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Cities, counties join fight for environmental initiatives

By Glenn Evans
April 21, 2013 at 10 p.m.

Earth Day was a quarter century old in 1994 when the News-Journal published a special section describing grass-roots recycling and clean-air advocacy by neighborhoods whose residents weren't waiting on government to take the lead.

Today's 44th Earth Day dawns on East Texan initiative that still thrives. Now, though, local governments have caught on that green is good policy.

"We took delivery Wednesday of a large, Peterbilt dump truck - a 13-yard dump truck - with a Cummins Westport compressed natural gas engine," Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor said Thursday, announcing the arrival of a new breed of vehicle he hopes proves its worth and spurs further green investment.

"We've already used the fueling facility with this truck," he said of a new compressed natural gas pump on Interstate 20 off U.S. 59.

Independence Fuel Systems, a Longview-area startup, is putting similar CNG pumps at Shell stations on I-20 at Texas 42 and west of Canton.

Taylor's counterpart in Longview, Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt, has spent much of his 10 years in office enlisting government and industry in clean air efforts as co-chairman of the North East Texas Air Care coalition of counties.

The coalition has been successful in keeping area ozone levels within attainment status of the Clean Air Act.

Lately, though, Stoudt has shifted his focus to the ground.

"So many people care about the air, so many people care about the water," Stoudt said. "But we've got the litter problem in East Texas that we've got to take care of."

Stoudt and the rest of the Gregg County Commissioners Court welcomed the anti-litter message a Lake Cherokee businessman brought unannounced to their Feb. 27 meeting. Robert Crawley urged the court to step up litter abatement and enlist local inmates, the Texas Department of Transportation and others to turn a new leaf on local cleanup.

Crawley had acknowledged efforts by the Keep Longview Beautiful committee, a formerly private effort now formally backed by Longview City Hall.

Meanwhile, the Kilgore City Council is scheduled Tuesday to adopt an 11-element beautification plan that includes picking up litter, sprucing up city entry points and even strategic placement of public ash trays to prevent butts from hitting the pavement.

The city of Kilgore also announced it would recycle a shuttered plant on Longview Street as a drop-off site for yard waste. The city will chip that brush into free mulch for residents.

Between Kilgore and Longview, Rivers Recycling opened on the Liberty City Highway to accept glass, paper and other recycling materials. Before the company arrived in 2011, municipal dump trucks either took recycling material to facilities in Shreveport or Dallas or dumped them with the trash in Pine Hill landfill in Longview.

Tammy Cromer-Campbell, a Longview photographer who co-founded Working Effectively for Clean Air Now in the late 1990s, applauded the arrival of government to the environmental effort.

Cromer-Campbell noted successes of Keep Longview Beautiful as well as the city's decision to create a recycling coordinator position.

David Simmons started that job about 18 months ago.

"Recycling has just gotten so much easier than it used to be," Simmons said, noting how early recyclers practically needed a chemistry degree to know what could and couldn't be recycled. "But now we can take all clean plastic, all clean metals and cans and all clean paper and cardboard," he said.

Simmons also said he is working on establishing a recycling drop-off site so apartment dwellers will have better recycling options.

Cromer-Campbell criticized the area's lack of focus on clean air, however, noting the Sierra Club's ongoing battle with power company Luminant over emissions at the Martin Lake Power Plant. The environmental group used Cromer-Campbell's photos in its crusade.

"Our heads are still in the sand," she said. "We need to move to clean, newer, renewable energy sources and stop burning fossil fuels to stop putting pollution in the air."

She also announced a symposium on renewable energy sources coming to Longview this summer.

Stoudt concluded that cleaning the air, the water and the side of the road are ideas that have evolved beyond the stereotype of the tree-hugging environmentalist of early Earth Days.

"I guess I'm an environmentalist - I care about the environment," Stoudt said. "If you care about the earth you live in, we probably all are in some form or fashion."



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