The QueQue: Science fair: SA teacher petitions the TCEQ, Despite headlines, fracking not out of the woods yet
Published: November 16, 2011
Science fair: SA teacher petitions the TCEQ
It seemed like just one more Change.org petition. Honestly, it was just one more Change.org petition — one of an estimated 50,000 that have been started on the site since it launched in 2007. QueQue happily signed it, Facebooked it, and filed it away with all those other gobs of click-share petitions. Then the Houston Chronicle wrote about it, and suddenly local middle-school science and math teacher Mobi Warren’s petition demanding the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality re-instate references to climate change and sea-level rise the agency had cut out of a report commissioned on the health of Galveston Bay had found its sea legs. “As a teacher, I reacted strongly to this political censorship of mainstream science,” Warren told Change.org. “Teachers and students deserve better from Texas’ top environmental officials. I work hard to keep politics and ideology out of science education, and I expect government officials to do the same.”
It wasn’t a fly-by-night report to begin with, but a distillation of a decade-long peer-reviewed study Rice University professor John Anderson performed with other scientists — one already published by the Geological Society of America. What did the TCEQ remove? References to the pace of sea-level rise (from historic .5 millimeters per year pace to an exponential increase in the 20th century to a current 3 millimeters per year swelling) and human activity reducing the amount of wetlands were both subjected to censorship by TCEQ management (after layers of bureaucracy, including the TCEQ publications department, had already signed off on it).
Could popular pressure force the TCEQ to reconsider the study they reportedly spiked after the authors refused to have their names associated with it? Apparently, the negotiations are ongoing. Report editor Jim Lester, vice president of the Houston Advanced Research Center, said he was contacted by the TCEQ Tuesday in the interest of setting up a meeting in Austin to work something out over the $60,000 contract. “They sent us a letter, claiming we were in non-compliance with the contract. We sent back a letter saying we believe we are in compliance,” Lester said. “We got a call back today saying they want us to come up to Austin to talk about how we can resolve this thing.”
Something in Warren’s petition has struck a chord. While only about one in every 50 petitions started on Change.org bust 5,000 signatures, according to Change.org Senior Organizer Jess Leber, Warren’s call had snagged more than 5,749 approving votes by noon Tuesday. (View at change.org/petitions/tell-texas-respect-scientists-publish-uncensored-environmental-report.)