Dallas activist leader and Green Source DFW Sustainable Leadership Award winner Rita Beving speaks outside a Texas Water Development Board hearing in Arlington in May against the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir. Photo courtesy of Texas Green Report.

July 29, 2014

Growing up in the small town of Ackley, Iowa with a population of 1,700, Rita Beving, the 2014 winner of the Green Source DFW Sustainable Leadership Award for Nonprofit Professional, says she was not always interested in environmental issues. At least she didn’t think she was.

“I imagine deep in my heart, my late father influenced my interest,” said Beving, now the Dallas Sierra Club conservation co-chair. “He was the soil conservationist for the county in Iowa, Grundy County. As a little girl, he would drive me past people's farms and point out soil erosion, how people were terracing to preserve topsoil and doing crop rotation. He also taught me to appreciate wildlife and clean water.”

Rita Beving accepts the Green Source DFW Sustainable Leadership Award for Non-Profit Professional in March. Photo by Libbie Simonton.

Fast forward to 2014, where Beving is now a environmental veteran, having fought on the front lines of some of the region's toughest issues. As an activist for more than 20 years in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, she made her mark battling cement kilns and fighting oil pipelines. Her career as an organizer started with a casual venture into the Sierra Club. 

“I joined Sierra Club for social reasons to meet people more than 20 years ago,” Bevings says. “When I saw clear cutting on one of the backpacks I took to Arkansas that got me motivated to get involved in conservation issues.”

During her 20-plus years of activism, she has spearheaded Sierra Club's efforts to fight the cement kiln permits for TXI burning hazardous waste in Midlothian.  

Left, courtesy of Dallas Observer.

“I've also helped citizens in McKinney fight a cement and debris landfill, helped local citizens regarding rookeries being bulldozed in a neighborhood park, protested mature trees being cut by developers in neighborhoods and worked with East Texans against the Marvin Nichols Reservoir for more than 14 years.” 

For the last four years, she's also been the organizer for a monthly gathering of DFW’s environmental establishment known as the Clean Air Eco Meetup. The Dallas get-togethers bring together representatives of environmental groups from across the Metroplex to share news and get updates. 

It’s a long list of accomplishments, but she says her biggest challenge was helping to get the numerous dirty coal plant permits from TXU defeated, alongside former Mayor Laura Miller.  

And for three years, Bevings faced a mighty foe as an organizer for Public Citizen in an effort to stop the Keystone XL and Seaway pipeline.  

“I was a registered lobbyist during the last legislative session though I've lobbied the State Legislature as a volunteer for many sessions,” she explains. “Working on the Keystone XL pipeline, it was disappointing that President Obama ordered the southern segment expedited when we had several aquifers at risk, not just one like Nebraska. We also have a bigger population at risk on the pipeline than almost the entire population of the state of Nebraska.”

Rita Beving addresses the crowd in front of Lamar County Courthouse in Paris, Texas in February 2012, where a judge heard the case of Julia Trigg Crawford, a Lamar County landowner who obtained a restraining order against TransCanada in an attempt to protect her property from a pipeline that would carry crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in northeastern Alberta, Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas. Courtesy of NTXE-News.com.

Her nominator for the Green Source DFW award said her work in East Texas against the pipeline appeared to have been her most difficult assignment yet, but that she handled it with "aplomb and effectiveness." 

"Rita had to be on the road constantly in East Texas, where the Keystone pipeline branch was being built. Anti-Keystone activity has a high national profile, but was overshadowed at times locally this last year by the Dallas Gas Wars. The news coverage she was able to generate despite being away from big cities and media centers was pretty remarkable and helped fuel that national campaign." 

Beving is still working against the building of the Marvin Nichols Reservoir, which opponents say could destroy 30,000 acres of hardwood forest and 15,000 acres of mixed post oak forest and habitat used by 22 endangered species.

In addition, she's been devoting her time to developing the Earth, Wind and Fire Energy Summit Oct. 4-5 as well.

The Dallas Sierra Club and various organizations are sponsoring the two-day energy conference at the Addison Conference Center in North Dallas. Beving says the highlights include Nicholas van der Elst, who will speak about fracking, disposal wells and the relationship to earthquakes.

Left, Dr. Nicholas Van Der Elst, from Columbia University in New York, will speak at the Earth, Wind & Fire Energy Summit Oct. 4-5 in Dallas.

“We are flying in academics and experts from across the country, too,” she said.

The environmental summit will be the first energy conference of its kind in Texas with topics to include geothermal, wind, solar, waste-to-energy, coal, nuclear, natural gas and oil. 

Beving says that environmentally, DFW has grown as a community over the years. 

“There are many grassroots groups springing up around issues, especially fracking,” she says. “There are more protest actions springing from the Occupy movement.’ 

However, she adds that there is a lot less environmental coverage by the press, in both broadcast and print.

“Which is a shame as the public needs to be informed,” said Beving. 

As Beving stays busy in her role for the Sierra Club, she says that the causes that mean the most to her are the ones that affect people's health. She’s also passionate about defending those whose private property has been taken by companies that aren't common carriers for the sake of private gain, as in the case of the Keystone XL.  

“These are people's health, their livelihoods and their heritage being destroyed by private interests when it doesn't need to happen.”

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