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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Several Houston-Area Hospitals Make List for High Infection Rates

Categories: Environment

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Photo by Mark Hillary
Some hospitals will be penalized for having higher infection rates than their peers.
The Centers for Disease Control said more than 1.5 million people get infections while they are in the hospital. As part of a program through the Affordable Care Act, hospitals that receive Medicare money will be hit with a penalty if they have too many people get sick while seeking treatment.

A report in the Houston Chronicle pointed us to a Texas Tribune article that says 58 Texas hospitals could get lower Medicare payments this fall because their "rate of preventable infections or conditions are higher than at peer hospitals."

Harris County had around a dozen hospitals make it on the list, with several in the Houston area.

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County Attorney Vince Ryan Files Suit Against Industrial Container Cleaning Business

Categories: Environment

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Photo courtesy of County Attorney Vince Ryan
The tank cleaning facility in question.
We're not terribly strict about most things having to do with the environment around here. Maybe it's because we're living on the carcinogenic coast, or maybe it's because that's just not how things go in the Lone Star State, or maybe both. But when a company is spitting out enough chemical smells and liquids to bother the people living in the area, someone is bound to take notice.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan has filed a lawsuit against a Channelview industrial tank and container cleaning business demanding that the business stop the pollution and noxious odors that allegedly flow from the facility.

Ryan contends that these emissions and waste materials are causing neighbors to complain of nausea, headaches and burning eyes, according to a statement released Monday. The defendant, Texas Industrial Box Maintenance, located at 15531 Market Street, cleans tanks and containers used in the transportation and storage of chemicals and regulated waste.

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Sargassum, Galveston's Seaweed that Won't Quit

Categories: Environment

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Photo Courtesty of Dana Ranslem
Just call it seaweed island.

Update 2:20p:
We included comments from Texas A&M researcher Robert Webster.

We thought we'd be in the clear by now, or close to it, but the seaweed invasion continues. Photos taken today from the shores of Galveston show an extremely green body of water that looks utterly gross.

While tourists might not like it, it's good eatin' for sea turtles, reports KHOU.

"They'll basically feed on all the algae, the crabs and shrimps and other creatures that live in the sargassum, so that's basically a big raft, a floating ecosystem," Andy Krauss, a researcher with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, told KHOU.

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Five Things You Can Do With the Seaweed in Galveston

Categories: Environment

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Photo by Monica Fuentes
The tropical view of seaweed.
If you're still bothered by the mounds upon mounds of seaweed that's been washing up on the shores of Galveston, you're not alone. We're not fans of the stuff, the sight of it, the smell of it or the feel of it.

However, we figured there had to be some options for dealing with it. Here are a few:

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