Fire mars sky

A city in Texas is grappling with being a city in Texas, and the questions are coming in existential batches:

Making sure ITC isn’t spewing toxic fumes doesn’t require fining it out of existence. It requires a serious commitment to safety and transparency, which are sorely lacking in this state. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a history of lax monitoring and enforcement. And Texas has refused to require widespread public disclosure of chemical inventories and Risk Management Plans of facilities that would improve journalists’ ability to inform the public during a crisis. A reporter who wants to see a facility’s RMP has to make an appointment with federal marshals to view it.

Patrick Jankowski, senior economist with the Greater Houston Partnership, told business reporter Jordan Blum: “We need these facilities here because it’s how we get our products to market.

Of course. But what is a booming economy without quality of life? Without peace of mind? Parents sent their children back to Deer Park and La Porte ISD schools Tuesday, but they couldn’t have felt great confidence when school officials restricted outside activities. Houston ISD took the same precaution. Good to err on the side of safety, but no parent should have to fear that just walking to school might endanger their child’s health.

Nothing that calls for fatuous comment or commentary. It’s just a situation reduced to its plainly naked reality. Companies do what they want, the public has no say. Regulations are too onerous. We need these companies here for our products. And what’s up with the air?

Texas Burning

Prayers and overly-stylized prayer services aside, this is not funny.

Raging wildfires destroyed more than 1,000 homes in Texas over the weekend and thousands of residents were evacuated from the most-threatened areas. Ten new fires labeled “large” by theTexas Forest Service cropped up Monday night across the state.

Drought conditions, high winds, and large amounts of dry, combustible brush are ultimately to blame for some 21,000 wildfires that have hit the state since December.

The loss of homes in the rocky hill country highlights how the addition of 2 million residents every five years has pushed urban sprawl into wildfire danger zones, or as former Austin assistant fire chief Kevin Baum calls it, the “top of a matchstick.”

Apparently, Dallas, Houston and SA are all in some extreme fire zone. And housing developments sprawling into wildfire zones does not a sustainable economy make. It doesn’t even do much for a non-on-fire economy. These failings are indicative of many thing, not the least of which is the easy-to-mischaracterize issue of climate change. Easy to demagogue. Easy to childishly refute (It’s freezing in Florida! in February!). But the earth is just as dry and the fires just as hot, as the climate changes and the effects thereof are just as severe and damaging – whether they choose to believe in it or not.

What externalities?!