Protesting Canadian tar sands in Texas
East Texas resident David Daniel didn’t know anything about the planned 1,700-mile pipeline called the Keystone XL, planned to run tar-sands-derived oil (a sludge up to 70 times thicker than traditional crude oil) from Canada all the way to Houston’s refineries and ports, until he stumbled across surveyor’s stakes crossing the middle of his heavily wooded property several years ago. The carpenter wasn’t too pleased about the trespassing, or a letter he received weeks later from TransCanada announcing that surveyors were on the way, or the message from a Houston-based attorney who he said told him, “All I need to know is which pile to put you in: the cooperative pile or the F-ing uncooperative pile.” Eminent domain powers for oil and gas lines are hard to fight. But Daniel is doing his best, teaming up this week with protestors from around the country for a “wave of civil disobedience” at the White House that seeks to stop the Canadian project.
Already, a smaller Keystone line has experienced 12 spills in the U.S., a testament to the high-heat, high-pressure, and corrosive nature of the tar sands fluid, Daniel said. Case in point: the EPA said a 800,000-gallon tar sands spill in the Kalamazoo River would be cleaned up in a matter of months. That was a year ago. Today it’s expected to take years more. The Natural Resources Defense Council, writing on the one-year anniversary of the spill, said: “raw tar sands crude is unlike anything we’ve had in our pipelines before.”
Weeks of protests outside the White House are intended to pressure President Obama to stop the project. There were 70 arrests on Saturday, and the two-week protest was just getting underway. Daniel was headed into Nebraska when QueQue caught up with him. He worried about pushing “non-conventional” petroleum through a “conventional” pipeline, the fact that up to 1.7 million gallons could leak before the leak-detection system would kick on, and for our water. “We don’t need this at all. This threatens our lives, our water supplies. We have alternative sources of energy. We do not have alternative sources of water.”
It also takes a huge amount of energy to convert that stuff to sludge in the first place, making the tar sands a huge climate change concern.
Global warning hasn’t reached Perry
Not that Gov. Rick Perry would be worried. Given the Gov’s intransigence on the subject as he prances about in the campaign spotlight, it should come as no shock that Perry and Texas’ state climatologist have never breached the topic of climate change — despite the fact that nearly all the state is experiencing “exceptional” drought and has been smashing heat records all summer long.
We’re venturing into the climate of the future, a condition most of the scientific community expects to lock in and worsen across the Southwest U.S. and Central America as the full brunt of global warming comes to bear. Were Texas to secede, as Perry has said it justifiably could, the new republic would rank in the top 10 globally for the amount of climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas it pumps out. That is to say, what Perry thinks about climate change matters.
And as bad as this summer’s drought has been, Texas State Climatologist and Texas A&M University professor John Nielsen-Gammon warned the Houston Chronicle this week that we can expect this drought to last another couple years. “I’ve started telling anyone who’s interested that it’s likely much of Texas will be in severe drought this time next summer, with water supply implications even worse than we are now experiencing.”
Early this month, the Current filed a state open records request for any communications between Nielsen-Gammon and the governor’s office since his appointment in 2000. The result? Aside from the first proclamation by former Gov. George W. Bush naming Nielsen-Gammon to his post, the only communication between the two have been directives from the governor’s office to all appointees about such matters as how to comply with open-records requests and how to field calls from reporters (“It should be a red flag when: Reporters ask for your personal opinion. Answer: ‘It doesn’t matter what I think. What is important is...’”, etc).
In 2008, after Perry had been in office for eight years, Nielsen-Gammon told the Current that he had made a single attempt to contact Perry in the hopes of briefing him on climate change — an approach that was apparently rebuffed. Nielsen-Gammon and the rest of the scientists at Perry’s alma mater are of one mind on the climate change, at odds with Perry’s coached ignorance now on display. While Nielsen-Gammon’s tutelage is obviously in dire need, he told the Current last week he hasn’t made a second attempt to educate the governor. In fact, he now says he doesn’t even remember offering to educate Perry the first time. That’s 11 years wasted … or worse, if Perry rises to the White House.
Doggett versus Castro (by way of Perry)
Hoping to keep Perry firmly planted in Texas is Austin-based U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett. The Austin-based Dem held his own rally aimed at introducing the nation to “the real Rick Perry” the same day the Governor dove headfirst into his Houston prayer rally, an event that captivated the media and stoked national interest in a Perry candidacy.
Doggett, entrenched in his own uphill primary battle with local Democratic star State Rep. Joaquin Castro, has emerged as one of Perry’s loudest and harshest home-grown critics, making the rounds to ABC News, MSNBC, The New York Times, and any other national media outlet willing to take a second look at Perry’s record. From calling him a “false prophet, preaching a tired gospel of tax cuts and less law enforcement on Wall Street,” to chiding Perry for, among other things, autographing bibles at campaign stops, Doggett has worked eagerly to become the go-to Perry attack-dog.
It comes as Doggett’s branching outside his Austin base for reelection, forced to dive into San Antonio politics by a GOP-inspired map that forced the longtime liberal into a district anchored right here. “This district is drawn for a Latino, and Lloyd Doggett simply cannot win by attacking Castro,” said Larry Hufford, a political science professor at St. Mary’s University. “The Republicans were masterful [in redrawing Doggett’s district]; he simply has to run against Rick Perry.”
Doggett, the state’s most liberal Congressman, has been the target of the Texas GOP establishment for years. But ultimately, if the new district Doggett and Castro are vying for clears the federal courts, Doggett’s future in Congress rests largely in the hands of San Antonio-area voters, Hufford said. “I think he’s the underdog in this one, just demographically. … Republicans design it so Democrats feed off Democrats. Castro’s a good person who has liberal instincts, but I sure would have liked to have seen him run against [Francisco “Quico”] Canseco,” a sentiment heard often in Democratic circles these days. (In fact, protestors are expected to bring their dissatisfaction to Canseco at 11 a.m. today outside La Villita Assembly Hall [401 Villita St.] where he is expected to addresses a local business group.)
Some highlights from inside the budget machine:
Get your veins ready. Police Chief Bill McManus said SAPD has upped its DWI initiative over the past year, expanding the department’s DWI Unit from 24 to 26 officers and ramping up the unit’s patrols to seven days a week. In light of department stats showing DWI arrests have spiked 14 percent so far this year, SAPD is expanding (and wants keep on expanding) so-called “no refusal” weekends.
Homeland Security dollars allowed SAPD to install downtown surveillance cameras in mid-2009. Our eight cameras — four around Travis Park and four along Commerce Street (St. Mary’s, Soledad, Navarro, and Alamo) — have already led to over 900 arrests. With roughly $300,000 left in grant funding, expect between 20 and 30 new downtown cameras in the coming year.
Improvements along the waterway means Public Works won’t be draining the San Antonio River through downtown this year. But it would like $600,000 to install hundreds of “inlet protectors” to keep more garbage and debris out of the water.
Streets & Drainage
The Capital Improvement Management Services department proposed over half of 2012’s proposed $596-million bond go toward street repair, and another $128 million, or 21 percent, go to drainage projects. The department also recommended $66 million go to parks and one percent go toward public art. Not much left for Castro’s new Convention Center … •