Each year, the Texas Environmental Excellence Awards recognize exceptional achievements toward protecting our natural resources. All award recipients have two things in common: they exemplify the “Take Care of Texas” spirit and they are enhancing the TCEQ’s efforts to protect our state’s human and natural resources while ensuring clean air, clean water, and the safe management of waste.
Winners are highlighted in this article. For more information on the winning projects, including video vignettes, visit www.teea.org.
Winners of the 2010 Texas Environmental Excellence Awards—recommended by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Committee and approved by the Office of Governor Perry—were honored at an awards banquet during the 2010 Environmental Trade Fair and Conference, held on May 5.
- Youth: Sarah Jo Lambert, Lubbock
- Education: City of Waco, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Baylor University
- Water Conservation: Tarrant Regional Water District, Fort Worth
- Government: Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System
- Business/Technical and Innovative Technology: Oncor Electric Delivery LLC, Dallas
- Large Business/Nontechnical: Texas Lehigh Cement Company, LP, Buda
- Small Business: The Phoenix Commotion, Huntsville
- Civic/Nonprofit: Office of Community Outreach, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi
- Agriculture: Texas AgriLife Research, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, West Texas A&M University, Kansas State University, and USDA Agricultural Research Service, Amarillo
- Deadline for 2011 Awards is October 8
Sarah Jo Lambert, Lubbock
Despite an already active schedule as a high-school sophomore, Sarah Jo Lambert took time to help design and construct an 800-square-foot environmental center at Camp Rio Blanco—the Girl Scout camp in Crosbyton that she’s attended the past 11 years. The environmental center, Lorax Lodge—whose name Lambert picked from one of Dr. Seuss’s children’s books—serves to educate campers and visitors on how to implement green-building practices and on other ways to reduce their environmental impact. In addition to donating more than 600 hours of her own time, Lambert recruited more than 2,200 volunteers and sponsors, who made contributions or in-kind donations totaling over $230,000.
To assist area educators and lodge visitors, Lambert developed an environmental teaching guide for kindergarten through twelfth grade. She also mapped a nature trail at the camp, identifying plants and wildlife.
Back to the top
City of Waco, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Baylor University
When the City of Waco looked to safeguard the community’s water supply, it increased Lake Waco by seven feet, providing an additional 20,000 acre-feet of water. However, raising the level also inundated surrounding habitat, which spurred the city to approve the development of a 180-acre constructed wetlands in 2001. Known as the Lake Waco Wetlands, this new habitat is now home to a variety of aquatic and terrestrial plants, mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, and reptiles.
In 2004, the wetlands project added a research and education center to serve as a special resource for the community. As the only wetlands in a 60-mile radius with public access, the Lake Waco Wetlands has become a major hub for the science programs of three colleges and universities and more than 24 school districts.
Baylor University, with the support and cooperation of the City of Waco and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, initiated an innovative approach to environmental education at the Wetlands Research and Education Center, through a cooperative GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) grant. GEAR UP Waco works to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared for college.
Back to the top
Tarrant Regional Water District, Fort Worth
As a water supply wholesaler for the North Central Texas area, the Tarrant Regional Water District (TRWD) provides service to more than 70 water-user groups, including the Trinity River Authority and the cities of Fort Worth, Arlington, and Mansfield. In an effort to develop a unified water conservation message for North Texas, the TRWD approached Dallas Water Utilities (DWU) in 2007 about using DWU’s existing campaign tagline, “Save Water. Nothing Can Replace It,” for the district’s own collaborative campaign. Since then, the TRWD’s water conservation campaign has continued to reach citizens of North Texas, who make up approximately 20 percent of the state’s entire population.
By implementing strategies such as not watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., consumer water use has declined the past two years, despite population growth. Since the campaign began, water use among the district’s primary customers has declined by more than 36.2 million gallons a day, saving a total of 13.2 billion gallons of water.
Back to the top
Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System
The Waco Metropolitan Area Regional Sewerage System wastewater treatment plant launched an initiative in 2002 to reduce and manage its energy usage in a way that benefits the environment and saves money. The plant treats up to 37.8 million gallons of municipal waste from seven member cities each day and has been systematically increasing the efficiency of its equipment and processes over the past eight years—yielding a 35 percent average reduction in annual energy usage.
The treatment plant also found a way to turn some of its waste into energy. In 2006, it developed an industrial receiving station capable of accepting fats, oils, grease, and high-strength organic wastes. The receiving station allows the plant to produce more methane gas and convert it to electricity. This bio-generated electricity now satisfies 33 percent of the plant’s overall electricity needs, thereby reducing its reliance on natural gas.
Back to the top
Business/Technical and Innovative Technology
Oncor Electric Delivery LLC, Dallas
Operating the largest distribution and transmission system in Texas, which delivers electricity to approximately 3 million homes and businesses in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, Oncor Electric Delivery realized that it needed to increase the reliability of electrical power to meet rapidly expanding energy demands from a growing customer base. To this end, Oncor invested $60 million in Texas’ only urban Static Var Compensators (SVCs).
This cluster of SVCs, the largest concentration in the world, acts as a local, high-speed “voltage reservoir” that responds automatically to support the system during peak electricity demand. When a higher-than-usual demand on the electric grid system causes voltage fluctuations across the grid, the SVCs kick into action within 20 milliseconds—the fastest response time in the world—to prevent potentially widespread power outages.
In addition, installing an SVC in the Parkdale neighborhood of Dallas eliminates the need to generate an estimated 563 hours of peak-load electricity, thereby reducing air emissions and conserving 988,160 megawatt hours of energy. These annual savings will occur over the lifetime of the equipment and will continue to increase as the electric load grows.
Back to the top
Texas Lehigh Cement Company, LP, Buda
Buda is now a bustling suburb. But in 1978, when Texas Lehigh Cement Company first began operating its dry cement kiln there, the town was a rural, agricultural community. Texas Lehigh realized that the community might well have objections to having a cement plant as a neighbor, so it opened the plant’s doors to the public for tours. Further, in response to recent market and regulatory changes, Texas Lehigh began to consider the viability of using alternative sources of fuel in its operations. An ideal fuel would cost less, reduce the plant’s environmental impact, and meet the approval of the surrounding community.
Texas Lehigh then involved the community in its research of emission-reduction options. Though this was not required by law, Texas Lehigh understood the value of proactively building strong community relationships. Texas Lehigh asserts that adopting this open-door approach of including its neighbors in the business-planning process has established trust and goodwill—giving the community a sense of partnership with the company, and a stake in its success.
Back to the top
The Phoenix Commotion, Huntsville
Dan Phillips is spreading the notion that constructing homes with reclaimed materials has a viable place in the building industry. And he’s making quite a commotion. This innovative business owner is building houses from donated, salvaged, and recycled materials that otherwise would go to the landfill, and offering single parents, families with low income, and professional artists the opportunity to own a home. Dan and his wife, Marsha, started the Huntsville-based company, the Phoenix Commotion, approximately 10 years ago, and have completed 14 houses to date.
Counter to standard building practices, the Phoenix Commotion allows the available materials to dictate the design of each house. Through networking, Dan maintains a steady stream of donated scrap materials. Whatever he can’t use, he takes to a municipal warehouse, where the overage is distributed to low-income families and nonprofit organizations.
All Phoenix Commotion–built homes feature Xeriscape landscaping and a rainwater-catchment system that provides water for toilet flushing and clothes washing. Ranging from $18,000 to $89,000, the affordability of these homes allows the new owners to join the economic mainstream and enjoy the confidence that comes with home ownership.
Back to the top
Office of Community Outreach, Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi
The Office of Community Outreach at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi has been supporting the quality of life in the Coastal Bend area since 1993.
Community Outreach forms partnerships with public and private organizations, and finds funding from grants and private donations, to offer a diverse range of environmental programs.
In 1999, Community Outreach’s Gulf Coast Environmental Education Program began to offer summer camps for youth from low-income households. Due to its popularity, the program expanded to serve area youth, teachers, students, and the general public year-round. Featuring kayak instruction and exploration, the program offers one-day excursions and regular science activities, as well as summer camps.
On another front, one of Community Outreach’s cornerstone programs, the Pollution Prevention Partnership, has been working to lower Corpus Christi’s risk of becoming a nonattainment area for air quality standards, and has helped reduce air pollution by more than 600 tons. Two of its projects are aimed at reducing air emissions: AutoCheck, which screens and repairs high-emission vehicles; and the Clean School Bus Program, which installs emissions-reduction components in school buses. AutoCheck has screened over 25,000 vehicles and repaired 338 high-polluting vehicles. The Clean School Bus Program has modified 91 buses, resulting in an average emissions reduction of 30 percent per bus.
Back to the top
Texas AgriLife Research, Texas AgriLife Extension Service, West Texas A&M University, Kansas State University, and USDA Agricultural Research Service, Amarillo
In 2002, a team of scientists, engineers, and government agencies partnered on a research project that has helped cattle feedyards and open-lot dairies reduce the emissions they generate. Today, the project continues to study emissions of dust and particulate matter, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, odor, and volatile organic compounds from feedlots and open-lot dairies. The project has produced reliable data on air quality emissions and marked improvements in control strategies for a region that raises 42 percent of the fed beef in the United States and contains nearly 40 percent of the dairy production in Texas.
Scientists and engineers conducted seven years of research—both in the field and in laboratories—to determine best practices for reducing emissions that the cattle-feeding and dairy industries could adopt. The findings have helped cattle feedyards develop targeted strategies—such as timely, efficient water sprinkling, and frequent scraping of feedlot surfaces—to reduce or control dust. Additionally, the project’s data has helped 80 Texas feedyards receive federal financial assistance for dust-control measures.
Back to the top