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Tonight: the Observer Environmental Justice Road Show Comes to Houston

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Tonight, the Texas Observer’s own Melissa del Bosque will moderate a free public forum in Houston called “The True Cost of Environmental Justice.”

At issue is Texas’ longstanding pro-business approach to regulation—which is to say, not having it—and whether the jobs created by oil and chemical refineries are worth the local health and environmental costs.

While Houston has weathered the recession better than practically anyplace, a major reason is that Harris and its surrounding counties are home to more than 260 oil refineries, chemical plants, and other large industrial facilities, according to a recent count by the Houston Chronicle. Houstonians have a special interest in the balance between a strong economy and a safe, healthy home.

Ms. del Bosque and Observer multimedia editor Jen Reel know all about this. They produced our November cover story, “Kochworld,” which documented the pollution plaguing communities abutting Koch Industries-owned refineries in Corpus Christi. After spending months interviewing sick residents, Reel and del Bosque turned out a feature so good that the Koch bros put out their Benjamin-wrapped cigars long enough to fire off a rebuttal on their Myspace page corporate website kochfacts.com.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis will join del Bosque for tonight’s discussion, along with Matthew Tejada of Air Alliance Houston, Bryan Parras of T. E. J. A. S., and Dr. Jay Olaguer of the Houston Advanced Research Center. Jen Reel will provide a video introduction.

The place is Rice University, the McMurtry Auditorium in Duncan Hall. The time is 7 p.m. I’ll see you there.

Emily DePrang is a staff writer at The Texas Observer where she covers criminal justice and public health. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic and Salon.com, and she’s a former nonfiction editor of the Sonora Review. She’s holds an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Arizona and a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. In 2013, she was a National Health Journalism Fellow; in 2012 she won the Sigma Delta Chi award for public service in magazine journalism.