Dr. Gary Mounce
Dr. Gary Mounce

The Sierra Club (SC) of the Rio Grande Valley is “alive and well.” We should all become more aware of the Sierra Club’s good work.

Thirty souls of all ages, genders and ethnicities met on Saturday, January 17, 2015, for planning, elections, and great food—veggies and bar-b-que on a mesquite grill. The event was hosted by Board Member, Betty Perez, at her ranch in the “monte” northwest of Edinburg.

After a long drive on unpaved road, one comes upon a rustic sign at the entrance to the Perez ranch; “Beware of Rattlesnakes!” Fortunately, none spoiled the glorious afternoon. After searching for arrowheads and admiring the extensive nursery of native plants, members and guests enjoyed food and drink together. In face of overwhelming challenges to the environment, world-wide and local—one might despair. How can 30-some environmentalists tackle all that faces them?

But a wise member (and leader of International Valley Health Institute), Dr. Isidore Flores, gave good advice and encouragement. He quoted anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Case(s) in point: at this SC meeting were heroes such as Merriwood Ferguson of Brownsville, and Jackelin Treviño of McAllen. Mary was one of the citizens who saved Boca Chica beach and who ended the “incinerator ships” that spewed burning waste back across the Rio Grande Valley. Jacquelyn, with Stephanie Herwick, SC members and the University of Texas—Pan American (UTPA) environmental club, almost single-handedly saved the Botanical Gardens in McAllen from being cut down. If the “developers” try again those same sturdy citizens and others will be ready.

The SC praised its outgoing Chairman, Mark Peña, a lawyer from Edinburg, and elected new officers: Jim Chapman, chairman; Betty Perez, vice-chair; Karen Holleschau, secretary; Madeleine Sandefur, treasurer. SC will have a major fund-raiser soon, joining with other Valley environmental groups. SC’s main goals at this moment are three:

1) The “Bag Ban.” SC has brought this issue to the table of the Edinburg City Council and hopes that the “All American City” will join South Padre Island, Brownsville and Laguna Vista in banning plastic bags.
2) Opposing further funding and continuation of the infamous and ruinous “border wall.”
3) Opposing the dangerous, under-studied, over-promoted LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) pipeline in Brownsville.

Concerning the above—and possibly most controversial—item, much can and should be said. News (especially the business point of view) concerning this matter has been well covered in the Rio Grande Guardian on multiple occasions: October 28, 2014; November 2, 2014; November 7, 2014; December 12, 2014; and, more recently, on December 26, 2014. Perhaps big business players and most Mexican and Texas public officials quoted see the extraction and shipping of liquid natural gas as a “done deal.” SC members and almost any other environmentally conscientious citizen think “not so fast.”

They demand consultation with the SC and with other environmentally aware experts and organizations. Questions will include: Is there adequate concern about the environment? Are the vaunted promises of “jobs” and “billions for the Valley” overwhelming reason and caution? The companies have not yet filed formally. When they do, environmental impact studies regarding damage to the eco-system and to wildlife, such as endangered ocelots will have to be made—and followed.

A powerful consortium of governmental and private interest groups is extremely eager to extract the Eagle Shale deposits in Texas and the much larger Cuenca Burgos Shale deposits in Mexico. But big business does not always win. The Sierra Club avows the planet’s health and our citizens’ health and safety will have to be respected. For further information, see www.valleygreenspace/wordpress.com. But, for now, alarming concerns about LNG have been raised by the Sierra Club:

1) The technology for extraction and production of LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) is unreliable.
2) Foreseen and unforeseen environmental disasters (spills, etc.) can occur.
3) Release of great quantities of greenhouse gases is involved in the process.
4) Loss of wetlands is inevitable and inexcusable.
5) Emissions and dust from fifty foot tall flares will cause blight in Brownsville and the Valley.
6) The companies and their processes will encourage fracking in Texas and Mexico.

Many are aware of the dangers of fracking, reported in print media and in convincing documentaries on television concerning the practice. These and other related questions need to be asked (and, if possible, answered convincingly). The Sierra Club of the Rio Grande Valley and other concerned environmentalists demand re-consideration.

SC members had their fun at the ranch; they are a lively bunch of vital people. But they are serious about their issues of concern. They believe energy searches and the environmental protection are inter-dependent and must be balanced. They trust their elected public officials will slow down their breathless endorsement of the promises of big business and give more consideration to the workers, the citizens, their families and children—and to the environment.