Tag Archives: Texas

Half of Mail-In Ballot Requests Rejected in Key Texas County

Democracy defenders contend that Texas’ newly enacted restrictions on mail-in ballots are part of a nationwide pattern of Republican efforts to disenfranchise minority voters.

By Brett Wilkins.  Published 1-14-2022 by Common Dreams

Voting rights advocates responded with alarm to reports this week that around half of the mail-in voting applications in Texas’ fifth-largest county have been rejected as a result of a recently enacted voter suppression law that experts say is part of a nationwide Republican effort to restrict access to the polls.

According to The Texas Tribune, election officials in Travis County—home of the state capital, Austin—said they have rejected around half of the 700 requested vote-by-mail applications they’ve received so far ahead of the March primaries. The officials say they are complying with S.B. 1, a controversial law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott last September. Continue reading

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‘Alarming’: ALEC’s New Model Bill Would Penalize Banks for Divesting From Fossil Fuels

One critic called the proposal, which describes green investment policies as a form of “energy discrimination,” a “desperate attempt by fossil fuel companies and their lobbyists to maintain their profits.”

By Kenny Stancil. Published 12-8-2021 by Common Dreams

Marathon Petroleum’s Los Angeles Refinery in Carson, California, Photo: Marathon Petroleum

Progressives are sounding the alarm about a recently launched right-wing campaign that seeks to preempt green investment policies throughout the United States by portraying the financial sector’s potential turn toward clean energy as discriminatory—and introducing legislation that would punish banks and asset managers for divesting from fossil fuels.

The Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which consistently pumps out reactionary bills mostly for state-level Republicans, held its States and Nation Policy Summit last week in San Diego. Continue reading

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Civil Rights Groups Denounce ‘Unlawful’ Book-Banning Effort by Texas GOP

“We will not stand by and watch politicians play games with the education and well-being of our children.”

By Brett Wilkins.  Published 11-23-2021 by Common Dreams.

Two prominent national civil rights groups on Tuesday blasted efforts by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and state Rep. Matt Krause—both Republicans—to compel school districts to censor hundreds of books, including many popular LGBTQ+, reproductive rights, and racial justice titles, following the passage of laws prohibiting the teaching of the racist history of the United States and banning transgender athletes from interscholastic athletics.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the LGBTQ+ advocacy group Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. issued a statement condemning “Texas politicians’ efforts to force schools to begin pulling books from their classrooms and libraries shelves under the guise of state law.” Continue reading

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The erosion of Roe v. Wade and abortion access didn’t begin in Texas or Mississippi – it started in Pennsylvania in 1992

Demonstrators in Austin march at the Texas State Capitol in just one of many rallies held across the U.S. to protest the state’s new abortion law.
Montinique Monroe/Getty Images News via Getty Images

Alison Gash, University of Oregon

Abortion rights are more vulnerable to Supreme Court reversal now than at any time since the court legalized the procedure in its landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade.

The court is set to weigh in on abortion restrictions from at least two states this term. The first is a Texas law effectively outlawing abortions after six weeks. The second is a Mississippi law barring abortions after 15 weeks.

On Oct. 22, 2021, the Supreme Court upheld a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling allowing the Texas law to go into effect while the case is being litigated. Continue reading

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Supreme Court Announces Date for Case Directly Challenging Roe v. Wade

“The fate of Roe v. Wade and legal abortion is on the line.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-20-2021

Clouds are seen above The U.S. Supreme Court building on May 17, 2021 in Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court Monday said that on December 1, it will hear a Mississippi abortion case that challenges Roe v. Wade. (Photo: Joe Ravi/cc)

Abortion rights advocates geared up for a major fight as the U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it will soon hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case in Mississippi which poses a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade.

The high court confirmed it will consider the case December 1 after months of speculation regarding when it would take up the dispute over Mississippi’s ban on most abortion care after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Continue reading

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Architect of Texas Abortion Ban Takes Aim at LGBTQ+ Rights While Urging Reversal of Roe

“Make no mistake, the goal is to force extreme, outdated, religious-driven values on all of us through the courts.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-18-2021

The Women’s March on Washington in 2017. Photo: Mobilus In Mobili/flickr/CC

Advocates for reproductive freedom and LGTBQ+ equality on Saturday pointed to a legal brief filed in a U.S. Supreme Court case that could soon overturn Roe v. Wade as a crucial example of the broader goals of those fighting to end abortion rights across the United States.

“It’s never just been about fetuses. It’s about controlling sex,” tweeted Muhlenberg College assistant professor Jacqueline Antonovich, a historian of health and medicine. Continue reading

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Record-Breaking Disasters Across World Have Root Cause in Common: Human Activity

“The solutions we conceive of as a global society,” a new report states, must “allow for interconnected ways of solving multiple problems at once.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 9-8-2021

Amazon deforestation. Phpto: Oregon State University/flickr/CC

A slew of recent record-breaking disasters that took place in faraway places across the world shouldn’t be seen in isolation but as interconnected events for which human activity is a major root cause, according to a United Nations report released Wednesday.

The study (pdf), released by the UN University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, took a “deep dive” into 10 extreme events that occurred in 2020 and 2021 that “were not only disastrous for people and the environment but were also the symptoms of underlying processes ingrained in our society.” Continue reading

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In Unanimous Ruling, Mexican Supreme Court Decriminalizes Abortion

One reproductive rights organizer called the historic decision “an enormous step toward legalization in the entire country.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 9-7-2021

Protest in the Zócalo of Mexico City on September 28 demanding for the decriminalisation of abortion across the country. Photo: Balance A.C.

Standing in stark contrast with a newly effective anti-abortion law in neighboring Texas, Mexico’s Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously ruled that a state law criminalizing abortion is unconstitutional, setting a precedent that advocates say is likely to ultimately lead to full legalization in the nation with the world’s second-largest Roman Catholic population.

The Washington Post reports Mexico’s high court found that a law in the northern state of Coahuila punishing women who have abortions with three years’ imprisonment violates the nation’s constitution. Women jailed for undergoing the procedure may now be freed following the decision. Continue reading

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As Fascist GOP Threat Grows, Dems Verge on Historic Failure to Secure Voting Rights

“Mark my words,” warned former Labor Secretary Robert Reich. “If we don’t pass the For the People Act, the GOP is going to gerrymander their way to a House majority—and they may never give it up.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 8-6-2021

Moral March on Manchin & McConnell by Poor Peoples Campaign, Washington, D.C. Phpto: Frypie/CC

The window for action to protect voting rights from the GOP’s nationwide assault is rapidly closing as Democrats—despite controlling both chambers of Congress and the White House—fail to take the steps necessary to pass federal legislation that would expand ballot access, restore the gutted Voting Rights Act of 1965, and end partisan gerrymandering.

Progressive warnings about the implications of continued inaction on voting rights have grown increasingly dire in recent weeks as state governments—nearly two dozen of which are completely dominated by Republicans—prepare to redraw their 10-year congressional maps for upcoming elections and implement new ballot restrictions. Continue reading

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‘This Is a Scandal’: Documents Reveal Obama’s EPA Approved Toxic Chemicals for Fracking in 2011

“We still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations. Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without consequence?”

By Kenny Stancil, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2021

A fracking rig behind a housing development Photo: WildEarth Guardians/flickr/CC

Between 2012 and 2020, fossil fuel corporations injected potentially carcinogenic per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), or chemicals that can degrade into PFAS, into the ground while fracking for oil and gas, after former President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency approved their use despite agency scientists’ concerns about toxicity.

The EPA’s approval in 2011 of three new compounds for use in oil and gas drilling or fracking that can eventually break down into PFAS, also called “forever chemicals,” was not publicized until Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) obtained internal records from the agency through a Freedom of Information Act request, the New York Times reported Monday after reviewing the files.

According to PSR’s new reportFracking with “Forever Chemicals, oil and gas companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, and others engaged in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have since 2012 pumped toxic chemicals that can form PFAS into more than 1,200 wells in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming.

While the Times noted that the newly released documents constitute some of the earliest evidence of the possible presence of PFAS in fracking fluids, PSR’s report warns that “the lack of full disclosure of chemicals used in oil and gas operations raises the potential that PFAS could have been used even more extensively than records indicate, both geographically and in other stages of the oil and gas extraction process, such as drilling, that precede the underground injections known as fracking.”

“It’s very disturbing to see the extent to which critical information about these chemicals is shielded from public view,” Barbara Gottlieb, PSR’s Environment & Health Program director, said Monday in a press release. “The lack of transparency about fracking chemicals puts human health at risk.”

As the Times reported:

In a consent order issued for the three chemicals on Oct. 26, 2011, EPA scientists pointed to preliminary evidence that, under some conditions, the chemicals could “degrade in the environment” into substances akin to PFOA, a kind of PFAS chemical, and could “persist in the environment” and “be toxic to people, wild mammals, and birds.” The EPA scientists recommended additional testing. Those tests were not mandatory and there is no indication that they were carried out.

“The EPA identified serious health risks associated with chemicals proposed for use in oil and gas extraction, and yet allowed those chemicals to be used commercially with very lax regulation,” Dusty Horwitt, a researcher at PSR, told the newspaper.

In a statement released Monday, Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, called the PSR report “alarming,” and said it “confirms what hundreds of scientific studies and thousands of pages of data have already shown over the last decade: fracking is inherently hazardous to the health and safety of people and communities in proximity to it, and it should be banned entirely.”

As PSR notes, PFAS—highly potent toxins that accumulate in the body and persist in the environment—pose a threat to human and environmental well-being. Negative health effects linked to PFAS include low infant birth weights, disruptions of the immune and reproductive systems, and cancer.

“The potential that these chemicals are being used in oil and gas operations should prompt regulators to take swift action to investigate the extent of this use, pathways of exposure, and whether people are being harmed,” said Linda Birnbaum, board-certified Ph.D. toxicologist and former director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Hauter added that “this says nothing of the dreadful impact fossil fuel extraction and burning is having on our runaway climate crisis. Fracking threatens every person on the planet, directly or indirectly.”

According to the Times:

In a 2016 report, the EPA identified more than 1,600 chemicals used in drilling and fracking, or found in fracking wastewater, including close to 200 that were deemed carcinogens or toxic to human health. The same EPA report warned that fracking fluid could escape from drill sites into the groundwater and that leaks could spring from underground wells that store millions of gallons of wastewater.

Communities near drilling sites have long complained of contaminated water and health problems that they say are related. The lack of disclosure on what sort of chemicals are present has hindered diagnoses or treatment. Various peer-reviewed studies have found evidence of illnesses and other health effects among people living near oil and gas sites, a disproportionate burden of which fall on people of color and other underserved or marginalized communities.

“The Obama-Biden administration approved the use of toxic PFAS chemicals for fracking a decade ago,” said Hauter, “and all these years later, President Joe Biden’s practices haven’t seemed to change a bit.”

“The Biden administration has claimed to be concerned about PFAS contamination throughout the country,” Hauter said. “Biden himself pledged during the campaign to halt new fracking on federal lands. Meanwhile, this administration is approving new fracking permits at a pace similar to Trump, with no letup in sight.”

Earlier this month, whistleblowers at the EPA accused the Biden administration of continuing the “war on science,” with managers at the agency allegedly modifying reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct.

As Common Dreams reported, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed a formal complaint on behalf of four scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, demanding an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are safer.

Calling Monday’s revelations about the Obama administration’s decision to greenlight the use of PFAS in fracking “a scandal that should lead every nightly news program,” Jamie Henn, co-founder of 350.org and director of Fossil Free Media, noted that “we still don’t know the full extent of toxic chemicals that companies are using in their fracking operations.”

“Why is the EPA allowing them to poison our communities without conscience?” he asked.

Hauter called on Biden “to immediately make good on his promise to halt new fracking on federal lands,” adding that “his administration must take urgent action to contain the use of PFAS chemicals and their deadly spread into our water and our communities.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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