As thousands of Texans flock to beaches along the coast, Environment Texas reported that beach closings and advisories due to pollution dropped last year to 231 days, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Natural Resource Defense Council’s
20th annual beach water quality report. Environment Texas called for increased federal funding and strong EPA rules for reducing stormwater pollution.
Across the country, there were more than 18,000 closing and advisory days at ocean, bay and Great Lakes beaches in 2009, confirming that our nation’s beaches continue to suffer from serious water pollution that puts swimmers at risk. Meanwhile, as of July 23 the oil disaster had already led to 1,755 days of beach closing, advisories, and notices in the Gulf region this year. So far, 117.65 cubic yards of tar balls have washed ashore Texas beaches.
“When families head to the beach this summer, they shouldn’t have to worry about swimming in polluted water that can make them sick,” said Kara Byrom, an organizer with Environment Texas. “We applaud the General Land Office for the Texas Beach Watch notification effort that helps to protect public health by giving beachgoers easily accessible information about water quality.”
Today, in the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) litigation brought by The Aransas Project (TAP) against officials of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), United States District Judge Janis Jack ruled from the bench to deny all motions to dismiss the litigation.
The Aransas-Wood Buffalo flock of Whooping Cranes that winters on the Texas coast is the only natural wild flock remaining in the world. The flock has increased from 16 birds in the early 1940s to a high of 270 in the spring of 2008. The 2008-2009 year was the worst in recent history for the Whooping Crane, with a death toll of 23 birds, or 8.5% of the flock, occurring in Texas during their winter at Aransas. The lack of freshwater inflows to the bays from the Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers, especially during times of low flows, resulted in very high salinity levels and depleted food and water sources for the Cranes.
The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the largest in American history, is an environmental tragedy that has had devastating effects on thousands of lives; however, the oil spill is only one of a multitude of problems the Gulf of Mexico is currently facing.
Today, Environment Texas released Our Great Waters, a new report that outlines the regional, environmental, and economic significance of eight of America’s most treasured waterways. Because of its ecological significance, Environment Texas has named the Gulf of Mexico as one of America’s “Great Waters.” This report lays out the specific problems facing each of the eight water bodies and proposed legislative fixes. The release of this report comes a week before a key vote in the Environment and Public Works committee in the U.S. Senate.
“Water quality in the Gulf is not only threatened by the oil spill, but also by excess pollution from industrial facilities and corporate agricultural operations,” Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas said. “These facilities release pollutants into the Mississippi River and other waterways, which then flow to the Gulf.”
"The BP well is still spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf and it’s clear that the oil industry has failed to demonstrate that it is capable of preventing and cleaning up a catastrophic oil spill. Judge Feldman’s decision to allow oil companies to resume deepwater drilling in the Gulf is like putting a drunk back in the driver’s seat after handing him a cup of coffee.”
As the damage escalates from the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, Environment Texas criticized Senator Cornyn and Senator Hutchison today for voting in favor of legislation that would have blocked new rules requiring cars and light trucks to use less oil. A recent analysis found that the Senate measure rejected today would have increased Texas’s dependence on oil by more than 37 million gallons in 2016. The binding resolution, which was rejected by the U.S. Senate today by a vote of 47-53 and which was introduced by Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, also would have cost Texans $99 million at the gas pump in 2016. The environmental and economic impacts would have been even greater over time.
“The Gulf disaster is a painful reminder that we must move our country off of oil. We’re extremely disappointed that today Senator Cornyn and Senator Hutchison voted instead to give another Washington bailout to Big Oil and other polluters,” said Environment Texas Director Luke Metzger. “Rather than make tragedies like the Gulf disaster more likely and further delay our transition to a clean energy economy, Senator Cornyn and Senator Hutchison should instead help pass a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill through the Senate this year.”
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.