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EPA announces new Air Quality website

• EPA and TCEQ announce story map resource
• Interactive tool provides easy access for ITC fire data

DALLAS – (March 31, 2019) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) announce a new interactive resource to help keep the public updated and informed about the response activities for the Intercontinental Terminals Company LLC (ITC) Fire in La Porte, Texas.

The new resource, a collaborative, interactive “story map,” can be viewed on EPA’s website at response.epa.gov/ITCTankFire.

EPA and TCEQ’s response actions, as well as maps, photos and sampling locations are featured.

On March 17, 2019, in response to a tank fire at the ITC facility, EPA, TCEQ, along with state and local agencies joined ITC in a Unified Command. EPA and TCEQ continue to be onsite for the emergency response focused on providing the assistance and coordination needed to address any discharges from the site. EPA and TCEQ have been conducting water sampling and air monitoring throughout the affected areas from the onset of the response.

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PRESIDENT TRUMP VISITS CROSBY AREA

President Donald Trump signed two executive orders in Crosby, easing regulations on pipelines and water quality.

CROSBY – “It’s like the circus is coming to town!” exclaimed one Republican resident, of the combined excitement and trepidation of having the presidential motorcade come to an unincorporated area that voted for him in the Presidential election by a whopping 74%.

A flurry of questions poured into this newspaper concerning where folks could get a view or when traffic could be expected to be stopped on FM 2100 or Foley Road. Trump landed his plane at Ellington Field, and travelled by Motorcade to Crosby on US90. After his talk, he returned to Ellington for a fundraiser dinner at the Lone Star Air Museum.

The speech and signing ceremony at the IUOE center was attended by about 400 invited guests, from Harris County and a few from Crosby. A number of industry friends of Trump attended, some even riding the Air Force One with the president.

Arrival at the International Union of Operating Engineers International Training and Education Center comes in controversy. President Trump signed executive orders to facilitate easing regulations on making petrochemicals and speeding up pipeline construction, even in the wake of four petrochemical fires and three worker deaths in less than one month in East Harris County. And the union facility recently became non-profit, thus reducing taxes paid to local first responders. White House officials announced the orders will grant incentives for investors to build energy infrastructure, streamlining permitting for pipeline projects. Last May Trump issued a permit to initiate the delayed Keystone XL Pipeline.

The International Training and Education Center is about 266 acres between Newport and Foley Road in Crosby.

President Trump indicated reducing red tape around pipelines would allow the US to remain undisputed leader of the world in natural gas and oil in the future.

Of course, the new Keystone XL permit is under court challenge, environmentalists sued over the issue of whether Congress, not the executive branch, is granted constitutional rule over federal lands.

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Commissioner Adrian Garcia meets with Federal Officials to address ITC incident

Commissioner Garcia with State Officials at Washington, D.C.

HOUSTON – Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia met with federal officials in Washington, D.C., this week to advocate for infrastructure resources and enhancing safety and collaboration with the chemical industry after the ITC explosion.

During the visit, which spanned Monday, April 1, through Thursday, April 4, Commissioner Garcia met with EPA officials to address the lack of air monitors available after a fire broke out at Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park March 17 and burned for days. Garcia emphasized the need for more foam on site to be able to combat these blazes, as well as the importance of knowing quickly what is inside the tanks so first-responders can be both safe and effective.

“We need to work together, at all levels of government, to ensure industry leaders and our communities cannot just co-exist, but be good neighbors and look out for each other,” Commissioner Garcia said.

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Channelview ISD’s May Bond addresses growth, plans for future

REPLACE COBB & SCHOCHLER: • Existing Cobb Campus: Capacity of 471. • Existing Schochler Campus: Capacity of 601. • Proposed New Campus: 1,100 student capacity; located in between; existing campuses; modern learning; environment; improved parking, drives and play areas.

With hundreds of new homes coming to the area, Channelview ISD schools, many which are already nearing maximum capacity, could soon be out of space. The expansion of the Rancho Verde residential development includes more than 620 new homes that will be built within the Channelview ISD boundaries.

In order to accommodate the future growth, Channelview ISD has called a $195.4 million bond election, the District’s first in 10 years, to be held on May 4, 2019.

Currently, Channelview High School and the Ninth Grade Center are over capacity. If approved by voters, one of the projects included in the bond is a new Career and Technical Education Center addition, which will add instructional space for approximately 340 additional students. The CTE expansion will also provide students with increased opportunities to earn industry certifications and prepare them for life beyond high school whether they decide to attend college or enter the workforce. The existing CTE space will be renovated and repurposed to create more space for other academic and art classrooms.

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Rotary Fish Fry tickets on sale for May 18 event

NORTH SHORE ROTARY will hold their 44th Annual Catfish Fry & Crawfish Boil on Saturday, May 18 at the Rotary Pavilion behind the Courthouse on Wallisville Road. Dinners are available for $12 Pre-Sale, or $15 at the Gate.

In addition, raffle tickets are available for $100 for a chance to win either a 2019 Toyota Camry or a Toyota Tundra pickup truck, courtesy of Community Toyota Baytown. These tickets include two meals, and the chance to win 20 other prizes.

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San Jacinto Day Festival & Battle Reenactment cancelled due to ITC facility fire

2019 Festival originally scheduled for April 13

The March 17 tank farm fire at the ITC facility remains an ongoing situation that has closed the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site and the San Jacinto Museum of History since the emergency situation began. At the present time, access to the area surrounding the site is restricted to emergency personnel involved in the cleanup. All preparations needed for a successful Festival & Battle Reenactment by necessity, have been halted.

“While the situation is improving, we do not know when conditions will allow for the public to return to this hallowed ground,” said Larry Spasic, San Jacinto Museum President. “Our overriding concern is, of course, the safety of our guests and the participants involved as well as the animals used in the reenactment and our educational venues. Because of the ongoing efforts of the cleanup and remediation of the pollution in the waterways and grasslands in and around the San Jacinto Site and continuing uncertainties, we feel it is better to act proactively than reactively to these circumstances.”

With an abundance of caution, the difficult decision has been made to cancel the 2019 San Jacinto Festival and Battle Reenactment scheduled for April 13th. All involved are deeply saddened that this important tradition will not occur for only the second time in nearly 35 years.

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ITC Fire event is not over, says OEM director Lina Hidalgo

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, head of Office of Emergency Management, holds a news conference on Monday to update the public on status of the ITC fire and clean-up. (photo Gilbert Hoffman)

DEER PARK – Well into the second week after the huge chemical storage tank fire at the ITC site in Deer Park, authorities and emergency crews are still busy trying to deal with the aftermath of the blaze.

ITC, or Intercontinental Terminals Company, has issued dozens of press releases and conferences, but many of the public feel that the facts of the fire have still not been revealed.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who is also the head of the OEM, or Office of Emergency Management, held a press conference on Monday. She thanked all those first responders and other government agencies that had worked quickly and in a coordinated way to deal with the disaster.

However, she had a clear message for all, saying, “This Incident is not Over.” She emphasized that the immediate problem was containing the chemicals and to minimize contamination of the air and water around the site.

Multiple agencies are dealing with the problems, including the EPA, TCEQ, Harris County Pollution Control, Harris County Health Department, Fire Marshal’s office, and various first responders around the area.

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Channelview ISD holding first bond election in 10 Years

The bond proposal was developed and recommended by the Citizens’ Bond Planning Committee (CBPC), a diverse group of CISD parents, staff, local citizens, and community leaders.

This May, Channelview ISD residents will have the opportunity to vote on a $195.4 million bond election.

A bond is similar to a home mortgage. It is a contract to repay borrowed money with interest over time. Bond elections allow communities to vote to give the Board of Trustees authority to sell bonds to pay for items such as school construction, capital projects and land acquisition.

A school district’s tax rate is comprised of two parts. Part one is Maintenance and Operations (M&O) which funds day-to-day expenses such as salaries, general maintenance, bus repairs and fuel, educational materials and utilities.

Part two is Interest and Sinking (I&S) which funds debt repayment for the purchase of new building construction, existing building renovations, land purchases, program-specific equipment, technology and school buses. The Channelview ISD bond election would only affect the District’s I&S rate. By law, I&S funds cannot be used to pay teacher or staff salaries.

Currently, Channelview ISD’s I&S tax rate is $0.356 with the M&O tax rate standing at $1.04 for a total tax rate of $1.396. The current rate is the lowest it has been in seven years and is the second lowest tax rate when compared to surrounding school districts. Over the past seven years, the Channelview ISD Board of Trustees has lowered the tax rate $0.10 from $1.496 in 2012 to the current rate of $1.396.

The last time Channelview ISD held a bond election was a decade ago, in November 2009. Projects included in the 2009 bond were completed on time and on budget by November 2012.

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Cody Bill passes House with 145 – 0 vote

AUSTIN – The final vote in the House of Representatives got unanimous approval of those attending the session on Tuesday for HB 76, the Cody Stephens Bill.

According to Scott Stephens, who has made it his mission to get Texas to use E.C.G. machines in addition to the exam a doctor does with a stethoscope, “The Texas House of Representatives voted to pass HB 76 today with no opposition! This was a huge step for us and for Cody’s Law, bringing us so much closer to getting heart screening into every school across Texas.

“This is a wonderful cause for celebration. We definitely want to take a moment to acknowledge all the hard work from Rep. Dan Huberty, lobbyist Kathy Grant, everyone who testified at the Public Education Committee hearing, and all of you who called and wrote letters to your representatives to vote in favor of HB 76.”

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Community leaders hear from newly positioned legislators

Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia of the 29th Congressional District, Senator Carol Alvarado of Senate District 6 and State Representative Christina Morales of District 145. (Photo by Allan Jamail)

By Allan Jamail

Houston, TX- Saturday, March 23, 2019 – Yolanda Alvarado, a well known and respected civic leader, invited community leaders to a meeting with legislators serving in new positions. Elected officials present were Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia of the 29th Congressional District, Senator Carol Alvarado of Senate District 6, and State Representative Christina Morales of District 145.

Congresswoman Garcia said, “It’s been somewhat of a challenge adjusting to the cold freezing snowy weather and its effect on one’s ability to move about in D. C., but I’m managing it okay.

“I’m very concerned with the ITC fire and will be closely monitoring the after-affects it could pose on the air and water quality, and the impact it can have on the health of residents. We must investigate its cause and how to prevent similar disasters in the future. The 29th District encompasses large portions of the Houston ship channel including the Port of Houston, cities of Houston, Pasadena, Galena Park, Jacinto City, South Houston, and Aldine.”

Garcia continued, “My committee assignments on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Judiciary Committee are vital to the Houston region, the State of Texas, and the nation. I’ve always fought for working families, and my appointments will allow me to use that experience to continue these efforts.”

State Senator Carol Alvarado is serving her first term in the Texas Senate. She is Vice-Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Texas Ports and represents Senate District 6 encompassing the Eastern portions of Harris County along with the cities of Baytown, Pasadena, Galena Park, Jacinto City and South Houston.

Alvarado said, “The fire at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) facility in Deer Park is a local disaster that is still ongoing. While the threat of the fire has passed, the clean up and investigation that must follow has just begun. I am closely monitoring each stage of recovery including clean up at the facility, clean up and containment in the nearby bodies of water, and investigation into the cause. We are receiving ongoing updates from various agencies and organizations including TCEQ, EPA, Harris County Emergency Management, and ITC themselves. There are still many unanswered questions at this time but I can assure residents that we will push to get the answers our community deserves.”

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DEER PARK FIRE AFTERMATH: Commissioner Adrian Garcia closes parks for safety

HARRIS COUNTY, TX – Friday, March 22nd 2019– As a precaution, Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia is closing eight Precinct 2 parks with waterfronts in the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) incident area. A number of school districts have also closed, as a precaution.

“After the news of the ITC dike breach earlier today, I decided to close some of our parks out of precaution because my main priority is keeping our residents safe,” Garcia said. “We want to ensure our parks are safe and able to function in the way our community expects and deserves. I want to give the EPA, TCEQ and others the time they need to continue their testing.”

The following Precinct 2 parks will be closed with all scheduled events cancelled until further notice:

• Bay Area Park in Houston (Bay Area Community Center is open)

• Clear Lake Park in Seabrook

• Sylvan Beach in La Porte

• Juan Seguin in La Porte

• Rio Villa Nature Trail

• Meadow Brook

• River Terrace

• Moncrief Park

The Lynchburg Ferry remains closed to the public.

LA PORTE: Seabreeze Park and Klein Retreat in La Porte will remain closed until further notice.

Health Recommendations

According to Harris County Public Health (HCPH), and based on current air monitoring reports, there continues to be a low health risk for the community.

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