A Sustainable Partnership for Sustainable Communities
Author: Cassie Oswood
Texas A&M Welcomes T.E.J.A.S.
Juan Parras and Yvette Arellano, came to Texas A&M to present their mission and goals to the faculty and staff of the Institute for Sustainable Communities. Parras is the executive director and founder of the Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, otherwise known as T.E.J.A.S. The organization works to provide community members with the resources to create sustainable and environmentally healthy communities. They strive to educate communities, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, about environmental protection, policy development, and legal action.
During his presentation, Parras described the types of environmental justice issues that have brought his attention to the communities in Houston, specifically the neighborhood of Manchester. He discussed the negative health and environmental impacts the refinery industries have placed on the neighborhood of Manchester and its citizens. His concern was focused on the carcinogenic pollutants and fine particulate matter that are released from the refineries surrounding the neighborhood. “Three of the four sides of Manchester are surrounded by a Valero refinery, the remaining side is blocked in by a trainyard 25-tracks wide.”
In the face of these environmental justice issues, Parras’s organization has partnered with the IfSC for research purposes in these communities. T.E.J.A.S. has worked in collaboration with the IfSC to forge positive and long-term relationships in the communities that they conduct research in. The success of the research at the IfSC has been made possible through this partnership with T.E.J.A.S.
Yvette Arellano, the research and policy liaison for T.E.J.A.S., commended Texas A&M on the value of the research the IfSC is doing in the Houston neighborhoods of Manchester and Sunnyside. Specifically, the water quality research collected before and after Hurricane Harvey has been a utilized as a key component in their progress towards environmental health and sustainability in these communities.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities awarded Parras with a Certificate of Fellowship as a sign of gratitude for the outstanding work T.E.J.A.S. has done in collaboration with Texas A&M. By working with T.E.J.A.S., IfSC researchers have been able to gain access to many communities that are most often unavailable for research. Through this partnership the IfSC has grown strong and long-lasting relationships with the people of these communities, making important progress towards sustainability. These communities in return gain valuable research data and information about their neighborhood’s environment, as well as many education and service opportunities in collaboration with Texas A&M.
The Institute for Sustainable Communities at Texas A&M would like to thank Juan Parras and the members of T.E.J.A.S. for their valuable partnership and continued support of the research in these Houston communities.