The Lessons of the Galveston Bay Oil Spill

It's not just dollars and cents that makes the Galveston Bay oil spill such terrible news

 Highlights from Hair Balls
According to Texas Children's Hospital, it's unclear how many autism cases exist in Houston.

Environment

Mark Twain's declaration that "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme" is an appropriate and memorable reminder in the wake of the March 24, Galveston Bay oil spill. It's one more prompt that environmental abuses, whether by negligence, human error, or political gain, need our attention now.

Lessons still go unlearned.
USCG
Lessons still go unlearned.

Not only does this disaster affect the economy, with many local bay businesses losing up to a thousand dollars a day during peak tourist season, but the long term damage to wildlife and the bay itself will take many years to calculate.

Sadly, last week's reporting featured more news articles about the spill's dollars and cents effect, than the irreversible environmental impact to the area.

The timing of the bay's accident couldn't have been more ironic. It was the 25th anniversary of one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, the Exxon Valdez oil spill. On the same day in 1989, a 987-foot-long oil tanker ran aground on a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

The Exxon Valdez spill held the dubious honor of being the worst in U.S. history until BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. BP was recently granted permission to seek new oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

A recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was opportune to reiterate what most of us already know: "The burning of coal, oil and gas is producing an increasing amount of heat-trapping temperatures and more extreme weather, and the problem is worsening.

What the IPCC discovered is that America's love affair with fossil fuels affects not only our waterways, but our air, our health, our food and even our human relationships. A recent study from the University of Southern California shows a link between autism and air pollution. Could there be a link to autism and Houston's reputation for poor air quality? According to Texas Children's Hospital it's unclear how many autism cases exist in Houston, but TCH says they care for about 1,000 kids a year with the disorder.

These incidents, along with the recent ­research, lead us to an inevitable conclusion.

Even with safeguards and laws in place, there's no control for simple human error.

According to KPRC, it appears that the Miss Susan, owned by Kirby Inland Marine, has been involved in 13 incidents over ten years, two of them involving collisions.

To make matters more complicated, the energy industry persists in its practice of exerting influence over the majority of lawmakers in Texas. The most egregious example is legislator Tom Craddick of Midland. Energy-related PAC's have donated approximately $800,000 to his campaign coffers, as well as getting his daughter, Christi, elected as Railroad Commissioner in 2012.

It's political heresy to suggest more stringent safety guidelines and monitoring in the state of Texas and most especially, the Houston area. The Texas energy boom, also known as the Texas Miracle, creates jobs; adding to the state's bottom line.

But here's the question: What good will jobs be if our state is uninhabitable?
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Spaced City

Volunteer Abuse?
Dedicated to protecting animals, what kind of record does the Texas Humane Legislative Network have with its human interaction?

Craig Malisow

The Texas Humane Legislative Network pushes for animal-friendly laws, and ­encourages responsible ownership, à la spaying and neutering your pet. But it appears that the Network itself is neutered when it comes to supporting its dedicated ­volunteers.

We're talking about an alleged incident where the Houston Humane Society's shelter director berated and humiliated two Network volunteers who were scheduled to operate a booth at the HHS Fun Run charity March 23. The volunteers were asked to keep their mouths shut by the Network's executive director, because he wanted to take the "high road." We call bullshit.

The incident reportedly occurred when the volunteers were parking in a staging area by Sam Houston Park. One of the volunteers stated via email that, although a Houston police officer allowed them to park behind blockades, a "large bearded man began waving his arms and yelling" that they could not park there.

This man turned out to be Edward Perez, a fellow who former HHS employees have described as a toxic combination of verbally abusive bully and teacher's pet – the teacher in this case being HHS Executive Director Sherry Ferguson. (Ferguson also sits on the Network's advisory board).

Perez started from a baseline of hostile and then accelerated to intimidating, according to the volunteer, who we'll call Sara, because she asked us not to use her name.

Sara explained that even though she and a fellow volunteer told Perez they just wanted to unload their merchandise (and a puppy), and they'd move their truck afterward, Perez wasn't having it. She wrote that she also told Perez that she was waiting on four other volunteers, some of whom were driving in from The Woodlands. Finally, the volunteers told him they would leave.

"But Edward kept on and on and continued to try to argue with us. We kept responding that we were hurrying, that we were leaving, and could possibly leave faster if he would just respectfully leave us alone while we packed up."

Perez's behavior was allegedly so awful that the president of the Network's Houston chapter emailed an apology to volunteers on March 24: "My sincere apologies go out to all volunteers that were involved in Sunday's debacle at the HHS Fun Run. Basically, our set up volunteers arrived and were verbally attacked and intimidated by the shelter manager of HHS, Edward Perez....We will never be involved with any HHS events again. There is nothing anyone there could say or do to make up for this man's behavior."

It's hard for us at the Houston Press to get any information from the Houston Humane Society. That's because we wrote about a lawsuit – later dropped – filed by a former employee, who accused Perez of sexual harassment, among other things.

However, we were pleasantly surprised to at least get a non-statement about this hubbub from Ferguson herself: "The issue has been greatly distorted, blown totally out of proportion and has been resolved by the Executive Director of HHS and the President of THLN."

While Network Executive Director Rick Bousquet told volunteers in an email that "apologies were exchanged for any inappropriate comments or actions," Sara told us she never received an apology.

"I will be the first to say the incident on Sunday was very unfortunate and I wish I had been there myself, but without minimizing the situation or doubting our volunteers, this is a prime example of taking the high road and moving forward in the best interest of what we are all working for, and [that's] the animals of Texas," Bousquet wrote.

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