Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Pier 1 says it’s getting flame retardants out of furniture

Members of the Texas Campaign for the Environment protested outside Pier 1 Imports headquarters on Tuesday.
Members of the Texas Campaign for the Environment protested outside Pier 1 Imports headquarters on Tuesday. Star-Telegram

Retailers have come under pressure from environmental groups in recent months to get rid of flame-retardant chemicals in couches and other furniture, and this week the campaign came to Pier 1 Imports.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen protesters demonstrated (with a couch) outside Pier 1’s Fort Worth headquarters, calling on the company to stop selling furniture with flame retardants. They also delivered more than 300 letters written to CEO Alex Smith that were solicited in door-to-door canvassing.

Flame retardants have been used in furniture for decades since they were first required in California, according to the Texas Campaign for the Environment, which organized the Pier 1 protest.

But in recent years, scientific evidence has suggested that these chemicals not only fail to effectively prevent fires, but also release chemicals into dust. “Toxic flame retardants threaten our reproductive and nervous systems,” said Corey Troiani, a member of the advocacy group.

A change in the California law effective Jan. 1 eliminated the requirement that furniture be made with flame retardants, prompting advocates to push retailers to respond. Just last month, Macy’s said it would contact its suppliers to ensure that they aren’t using retardants in furniture products, according to Bloomberg News. Ikea, Wal-Mart and Ashley Furniture have also pledged to phase out the chemicals, the report said.

In an email, Pier 1 spokeswoman Jennifer Engstrand said the company began phasing out flame retardants in newly manufactured furniture about a year ago.

“Since early 2015, Pier 1 customers have been able to order flame retardant free upholstered furniture,” Engstrand said. “For all upholstered furniture manufactured after January 1, 2015, Pier 1 Imports requires that the labeling indicates that the product contains no added flame retardants.”

Troiani said the group’s executive director received a call from a Pier 1 executive just a couple of hours after its Tuesday demonstration to say that the company had already contacted suppliers about phasing out flame retardant chemicals by Jan. 1.

“We see this as a victory and a direct result of the grassroots organizing and public pressure,” he said.

Oil patch job losses getting bigger

As an oil and gas industry economist, Karr Ingham knows it’s easy to have a busted crystal ball.

Take a prediction he made around the first of the year. That’s when Ingham thought the recent oil bust would result in about 40,000 job lost in Texas oil and gas fields.

But Ingham now estimates that job losses hit 56,000 by the end of October, leading him to believe that they will reach at least 60,000 by the end of December. Not great news, he admits.

“We’re not done and it’s going to get worse,” said Ingham, an Amarillo-based economist who works for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers.

Ingham bases his gloomy forecast on two sets of data from the Texas Workforce Commission: their monthly employment statistics along with a quarterly census of employment and wages.

He said the monthly employment stats put job losses at 30,000 from December to September. But when you take into account what the census shows, which is calculated at a county level, the industry slashed about 48,000 jobs from December to June.

“Since then, we’ve had another four months in which jobs were almost certainly lost,” he said.

At its peak, he said, the energy industry employed about 305,000 people in December. It now employs in the neighborhood of 250,000. If the decline continues, the levels will reach numbers “you don’t like to say out loud” when predicting the future.

If there is another half year of contraction, albeit at a slower rate, the state could lose up to 70,000 jobs by the time things stabilize, which he hopes will be by the middle of 2016. To Ingham, stabilizing means oil prices would need to rise to the mid-$40 range to stop the rig count and job declines. A price increase to $60 a barrel would mark a meangingful improvement, he said.

But he quickly adds, “this is just guesswork.”

“Crystal balls are nefarious under the best of circumstances,” Ingham said. Max B. Baker

Customs office at Meacham Airport

Fort Worth’s Meacham Airport is getting a customs facility.

The City Council this past week approved appropriation adjustments for the $21.4 million administration building under construction at the north Fort Worth airport to accommodate the office. Construction costs for the office are about $500,000.

Meacham Airport, celebrating its 90th year, is in the process of becoming a customs user fee airport, which allows international private flights to clear customs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a city report.

The customs service is expected to boost airport business. The new administration building is expected to be completed in August.

Meacham caters to private pilots, flight schools and corporate jets. Commercial planes stopped flying out of Meacham in 1953.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko