Red Tide Season is Upon Us: Oysters and Fish Beware

Categories: Environment

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Photo by Jules Morgan
Won't somebody think of the oysters? (Everybody is.)

Beware the red tide. That may sound like a pseudo-biblical warning, but the nasty algae that goes by that name is already popping up in Texas waters this season. And you know what this means: Oyster season, that magical time of the year when we can eat raw oysters fished out of Texas waters, is in danger.


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That Stinky Seaweed in Galveston Could Soon Be Edible

Categories: Environment

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Jerald Jackson
Unless you're without a sense of smell (and thus lucky in this case) you've probably noticed that Galveston kind of smells like it's on the edge of the bowels of something unspeakably nasty these days because of the many tons of seaweed that have washed up on our hallowed shores.

Scientists have been working on a plan to deal with all of this disgusting seaweed -- it's actually called sargassum and the folks on Texas and Louisiana shores have been wrangling with it for months. You might have looked at all this seaweed and wondered what in the world would be done with it. Well, Tom Linton and Robert Webster, researchers at Texas A&M-Galveston, are working on a plan.

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Environmentalists Rally Around Lawsuit to Scrub San Jacinto Waste Pits

Categories: Environment

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Photo by Susan Du
Environmental activist Jackie Young of Texans Together gathers protesters in front of the Waste Management headquarters. Pending an actual "solution for pollution," the county attorney will push on with his suit to collect billions in fines.

As Houston corporate lobbyists fight a county lawsuit seeking to penalize companies for carcinogens plaguing the San Jacinto River, environmental groups have pledged to keep hounding their headquarters with angry rhymes.

In 2011, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan sued Waste Management, International Paper, and McGinnis Industrial Maintenance Corporation for $2 billion in penalties for the cancer-causing dioxin that's leached out of the San Jacinto Waste Pits for nearly half a century. But Waste Management and International Paper say they only inherited the property after it had been polluted, so they're not liable to pay for full remediation.

Champion Paper and its contractor McGinnes Industrial Maintenance created the Waste Pits in the 1960s, when barges carrying with sludge from a paper mill in Pasadena dumped their contents in pits on the river's west bank. Over time, erosion, rising water and the companies' total abandonment caused part of the Waste Pits to submerge underwater, contaminating the San Jacinto River within a half-mile radius. The pits are currently covered by a temporary cap, which Waste Management and International Paper support leaving in place as a much cheaper alternative to a thorough scrubbing.

The pollution is so extensive that the EPA named the Waste Pits a Superfund site -- part of the federal government's program to repair the nation's concentrations of uncontrolled hazardous waste.

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Halliburton Totally Settling the BP Oil Spill

Categories: Environment

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Photo by the U.S. Coast Guard
The beginnings of the whopper of an oil spill that Halliburton is paying for (a little.)

Halliburton has managed to dodge some of the notoriety that has dogged British Petroleum in the wake of the massive BP oil spill (partly because it was called the BP oil spill and all) but the Houston-based company has still been all wrapped up in lawsuits. Some of those lawsuits may soon be resolved since Halliburton has reached a settlement that -- if approved by the judge overseeing the case -- could clean up the bulk of Halliburton's lawsuits for about $1.1. billion.

For those with short memories, way back in 2010 BP was drilling a well out off the Louisiana coast when there was a massive blowout that killed 11 people and sent millions of barrels of crude oil gushing into the Gulf. It's the largest oil spill in U.S. history, no matter which way you slice it. And officials representing the three companies involved have tried their best to chop things up so they can shoulder the smallest amount of blame possible. BP owned the well, Transocean owned the rig and Halliburton was contracted to do the cement casing -- the one that BP reps in particular have blamed for the spill. Meanwhile, Halliburton folks have been busy blaming BP for the whole thing.


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EPA Finally Agrees to Clean Up CES Environmental's Mess

Categories: Environment

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After nearly four years of public outcry, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has finally agreed clean up abandoned industrial waste left behind by CES Environmental Services in southeast Houston.

For years neighbors had complained about CES' Griggs Road facility, where the company cleaned tanker trucks for refineries and chemical plants along the Houston Ship Channel, recycling oil and packaging waste for disposal. CES filed for bankruptcy in 2010, shortly after federal regulators fined the company $1.5 million for a litany of safety violations onsite.

CES closed its doors for good later that year. But when the company closed up shop, it conveniently forgot to clean up its mess.

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Greg Abbott Threatens to Sue EPA...Again

Categories: Environment

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Another win for rhetoric in the fight against nuance
The past several years of Greg Abbott's political career have been one long, drawn-out pissing match with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. For an avowed tort-reformer, our Attorney General-turned GOP candidate for governor sure loves a good lawsuit when the feds are in the crosshairs, famously describing his job as AG this way: "I go into the office, I sue Barack Obama and I go home." Last month Abbott even considered suing Obama over the recent uptick in immigrant kids detained at the Texas/Mexico border, because, you know, why not?

But apparently lawsuits against the EPA are what really make Abbott's mouth water--17 of the more than two-dozen challenges Abbott has filed against the Obama Administration have targeted the EPA. So it should shock no one that early this week Abbott threatened to again sue the agency, this time over a proposed rule change clarifying that upstream water sources should be protected from pollution.

In his formal comments to the EPA Monday Abbott called the rule change an unlawful, unconstitutional land-grab that "would erode private property rights and have devastating effects on the landowners of Texas." He capped his comments telling the EPA to back down or else "the State of Texas will have no choice but to challenge the rule in federal court." Texas v. EPA, round 18?


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Chikungunya-Positive Mosquito Confirmed in Harris County

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Photo from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Aedes aegypti, one of two types of mosquito that carry chikungunya, up close and personal.

The Houston area has always been impressively swampy, so of course the first Texas mosquito carrying chikungunya, a disease that causes high fever and severe joint pain, has been found right here in our very own mosquito-plagued backyard.

There have been rumblings about chikungunya in recent months, since the disease was confirmed in the Caribbean last year. Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services confirmed the first Houston-area case back on July 11, and there have been cases confirmed in almost every state of the country, but up until recently, the people with the disease were infected while traveling and then they brought the disease back, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While there have been some locally transmitted cases in Florida, all the rest have been the fancy imported kind.


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The Texas Drought (After All This Rain) Is Still a Thing

Categories: Environment

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The drought, it's still a thing.
It seems like there's been a lot more rain lately, but don't let all that moisture from the sky fool you. Houston is doing better, but a chunk of Texas is still in a condition that is commonly known as drought.

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Poachers Kill More Than 50 Sharks in Gulf

Categories: Environment

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U.S. Coast Guard photo
Rotting shark carcass pulled from the water.
Coast Guard crews in the Gulf of Mexico have found what they're calling a bootleg fishing net operation about 37 miles north of the Mexican border that left more than 50 sharks dead and decomposing in the ocean.

According to the Coast Guard, "Crews in South Texas located and recovered a gill net with 65 dead sharks Monday. An Air Station Corpus Christi HU-25 Falcon airplane crew located the fishing gear and the Coast Guard Cutter Amberjack crew retrieved the gill net and brought it back to Station South Padre Island."

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Appeals Court Rules Texas Not at Fault in Whooper Deaths

Categories: Environment

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Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife
The whoopers, themselves.
Back in the 1940s, there were only 16 whooping cranes left in the world. The birds, hunted for their white feathers (used for ladies hats, of all things) and shot for sport, were on the brink of extinction, but they didn't go the way of the Dodo.

Instead, years of conservation efforts brought the last naturally migrating flock of birds back from the edge. Over the next 60 years, the birds survived, wintering on the Texas coast in the same spot they've flown to for centuries, and summering in Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada.

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