of Brian Foster of the TNRCC that the audience learned about some of the work of the agency that would relate to the BRAVO study. He reminded the audience of the 1999 electricity deregulation bill which requires the power plants to reduce nitrogen oxides by 50% by the year 2003 and sulfur dioxide by 25%. He also discussed briefly the 2001 legislation that regulated grandfathered plants that are not power plants, which are now required to come into conformity with new laws by about 2007. Commissioner Ralph Marquez of the TNRCC gave an example of non-power plants, which are being permitted, and will have major reductions required. He mentioned in particular ALCOA, the largest non-power plant polluter.

Foster discussed the nine-state group known as the Central States Regional Air Partnership (CENRAP), one of five regions in the country, which are developing a state improvement plan (SIP) for regional haze rules. (Larry Byrum, CENRAP Executive Director, was also present). Foster believes that the BRAVO study will be useful to that group. He also discussed briefly the fine particulate rules. All of the above could bring about reductions in sulfates in the Big Bend.

Gregg Cooke, EPA staff director from Region 6 in Dallas, said that new standards for gasoline, which must be in place by 2005, will reduce substantively the amount of sulfur in gasoline. This will be in effect over the entire United States and should make a difference. He also mentioned the regional agreements being approved for areas of East Texas, which may reduce sulfates even though that is not mandated.

Cooke went on to emphasize that Texas and Mexico are not the only sources of pollution in the Big Bend. He concluded his discussion and elaborated some in the question and answer period about Mexican pollution. He said he just got back from discussion with Mexican officials and the issue is on the table. He believes that the new administration of Mexico and the United States may address the issue more meaningfully than in the past. He believes that the BRAVO study will help in those discussions.

We expect the agencies to come out to Alpine again after the final report and discuss the BRAVO recommendations and what happens next.

BIG BEND REGIONAL SIERRA CLUB NEWS

At its October 25, 2001 meeting, the BBRSC Executive Committee appointed Marilyn Brady, Chair, Tom Curry and Jim Sage to serve on the Election Committee.

The Executive Committee passed a resolution thanking Marilyn Brady for her work on the Executive Committee and sent good wishes for improvement in her health.

Committee also thanked Joe Campbell for his correspondence work on memorial donations, other donations, and calendar sales.

John Bell is also looking into holding the BBRSC's February meeting in Fort Davis.

Mexican Highway Link to be Studied

The Committee also voted to go forward with a committee to propose a policy statement on Entrada al Pacifico, the proposed route from Texas through Ft. Stockton, Alpine, and Marfa to Mexico, through Chihuahua City, and to the western port of Topolobampa. Don Dowdey plans to contact survey respondents who indicated an interest in working on the committee. Susan Curry also offered to give information collected by Tourists Not Trucks in its investigation of the issue. The new committee will be charged with 1) gathering information about the current status of the project in the US and Mexico; 2) seeing how the project fits into the National Sierra Club's position on NAFTA; and 3) developing and presenting several strategies to the Executive Committee leading to a BBRSC position on La Entrada. The Committee recognizes that this is an evolving process, and that the charge can be modified by the ExCom upon recommendation of the La Entrada Committee.

Ballot Issues Publicized

Liz Hightower gave a report on the work of the Water Committee. Within the context of that report, the Committee voted to publicize its opposition to Proposition 19, the proposed constitutional amendment giving $2 billion more bonding authority to the Texas Water Development Board, which could be the first step in through the door for up to $17.5 billion worth of water projects. Since there is to be an interim study committee on the very topic, the Committee felt it premature to move forward on the unanalyzed projects prior to the study. As part of the same motion The Executive Committee voted to publicize its support for Proposition 8, providing needed bonding authority for several state agencies including Texas Parks and Wildlife. Finally the Committee endorsed creation of a water district in Brewster County, the only county in the area without some type of water district. Don Dowdey sent a letter to the area newspapers outlining BBRSC positions. UPDATE (11-07-01) Proposition 19 did, unfortunately, pass. Good news though that Proposition 8 and the Brewster County Water District items did pass.

Radioactive Waste Storage

The Exexutive Committee also voted to send letters to the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, urging it to support storing radioactive waste at power plant sites, especially in light of the transportation concerns on terrorists. The BBRSC has a long standing principle supporting storing the waste at power plants. Dowdey will contact Erin Rogers of the Lone Star Chapter's staff who is working on radioactive waste issues. He will also put an item on the list serve for radioactive waste.

Legislative Awards Dinner

Don Dowdey is tentatively planning to go to Austin for the November 17th Legislative Awards dinner sponsored by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club in Austin and to attend the November 18th Lone Star Chapter Executive Committee meeting as the representative from the Big Bend Regional Sierra Club. This year the awards dinner will be in honor of Senator David Bernsen of Beaumont for his critical efforts to close the grandfather loophole for dirty old industrial air polluters. Ken Kramer, Sierra Club state director said, "Sen. Bernsen was the driving force in the Texas Senate for the closure of a 30-year old loophole in the Texas Clean Air Act." Kramer also recognized the work on this issue of Rep. Zeb Zbranek of Winnie for his dedicated work on the issue in the Texas House. Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio will be honored for his active sponsorship of SB 1194, the bat protection bill that makes it unlawful to kill, sell, possess, or purchase bats, which should help stop the decline of many bat populations. Bats perform essential ecological functions such as pest control, pollination, and seed dispersal. Brian Sybert, Lone Star staffer said, "The Sierra Club also appreciates the work of Reps. Emund Kuempel of Seguin and Debra Danburg of Houston, who co-authored the bill in the House." Senator Eliot Shapleigh of El Paso is being recognized for his diligent and energetic work against the passage of legislation that would have opened up Texas to be a dumping ground for huge volumes of radioactive waste from the U. S. Department of Energy and other sources. Lone Star staffer Erin Rogers said, " Senator Shapleigh helped to slow down the radioactive waste train in the Texas Senate so that it could be derailed in the House." Finally, Representative Fred Bosse of Houston is being recognized for his deliberative work in shepherding the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department continuation bills through the legislative process. Rep. Bosse chaired the interim review of those agencies by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Ken Kramer chief staff person of the Lone Star Chapter said, "Thanks to Rep. Bosse, our state environmental agency, the TNRCC, has been given the message from legislators that the agency must be more responsive to the public and more aggressive in curbing pollution."

CALENDAR SALES

Ginny Campbell, treasurer, is in charge of calendar sales this year. Sales have been brisk. You can place an order directly to Ginny by calling (915) 386-4526, or sending her an e-mail at jokeambl@overland.net or dropping her a note at P. O. Box 474, Marathon, TX 79842, or you can contact the following people: Brenda Bell in Ft. Davis 426-2498, Brian Cassell in Alpine at 837-2169, or Renee Mick in Presidio on weekdays at 229-2729 or on weekends in Marfa at 729-3988. There will also be calendars at our November 20 meeting. There will be two calendars available this year: the wall calendar for $11.95 and the engagement calendar for $12.95. Either or both will make handsome gifts for Christmas as well as items for personal use and enjoyment. Calendar sales are one of several ways for the BBRSC to raise money. Sixty percent of the money from calendar sales remains with us.

CONTRIBUTIONS

Our treasurer reports that we received $300 in donations from an anonymous donor and from Tom Reidy as well as $35 in pledge money. Thanks to all of you. Our total for the year is $1902. We hope to make $300 from our calendar sales. We are looking for someone to help us work on a fundraiser for spring. Contact Don Dowdey at (915) 837-3210.

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE ELECTION

Nominations

The Nominating Committee, Brenda Bell, Marilyn Brady, and Fran Sage completed its work and nominated Linda Hedges and Luanne Hirsch. No petition nominations were received by the October 22, 2001 deadline. The two openings complete the size reduction from 8 to 7 to 5 members over the course of the last two years. Fran Sage, Susan Curry, John Bell, and Jim Walker's terms all expire at the end of the year. Continuing members are Ginny Campbell, Don Dowdey, and Liz Hightower.

Included in this newsletter is a ballot for members.

Elections Schedule

November 12 -- Ballots go out
December 15 - Ballots return due
December 18 - Election results announced

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

Officers:

Chair: Don Dowdey (see above address) (915) 837-3210
Vice-Chair: Fran Sage P. O. Box 564, Alpine, TX 79831 (915) 364-2362
Secretary: Jim Walker HC65 Box 14 Alpine, TX 79830
Treasurer: Virginia Campbell P. O. Box 474 Marathon, TX 79842


Top

Home page Alert Committee Members Meetings Membership Minutes Newsletter Related Sites Volunteer Contact Us