Last month, Texas Governor Rick Perry penned an open letter to President Barack Obama criticizing the administration’s energy policy and urging the federal government to adopt the “Texas approach” to energy and environmental regulations. The letter stoked its fair share of controversy, prompting Politifact Texas to weigh in on Perry’s claims about Texas air pollution. Unsurprisingly, they found that Perry’s words were only a half-truth, masking the true state of air quality in Texas. With this post, I’ll unpack Perry’s claims, discuss the true state of the air in Texas, and suggest where the state should go from here.
In his letter, Perry claimed that, since 2000, Texas has reduced “harmful pollutants in the air like nitrogen oxide by 62.5 percent, and ozone by 23 percent—a reduction that is 12 percent greater than the national average.” Politifact deemed this statement more spin than substance for good reason; while Texas air quality has improved in recent years, Texas cities ranked among the worst in the nation for ozone and particulate matter in the American Lung Association’s most recent State of the Air report. Both ozone and particulate matter pose a risk to human health, contributing to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, especially in children and the elderly. And because ozone forms more readily on hot, sunny days, Texas ozone season lasts for several months, increasing health risks for Texans exposed to pollution. While Texas air quality has improved, we still fair worse than most of the nation—it’s far too early for Rick Perry to claim victory over air pollution. Read More
This post originally appeared on EDF's Voices blog.
Last week, a coalition of environmental groups presented U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and other Texas politicians with “awards” for their persistent denial of basic climate science. In fact, climate change denial is all too common among Texas lawmakers. Governor Rick Perry, for example, calls climate change “a theory that has not been proven.”
In contrast, the international scientific community almost unanimously agrees that greenhouse gases associated with human activity are responsible for the global warming pattern we’ve seen since the mid-20 century. Earlier this month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its annual State of the Climate report. The report brings together leading scientists and academics to assess the state of the Earth’s climate. The 2012 report, which included contributions from 384 authors from 52 countries, is the most authoritative analysis of climate change and its global effects. Read More
Today Texas Congressmen Joe Barton and John Carter along with a number of members of the Texas Legislature, Chairman Bryan Shaw (TCEQ) and others stood up for pollution. They announced their intent to prevent actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from enforcing the Clean Air Act to protect public health. They relied on tired arguments and misrepresented statistics to paint a picture of doom for Texas industry.
Congressmen John Carter went as far to say that those who question the quality of Texas air “don’t think much of Texas.” Well I resent that remark, I was born and baptized in Ft. Worth, attended Texas Christian University and have lived in Texas for 33 consecutive years. Real Texans care about our state’s future and wouldn’t try to gut protections that save lives and create jobs in clean energy.
We have a multi-billion dollar state budget shortfall and have yet to pass a federal budget for a fiscal year we are already in, yet two Congressmen, multiple members of the Texas Legislature as well as two state agency commissioners feel it necessary to waste time debating the merits of a regulation that most Texas companies are already willing to follow.
The EPA warned the State of Texas that the Flexible Permit Program implemented by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) did not meet federal standards for almost a decade. After a lot of grandstanding and political posturing last year, 71 of the 74 companies holding flexible permits in the State of Texas have agreed to meet EPA regulations. It seems that industry is ahead of the politicians. Read More
Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ, Texas Permitting Also tagged asthma, Attorney General Abbott, Clean Air, Clean Air Act, EPA, particulate matter, Texas
Governor Perry has been promoting tort reform for quite some time. In fact, it has surfaced that legislation may be introduced to the Texas Legislature that would establish a “loser pays” system for lawsuits. In his state of the state address this year Perry said that Texas needs a system "in which those who sue and lose are required to pay the court costs and legal expenses of those they sued."
Is Governor Perry ready to follow his own rule?
Over the last year, the Governor, his appointees at the TCEQ and Attorney General Abbott have spent tremendous resources fighting the Environmental Protection Agency on Flex Permitting and greenhouse gas rule implementation and to no avail. In fact, the various suits and maneuvers by Perry and Abbott to block enforcement of the EPA’s GHG rule were rejected not once, but four times by more than one court. Their actions are the legal equivalent to doctor-shopping.
Despite rhetoric from Perry and Abbott, there can be no confusion about the EPA’s actions on the greenhouse gas rule. They are acting on the authority of a 40 year-old law and a directive from the Supreme Court.
While the Governor and Attorney General have the luxury of some free help from Exxon’s Lawyers, Texas taxpayers make up the difference and pay the full bill as the EPA and Federal Courts spend their limited resources wading through politically motivated lawsuits from Perry and Abbott in the name of polluters.
While I do not wish to wade into the debate on the merits of tort reform, I cannot help but wonder if Governor Perry would so readily support “loser pays” if his political whims were held to the same standard. Maybe we should be asking him if he will guarantee to pay the taxpayers back for the costs of these lawsuits he has lost thus far and will likely lose again going forward.
In Abbott’s recent letter to President Obama, Harry Reid, and John Boehner, he calls on Obama “to end job-killing regulations and rescind the EPA rules that Texas has challenged.” He opens with a history of the GHG issue that starts in December of 2009, and goes on to talk about the “flawed regulations issued by EPA based on its misguided claim of authority,” neglecting to mention a Supreme Court ruling in 2007 and more work done by the EPA during previous administrations.
Notwithstanding Abbott’s lack of historical context on GHG regulation, let’s review the arguments that Texas has stated for challenging these regulations, as well as why those arguments fail to make sense:
Argument: The Clean Air Act, passed by and amended by two Republican presidents to protect the health and safety of Americans, should not be used to address emissions that cause global warming.
Why the argument fails: The Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court decision (that is almost four years old, and authored by conservative jurist Anthony Kennedy,) requires the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, unless the federal agency determines that global warming poses no threat to the public welfare. Read More
The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. has denied the State of Texas' third attempt to block the implementation of greenhouse gas pollution control measures for the largest sources of pollution. At stake in the current case is a narrow federal action to ensure the largest sources in Texas can obtain construction permits.
Here was my comment in a press statement:
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott have now wasted millions of taxpayer dollars losing multiple frivolous lawsuits that only served to protect major polluters from a law that all other 49 state are following. As the Legislature convenes this week facing an estimated $27 billion dollar budget shortfall, we can only hope that the Governor and Attorney General will decide to fire Exxon’s Yankee lawyers who he has representing his office and let Texas use that money for state services that help people, not on polluting their air.”
Texas Regional Director
National Energy Program Director
Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting Also tagged Clean Air, GHG, GHGs, greenhouse gases, Ozone, permitting, Texas EDF
This doesn’t require a lot rhetoric or discussion. Hypocrisy in action is like a truck driver ballet, it’s painful, but you have to look.
Take a look at this PDF – it’s what Attorney General Abbott filed December 30th, 2010 as part of their latest frivolous lawsuit against the EPA on Green House Gas permitting. You’ll see the names of some top lawyers from Baker Hostetler.
It seems that Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott, while loathing DC insiders, certainly don’t mind giving them your money. These guys have experience fighting for pollution, they represent ExxonMobil.
Questions to ask ourselves as the Comptroller prepares a report for the Legislature next week on the State’s budget shortfall:
1) How much are Exxon’s Yankee Lawyers costing Texas taxpayers?
2) How much have the Governor and Attorney General spent on these frivolous lawsuits?
3) When will Governor Perry start spending state resources on the good of the people and not the good of polluters?
Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, TCEQ, Texas Permitting Also tagged Clean Air, EPA, GHG, permitting, Texas
It’s that time of year again – to commit to a new year’s resolution so that you might improve yourself in 2011. As you come up with your own, tell us what they are and help inspire our Governor and Attorney General to commit to their own New Year’s Resolution.
With a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall, we think it’s high time that Governor Perry and Attorney General Abbott commit to spending less tax payer money to fund frivolous lawsuits to help our state’s major polluters.
Over the last year they have filed countless motions and suits in federal court aimed at circumventing federal laws that would require Texas to follow the same basic air quality standards followed by all the other 49 states. After their loss yesterday, we think it’s time they gave up.
I think Texas is special myself, but it is because of that belief that I think we should do everything possible to make sure Texans are breathing clean air and that we are preserving our environment for future generations.
Join us in asking the Governor and Attorney General to give up the frivolous law suits in 2011! Save taxpayer money and the environment!
After all it was the Governor himself who has committed to stemming the flow of frivolous lawsuits.
Email the Governor Your Resolution and Tell Him To Commit To No Lawsuits For Polluters in 2011.
Email the Attorney Your Resolution and Tell Him To Commit To No Lawsuits For Polluters in 2011.
Send us a message on Twitter with the hashtag #CleanAir2011