Dallas environmental plan is not enough

April 21, 2020

Corey Troiani, Texas Campaign for the Environment

Susie Marshall, Grow North Texas

We are speaking out against the city’s draft environmental plan because it’s all hat and no cattle. We’re a part of a growing movement that is not only bucking the city’s plan, but we’ve outlined exactly how it can be improved.

Last year, groups like ours were involved in helping mobilize hundreds of Dallas residents to support getting the city to net zero carbon emissions. We were invited by the City of Dallas to participate as stakeholders in developing the climate plan from day one. It didn’t take long to realize that the closed-door meetings with the city’s contractor were just a song and dance to make us feel like we had real input.

The city also never provided a clear explanation for how it was going to incorporate public feedback. When the city finally released the first draft last December, it was clear as day: This environmental plan isn’t about reducing emissions or making our city more resilient. It’s about checking a box that allows city leaders to join the ranks of other cities in “doing something green” — even if it’s not really anything at all. Their latest draft is out this week and nothing much has changed from the last.

That’s why we have been working with a growing movement of youth activists, labor organizers, and environmental advocates who are all demanding that stronger actions be taken by our city government. Our coalition believes that climate change is a serious issue, and we need to rapidly increase access to clean transportation, energy, and resources that are all needed to transition to a sustainable future. 

Today our coalition released our own People’s Climate Action Plan, to compete with ideas in the city’s draft climate plan. Our plan outlines a bold path toward a future that supports workers and a truly sustainable economy. Here’s a few ways that our plan does more than the city’s plan.

The majority of climate emissions in Dallas come from buildings and the energy they consume. Dallas has a deregulated energy market that relies on a grid of majority fossil energy. Our plan outlines a path to getting to 100% clean energy on our grid in Dallas, and it begins with direct investment and build-out of publicly-owned energy. Cities across Texas like San Antonio, Garland, Denton and Austin have taken steps toward putting renewable energy on the grid with their public-utility companies.

Our alternate plan takes a harder look at the dangerous and costly natural gas distribution system in our city. Atmos Energy, the monopoly operator of that pipeline system, has neglected maintenance and replacement to a serious fault. More than half of their pipelines are over 50 years old and many are made of old steel or cast iron and tied together with faulty couplings. Instead of forcing Dallas ratepayers to pick up the cost of Atmos Energy’s negligence, we’re advocating for a transition away from this system starting with newly constructed buildings. Many buildings in Dallas, especially multifamily complexes, have already gone all-electric since it’s safer and less expensive.

The current public health crisis brought about by the coronavirus shows that we don’t have adequate systems to distribute food and essential supplies to those in need. The problems of our fragile, industrial food system have come to light. These include stories of surplus milk and produce that have no way to get to it can be consumed by people who need it before going bad. 

Farmers and food workers were already dealing with uncertainty from our changing climate. Now they are facing a true test of faith as it becomes more and more apparent that we need to create more sustainable and resilient systems to support farmers, eaters, and our climate. Our People’s Climate Plan looks at the issues necessary to create a local and regional food system that provides the needed resilience and justice.  

Dallas city staff want to push their weak environmental plan to a council vote next month. We think city officials are making a huge mistake by missing the opportunity in this economic pause to do something bold and meaningful. Dallas needs a people’s climate action plan.

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