lone star disappointment

Texas named most vulnerable state to climate change in new report

In addition to its No. 22 overall ranking, Texas took first place in the "Vulnerability to Climate Change" category.

The Lone Star State performed most averagely in a new report that ranked all 50 states on environmental protection.

Texas ranked No. 22 on the report from SmileHub, a nonprofit tech platform using data to evaluate charities. The report analyzed 23 metrics — from energy efficiency score and industrial toxins per square mile of land area to climate change vulnerability — factoring in data from U.S. Census Bureau, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Agriculture, and more.

"The U.S. produces over 292 million tons of waste per year, or over 4.9 pounds per person per day, according to the latest data from the Environmental Protection Agency," reads the report. "Additionally, due to pollution, California, Oregon, Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina each have over 12,000 miles of river unsuitable for human contact. Pollution and waste are issues across the U.S., but some states work harder than others to limit their impact."

In addition to its middle-of-the-pack No. 22 overall ranking, Texas took first place in the "Vulnerability to Climate Change" category. Here's how else the state measured up:

  • No. 18 – Environmental Protection Charities per Capita
  • No. 36 – Share of State Land Designated for Parks and Wildlife
  • No. 28 – Energy Efficiency Score
  • No. 28 – Share of Population Using Green Transportation
  • No. 33 – Total Tonnage of Landfill Waste per Capita
  • No. 28 – Industrial Toxins per Square Mile of Land Area

It's not the first time the state performed poorly on recent environmental reports. In April, WalletHub evaluated the current health of states' environment and residents’ environmental-friendliness. Texas ranked No. 38, meaning it was the thirteenth least green state, only scoring 50.40 points out of 100.

Additionally, Houston has stood out for the wrong reasons. In May, Houston was ranked as the No. 15 most polluted city in the U.S. according to data compiled by the National Public Utilities Council. No other Texas city appears in the ranking. Three California cities — Bakersfield, Visalia, and Fresno — took the top three spots.

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A View From HETI

Governor Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. Photo via X/Governor Abbott

With around 270,000 homes and businesses still without power in the Houston area almost a week after Hurricane Beryl hit Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday said he's demanding an investigation into the response of the utility that serves the area as well as answers about its preparations for upcoming storms.

“Power companies along the Gulf Coast must be prepared to deal with hurricanes, to state the obvious,” Abbott said at his first news conference about Beryl since returning to the state from an economic development trip to Asia.

While CenterPoint Energy has restored power to about 2 million customers since the storm hit on July 8, the slow pace of recovery has put the utility, which provides electricity to the nation’s fourth-largest city, under mounting scrutiny over whether it was sufficiently prepared for the storm that left people without air conditioning in the searing summer heat.

Abbott said he was sending a letter to the Public Utility Commission of Texas requiring it to investigate why restoration has taken so long and what must be done to fix it. In the Houston area, Beryl toppled transmission lines, uprooted trees and snapped branches that crashed into power lines.

With months of hurricane season left, Abbott said he's giving CenterPoint until the end of the month to specify what it'll be doing to reduce or eliminate power outages in the event of another storm. He said that will include the company providing detailed plans to remove vegetation that still threatens power lines.

Abbott also said that CenterPoint didn't have “an adequate number of workers pre-staged" before the storm hit.

Following Abbott's news conference, CenterPoint said its top priority was “power to the remaining impacted customers as safely and quickly as possible,” adding that on Monday, the utility expects to have restored power to 90% of its customers. CenterPoint said it was committed to working with state and local leaders and to doing a “thorough review of our response.”

CenterPoint also said Sunday that it’s been “investing for years” to strengthen the area’s resilience to such storms.

The utility has defended its preparation for the storm and said that it has brought in about 12,000 additional workers from outside Houston. It has said it would have been unsafe to preposition those workers inside the predicted storm impact area before Beryl made landfall.

Brad Tutunjian, vice president for regulatory policy for CenterPoint Energy, said last week that the extensive damage to trees and power poles hampered the ability to restore power quickly.

A post Sunday on CenterPoint's website from its president and CEO, Jason Wells, said that over 2,100 utility poles were damaged during the storm and over 18,600 trees had to be removed from power lines, which impacted over 75% of the utility's distribution circuits.

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