Top 5 Texas Environmental Issues and Solutions

One could be would wonder about the obviousness of Texas environmental issues and might be forced to ask, “how do the many Texans live with oil and gas companies, factories and industries in their backyard?”.

In this article, we look at Texas environmental issues with possible solutions to handle the Texas Environmental Issues.

According to Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, we are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change and the last generation that can do something about it.

Environmental issues have been in recent times the major problem facing man and the main factor or we can say focal point in these environmental issues is Climate Change.

Some of the major environmental issues being faced by man today include; pollution, global warming, overpopulation, waste disposal, ocean acidification, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, public health issues to mention but a few.

We can see from the environmental issues been mentioned above, climate change have a role to play either in one way or the other causing the environmental problem or being the result of the environmental problem.

Hence, it’s necessary that these environmental issues are carefully handled and we have to be fast about it as its repercussion is seen day by day and its consequences are increasing.

Just as every other place in the world, Texas faces its environmental issues and some of them are unique to its location.

Texas is the second-largest state in the United States after Alaska and the second most populated state in the United States after California. It’s a state in the United States that have a huge share of natural disasters.

With the highest number of average tornadoes per year 139 tornadoes and a site of the biggest natural disaster, the 1900 Galveston hurricane which killed about 8000 people and caused destruction worth up to 700 million US Dollars in the present day.

It’s fair to say that every year is a year of the residents of Texas being on their toes in watch for where and when the next natural disaster will hit. This is because of its location which three of its borders is defined by water and have the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast.

Regardless of Texas having many natural disasters, Texas faces air pollution as its main environmental issue, climate change has even accelerated the natural disasters occurring in the state. This is mainly because of the emission of greenhouse gases.

As of 2017, Texas was the state that emitted the most greenhouse gases in the United States 707 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year and this was two times the amount of the second most polluting state, California.

The causes of these greenhouse emissions are anthropogenic activities. Texas has a massive number of power plants manufacturing industries. Also, Texas is an oil state which began oil exploration in 1901, oil has been a major in their economy so, oil exploration and refining is being known to emit greenhouse gases.

Texas Environmental Issues, why is this an important issue for Texas?

For starters, environmental abuse in Texas is a rapidly accelerating problem that many people don’t know much about despite its major impact on everyday life. Big corporations don’t have many regulations so, they take advantage of both land and the people who inhabit the land.

This environmental crisis is negatively impacting air,  water and land quality as well as the quality of life for people. Due to deforestation and rapid urbanization, there is an increase in human and animal attractions.

For example, there are deer all over the place and people complain of wild animals terrorizing their neighbourhoods all the time. Property values are decreasing and lastly, it’s also causing major health concerns for Texans.

The Vulcan Quarry releases carcinogenic dust in the air, it’s now a major source of traffic and vehicle pollution. It’s also a massive cause of deforestation and is destroying animals habitats. Due to the quarry activities, property values are decreasing and there’s a major increase in human and animal interactions.

Big companies in plastic which are the big oil corporations don’t recycle 91% of the plastic though they advocate for recycling instead, the plastics are dumped carelessly, put into landfills or incinerated, this has resulted in dangerous gases and chemicals being released into the atmosphere damaging the environment and human health in Texas.

There have been high rates of respiratory diseases and leukaemia cases and there is believed to be a strong link between these health issues and these incineration plants.

The core problems surrounding this issue are mainly the health concerns and the blatant disrespect of residents in their land.

Top 5 Texas Environmental Issues and Solutions

  • Air Pollution
  • Water Pollution
  • Climate Change
  • Deforestation
  • Estuaries Acidification

1. Air Pollution 

Air pollution is one of Texas’s environmental issues.

From the oil fields of west Texas to the industrial facilities of the Gulf Coast, Texas is home to an abundance of oil, gas and petrochemical operations that frack and refine natural gas, ship oil across the state, manufacture plastic, and even more.

Every year, according to documents, the company’s file with the state of Texas, these facilities release millions of pounds of pollution in violation of their permits through upsets or emission events.

These unauthorized air pollution events emit known toxins such as butane, benzene, particulate matter and hydrogen sulphide and they often do so near residential neighbourhoods, schools and other populated areas putting Texans at risk of harmful health impacts.

Industrial facilities released over 174 million pounds of unauthorized air pollution in 2019 which is an increase of 155% since 2015 when it was last checked. Every single day in 2019, at least one industrial facility was responsible for an unauthorized air pollution event somewhere in Texas.

Air Pollution is linked to cancer and other health problems. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found in 2013 that more than 14,000 Texans lose their lives each year due to air pollution including 3583 Texans who die prematurely due to particulate matter released by authorized and unauthorized emissions.

Children living within two miles of the heavily industrialized Houston ship channel face a 56 % greater risk of contracting leukaemia which researchers linked to oil refineries and chemical plants.

Pollution increases have coincided with a weakening of federal air protections over the years, they are becoming more lacks despite the need for more restrictions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is enforcing at a record low in Texas at 15 clean air enforcement actions each year on average from 2017 to 2019 compared with 24 per year from 2014 to 2015.

Since 2017, the US Environmental Protection Agency has repealed or significantly more than a dozen air quality and chemical safeguards for industrial facilities including weakening air pollution monitoring requirements for refineries and rolling back safety standards adopted after a chemical plant exploded in Texas in 2013.

Solutions to Air Pollution in Texas (one of Texas Environmental Issues)

There is not much that we can do at a personal level, it’s up to the state and federal government.

  1. There is a need to eliminate the affirmative defensive loophole which has allowed these companies to pollute and escape financial penalties if they meet certain criteria. They can use affirmative defence to get away 97% of the time according to data.
  2. There is a need to increase inspection and monitoring
  3. There is also a need to require that polluting facilities share information and emergency response plans with neighbours in case of explosions and chemical direct disasters.
  4. The big corporations need to be held accountable for there and there need to be stricter regulations on these companies. For instance, there need to be a specified number of distance a company needs to be situated from urban areas and there needs to be a limit on their pollution levels

2. Water Pollution in Texas

Water pollution is one of Texas environmental issues.

Water pollution occurs when chemicals infect water by making it dirty not good for use.

Texas waterways are the fourth most polluted waterways in the United States. Companies released around 14.6 million pounds of industrial pollutants and toxic chemicals into Texas’ waterways in 2010.

For example,

  1. The Brazos River

The Dow Chemical Company is the main polluter of the Brazos River.

This business uses chemical and biological science to solve some of the world’s problems, such as the need for fresh food, sustainable transportation, clean water, durable, infrastructure and increasing agricultural productivity.

The company’s plant had a chemical runoff, which flows into the Brazos River. The Texas Tribune stated that3 pounds of dioxin, an “extremely toxic chemical, that can cause reproductive and developmental problems, immune system damage and cancer, “ polluted the river due to the plant’s runoff.

  1. The Colorado River

According to the US EPA’s toxic release inventory, the Colorado River had around 3,000 pounds of toxic chemicals and 427 pounds of cancer-causing chemicals in it in 2010.

  1. Neches River

Oil industries developed in the Neches River area, and have also polluted the river with ammonia, phenol, sulfides, zinc, lead, and other chemicals. Back in the 1970s, about 284,000 pounds of waste were polluting the river almost every day.

A water quality management plan was made for the river, but the pollution continues, contaminating the water and killing plants and animals.

  1. Trinity River

The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been polluting the Trinity river by creating a runoff of pesticides and herbicides and dumping industrial and human waste into the river.

Bacteria and Zebra mussels were found in the Trinity River, which could have a bad effect on people, especially since Dallas and Fort Worth depend on the river for water.

A water quality management plan was made in the 1970s, but pollution has continued in the river.

Pollution in these rivers has caused tons of envir0onmental damage as well as sicknesses to people.

Solutions to Water Pollution Texas (one of Texas environmental issues)

  1. There should be a collective effort in significantly reducing the trash on the water bodies. Water and beach cleanup can be adopted for effective cleanup and the companies should be included if not championing the project.
  2. It’s become necessary that water should be used efficiently and wisely. Laws should be enacted to prevent wasteful use of water.
  3. Companies and industrial plants should be supervised to ensure they make necessary efforts towards the treatment of their industrial effluents before disposing or better still, they should recycle their water waste.
  4. Texan farmers should be educated on the use of better farm practices that would require minimal use of fertilizers and other chemicals.

3. Climate Change in Texas

Climate change is one of Texas’s environmental issues. One can say climate change is the main among the rest of Texas environmental issues.

Climate change due to additional greenhouse gases is threatening how we live and our survival. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere trap and hold heat at the earth’s surface.

The causes of these greenhouse emissions are anthropogenic activities. Texas has a massive number of power plants manufacturing industries. Also, Texas is an oil state which began oil exploration in sin1901, oil has been a major in their economy so, oil exploration and refining is being known to emit greenhouse gases.

OThe oil and Gas industry started the fracking boom in Texas, and at first, they were encroaching into the neighbourhood and backyards. Now the emissions they release from these sites is a problem for everyone around the globe because methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas.

A huge amount of methane escapes into the atmosphere before natural gas is burned in a power plant. The Permian basin in west Texas alone emits bout 2.9 million tons of methane per year.

This is about the same as the state of Florida (all the human-caused emissions) one of the most populous states in the US. This is because methane gases escape the tank valves and fracking towers without burning the gas.

As of 2017, Texas was the state that emitted the most greenhouse gases in the United States 707 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year and this was two times the amount of the second most polluting state, California.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2018, Texas produced about 684 million metric tons of CO2 which is also more than twice that of California.

Climate change is a threat multiplier, it takes all of these naturally occurring weather events that happen in Texas all the time, and it amplifies them. This has made Texas the most vulnerable state in the entire country to the impacts of changing climate. Climate change is making Texas hotter.

The Solution to Climate Change in Texas (one of Texas environmental issues)

Climate change is a major problem to not just Texas but the world in general, and Texas has contributed a lot to reducing the impacts of climate change but, there is still more to be done. Some of the observable solutions to climate change in Texas include:

  1. Texas may be having an oil boom but Texas also generates more renewable energy than any other state in the US. Texas has some of the highest winds and solar capacity in the entire United States. As renewable energy production capacity increases in Texas, electricity prices drop.
  1. There is a need for an improvement in the monitoring of energy production to ensure clean and sustainable energy is produced.
  2. There is no need for more adoption of sustainable transportation encouraging the use of public transportation, carpooling, electric and hydrogen mobility which can significantly reduce CO2

4. Deforestation in Texas

Deforestation is one of Texas environmental issues.

Deforestation is a big issue in the world and Texas is no exception. The trees are being cut down to build homes, some are cleared to build factories or other urbanization facilities.

Deforestation has caused even the smallest of habitats to be kicked out of their natural habitat causing the death of this wildlife or massive migration leading to loss of biodiversity.

Deforestation is also causing more runoff towards the deeper parts of the area making more and more areas in Texas prone to flooding and strong winds. The effects of El Nino have become worse because of deforestation.

Deforestation has caused and is still causing a major change in the climate of Texas consequently making the cities hotter.

The Solution to Deforestation in Texas (one of Texas environmental issues)

  1. One thing we could do to combat deforestation in Texas is to set up an agreement or regulation about how many square miles could deforest and how many houses and other buildings we can build in a square mile.
  2. Another thing we could do in Texas and which is very important is to plant more trees than we cut down. This is called the Afforestation of Reforestation.
  3. We could also create a wildlife habitat or something of that sort that the animals can go to so they can have their lives back and not be endangered or go extinct.

5. Estuaries Acidification in Texas

Estuaries acidification is one of Texas’s environmental issues.

Estuaries are very important, they support a lot of fisheries, they are a recreational site, they act as buffers for storms, they filter the water of pollution before being released into the Gulf of Mexico and they also help mitigate climate change like the Galveston bay acting as a sink for CO2.

Estuaries are important to organisms as they provide habitat and they can also be called nurseries for the grooming organisms because juvenile fishes live in the estuaries.

Regardless of the huge benefits of estuaries, the estuaries in Texas are vulnerable to impacts from humans because they are closer to development, they are less legally protected. They are lower in volume to absorb any kind of pollutant that goes into them than the open ocean.

They can’t also buffer against pH changes because of their lower volume.

So, to say that the estuaries in Texas are acidifying at an alarming rate is to say that the pollutants released into these estuaries contain CO2 amongst other deleterious pollutants consequently decreasing the pH of the estuaries causing acidification.

This makes it difficult for certain aquatic organisms such as larval or oysters to strive.

The solution to Acidification of Texas Estuaries (one of Texas environmental issues)

  1. There is a need for legislation that can help ensure that waste handling, among other pollution-risk activities, is controlled. Such regulations would spread to the fisheries department to ensure that safety is maintained in food consumption.
  1. Texas authorities should be tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that only the less harmless fish find their way into the market. This can be very helpful in reducing the chances of having food poisoning and carbon gas circulation in the environment.
  1. It can be said that Texas is the state with the highest use of alternative energies like wind and solar energies and there are rules that govern the emission of industrial effluents into the estuaries but, these laws have not been effectively followed with the culprit companies getting away with their emissions. What would work efficiently is that apart from stricter regulations and enforcement, the companies should be charged with treating their effluents to be not just harmless but alkaline increasing the pH of the acidic estuaries.
  1. By reducing our meat consumption, we would reduce the demand for meat in Texas. This, in turn, would result in lesser rearing and raising of livestock. As a result of the same, we would be effectively reducing the number of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere.

FAQs

What is the biggest pollution problem in Texas?

Regardless of Texas having many natural disasters, Texas faces air pollution as its main environmental issue, climate change has even accelerated the natural disasters occurring in the state. This is mainly because of the emission of greenhouse gases.

What is Texas doing for the environment?

Yes, seems there is a lot to be done in restoring the environment of Texas back to normal but, there are some things that Texans do for their environment

There have been in recent years campaigns for the environment through which people are exposed and educated on climate change and related Texas environmental issues starting from the grassroots and basic schools.

Through these campaigns, there has been open water and beach cleanup and more people going into renewable energy as cleaner energy to fossils fuels.

These and many more Texans do to combat Texas environmental issues.

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