Why Is Climate Change Denier Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Invited to Speak at Earth Day Texas?

Categories: Environment

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frankieleon/Flickr
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is one of the politicians invited to speak at this year's Earth Day event in Dallas. Has someone lost his marbles?
Newly minted Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, conveniently oblivious to the mountains of scientific evidence that people are slowly but surely turning the planet into a scorching greenhouse, isn't sure if he believes in climate change. But he's damn sure about the best way to address it.

"I'll leave it in the hands of God," he told a crowd while campaigning last year. "He's handled our climate pretty well for a long time."

That Patrick would summarily dismiss global warming isn't a surprise. Climate change denial has become part of the Republican gospel in Texas; acknowledge its existence and a politician risks certain blowback. But inviting an avowed climate-change denier like Patrick to be a key speaker at Earth Day Texas, the self-described mission of which is to "elevate environmental awareness and influence the way Texans think, live and work"? When anti-fracking activist Sharon Wilson saw Patrick's name listed on a promotional flier Earth Day Texas provided to her allies at Frack Free Denton, she was perplexed. When she saw the other speakers listed -- Attorney General Ken Paxton, Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton, and The Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lumborg, she wondered if she were being trolled.

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Waste Control Specialists' Plan for Nuclear Waste Is a Dallas Valentine for Rural Texas

Categories: Environment

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Argonne National Laboratory
The notorious radioactive waste dump in West Texas once run by late, politically-corrupt connected Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons could soon begin a new, more extreme phase of waste-dumping.

On Friday, Dallas-based Waste Control Specialists told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the company will seek a license to temporarily -- up to 100 years -- store spent fuel rods from reactors. The idea is that the fuel would go to the company's controversial facility in Andrews County, now only permitted to hold low-level radioactive waste. But in a letter to regulators Friday, WCS announced intentions to apply for a permit that would allow storage of "highly-reactive" waste.

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Pro-Trinity Toll Road Website Is Precious

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The Trinity Trust
We think we can hear the juggler saying he's pro-toll road, but that may just be the mescaline we took to properly appreciate this picture.
When Unfair Park's attention was first drawn to Connect Dallas Now, a nascent marketing campaign we've now learned is intended to promote the Trinity toll road, we weren't sure it was real. The effort's Twitter account still has just four followers -- including an apparently hate-following Angela Hunt -- and its Facebook page isn't doing much better, just hitting the 60-like mark Monday morning. The whole thing seemed like an amateur effort, considering the money that's behind the project.

Dallas Citizen's Council President Alice Murray, in an editorial in the Dallas Business Journal , made it clear Monday that Connect Dallas Now does have the support of the toll road's biggest backers.

That's right, the best the Citizen's Council -- as old-power-base as the old power base in Dallas gets -- could do is a site that hails DMN columnist Steve Blow as "a voice of reason."

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Meet the Beetles: DFW Customs Agents Keep Finding "the World's Most Destructive Insect"

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U.S. Customs and Border Patrol
Gross. Khapra beetle larvae.
The khapra beetle, considered the world's most destructive insect, has popped up in DFW luggage screens on five different occasions in recent months. In each instance, the beetle has been found in dried food a passenger was attempting to get past customs, despite not declaring the packages of rice, dried beans, coriander seeds or fava beans on customs forms. The packaged food originated in India and Sudan.

The beetles present a tremendous threat to the United States' food supply if they were to enter the country in large numbers. According to Customs and Border Patrol Port Director Cleatus Hunt, the "consume and contaminate stored grains like rice, wheat and oats.

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SMU Study of Irving Earthquakes Answers Some Questions, But Not the Big One

Categories: Environment

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Southern Methodist University
Irving earthquake swarm as measured by the USGS
SMU's initial report of data collected from seismometors placed in Irving is interesting, provides a bit of useful context for the recent rash of quakes and promises further action. It does not, however, fill us in on what we're all so curious about -- whether or not the resource extraction process that's name shall not be mentioned has anything to do with the North Texas ground trembling for the first time in recorded history.

What the data collected so far does do is come closer to determining the exact epicenters of the quakes in the swarm. The SMU researchers pinpoint the beginning of the swarm as April 17, when the first felt earthquake hit Irving, registering 2.4 on the Richter scale. On January 6 the two biggest quakes of the swarm hit, a 3.5 and 3.6, setting off the questions and accusations that have come throughout the past month.

As recorded by Heather DeShon, Brian Stump and the rest of the SMU team, the majority of the quakes have centered on a two-mile line from Irving to West Dallas. The line, the researchers say "indicates the approximate location of a subsurface fault."

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Dallas Contractor Mulches Texas' Champion Black Willow Tree. Oops.

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Ben Sandifer
The tree in question (after).
"City loses historic tree at White Rock Lake Park," that's the headline on a statement sent out by the city regarding the loss of the biggest black willow tree in Texas, which, until January 30, had lived at White Rock Lake for more than 170 years.

You'd think, reading that, that the tree was felled by some quirk of nature or a rogue lumberjack. While it's true that the tree was heavily damaged in a storm last October, it was actually city contractors, sent to the lake to grind up tree stumps to make terrain safer, that destroyed the tree without city permission.

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The New "TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program" Could (but Won't!) Explain Irving's Quakes

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City of Irving
Finally, some comforting news.
Buried deep within Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus' nearly 1,000-page budget is a measly little $2.5 million item of great interest to North Texans, the "TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program." Unfair Park was duly excited when we first caught wind of the plan, from the Texas Tribune. Surely, we thought, an initiative with as highfalutin a name as the "TexNet Seismic Monitoring Program" would be able to liberate us from the curiosity and existential dread that's possessed us as Irving has shook, rattled and rolled over the past few months.

Does the rumbling have anything to do with fracking? Or is the explanation something simpler, like God just hates inner-ring suburbs?

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As Scientists Predict Doom, Texas Senators Whistle Past the Graveyard

Categories: Environment

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NBC 5 Screenshot
Never really liked South Padre anyway.
As of Thursday, the world doomsday clock sits at 11:57. The clock is a measure created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to show just how near disaster the planet is at any given time. When the clock hits midnight, it's all over.

"In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity," the bulletin said in a statement.

11:57 is the closest the clock has been to midnight since 1984, during the midst of the Cold War. The two Texans in the U.S. Senate, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, are unwilling to take even the smallest steps to promote whatever corrections are still possible with regard to climate change.

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Earthquake Insurance Is Still Cheap, In Case You're In the Market for that Kind of Thing

Categories: Environment

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Wikimedia Commons

Unfair Park has no idea why you might possibly be, but just in case you are, you know, looking to add an earthquake rider to your homeowners insurance or whatever, we thought we'd give State Farm a call.

"There's been a lot of increase in inquiry [about earthquake coverage]," Gary Stephenson, State Farm's North Texas spokesman says. "Our agents, there in the Irving area in particular and in the greater metro area, we've seen quite a significant increase in numbers of calls about [earthquake insurance]."

Depending on the size of one's house and things like the materials used in its construction, Stephenson said, most people should be able to add the coverage for between $40 and $80, a bargain in region that saw between zero and one earthquakes in its pre-2008 recorded history.

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Railroad Commission's Explanation of Irving Quakes: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Categories: Environment

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Google Maps via Earthquaketrack
An EarthquakeTrack.com representation of USGS earthquake data.
Calling Irving's Thursday City Council meeting a wasted effort wouldn't be right. The council did award the landscaping contract for O'Connor Boulevard, after all. And on the other big issue concerning Irving -- earthquakes -- the SMU seismologists on hand did what little they could, too. They told the assembled council and crowd that yes, their city has been struck by an "earthquake swarm." Yes, there have been more than 120 earthquakes in North Texas since 2008 and no, there were none recorded before then. Locals may have felt some seismic activity once, in 1950, Brian Stump and Heather DeShon said, but that was only a possible quake. Either way, there have bunches more earthquakes here in the last six-plus years than ever before, as far as anyone knows.

Irving is the fourth area of North Texas to be swarmed by earthquakes in the last six years. In 2008 and 2009 there was a quake outbreak near DFW airport; around the same time, tremors hit Cleburn. Those quakes dissipated the next year. Azle suffered its swarm beginning in the fall of 2013 and continued into 2014. In each previous swarm, Stump emphasized, the quakes became smaller and less frequent after the swarm's biggest quake. (Well, yeah, anything not the biggest in its group is necessarily smaller. It would be nice to know exactly how big the biggest quake might be and when it might arrive, but science isn't quite there yet -- not by a long shot.)

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