Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): Sunset

Texas House Votes To Suffocate You and Your Family

I heard someone recommend selling the Texas Legislature as a way to fill the budget gap, but it is clear after yesterday that most of our Legislators are already owned by big polluters (decorum requires that I leave it at “owned”).

Although the process was already stacked in favor of polluters, the Texas House voted to strip away the last remaining fig leaf of protection for Texans fighting to keep their air and water clean.  Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) authored an amendment to the TCEQ sunset bill (HB 2694) that would shift the burden of proof to the individual challenging the issuance of a permit for polluting facilities like coal-fired power plants. 

This means that should a company want to build a coal or chemical plant near your home and you and your neighbors become concerned about a plant pumping harmful, cancer-causing chemicals into the air, you will be required to prove the extent of the problem rather than the permit applicant being required to prove the permit meets state and federal health and safety law as is required for every other permit.    Read More »

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Resolutions for Those Who Should Care About Clean Air

Many of us are vowing to lose weight, spend less or quit smoking in 2011. This is a time when we evaluate the previous 12 months of our lives and look for opportunities to become better people. There is no doubt that Texas air quality could be better. With our state ranking at the top of every bad list on air quality, improvement is necessary. As I finished my own resolutions I imagined what some of our federal and state leaders’ could be – in a perfect world:

  • Environmental Protection Agency: In 2011, we resolve to adopt more health-protective standards, especially with regard to ozone. More than half of our country’s population is exposed to this harmful air pollutant, with levels regularly exceeding current federal standards in many large cities. We will no longer delay implementation of a stronger standard. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed the data during Read More »
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Upset About Upset Emissions

A recent Houston Chronicle article mentions that though our state environmental agency issued 1,756 penalties last year against illegally polluting companies, the fines averaged just $8,300. Many of these companies produce billions of dollars in revenue, suggesting that what many have claimed for years is indeed true: It’s cheaper for companies to pay penalties than prevent pollution.

When public campaigns, official regulations, negligible fines and poor enforcement don’t work, clean air advocates resort to the courts for help. Filing lawsuits sometimes seems to be the only way to get the attention necessary for improving Texas air quality.

Likewise, you might have recently read about Sierra Club and Environment Texas seeking millions in penalties from a lawsuit they filed against the Exxon Baytown facility. Two similar suits, one against Shell and another Read More »

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TCEQ Response: Media Weigh In

After my last blog post, the predicted sound bite war showed signs of both sides mounting full force. We intend to continue our established role as environmental truth purveyors and set the record straight whenever necessary.

Coincidentally, Texas media have begun weighing in through two recent newspaper editorials which support our position that TCEQ is in need of a reality check (did someone mention Sunset Review?).

On May 28, the Dallas Morning News called TCEQ on its lack of adherence to federal regulations in “TCEQ is ceding control by digging in its heels,” writing:

“For more than a year, the Obama administration has been beating the same drum, telling the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that its permitting system falls short of federal standards. Yet some Texas leaders and regulators still seem shocked – shocked – that the EPA made good on its promise last week and stripped the state of some of its permitting powers. In meeting after meeting, federal officials have urged the TCEQ to change its approach to regulating industrial air pollution. The Texas response to the EPA? ‘You just don’t understand.’”

And then, responding to Governor Perry’s negative reaction, wrote:

“Incredibly, Gov. Rick Perry has weighed in with what amounts to self-righteous indignation, claiming that the federal government has “put a bull’s-eye on the backs of hardworking Texans.” If anyone should shoulder responsibility for leaving industrial facilities in this uncomfortable position, it’s Perry. The TCEQ is populated entirely with Perry appointees, who have been told in no uncertain terms that businesses’ interests are a top priority. Ultimately, though, it’s businesses that could pay a price for the state’s lack of rigor in enforcing environmental regulations.”

On May 27, The Fort Worth Star-Telegram ran an editorial titled: “Texas governor should watch what he says about EPA” and wrote:

“Gov. Rick Perry’s response to this week’s Environmental Protection Agency clean-air enforcement actions in Texas might help him sell his book or even get re-elected, but they won’t resolve the EPA’s long-running objections to state policy or help Texans understand the issues involved . . . But the governor is wrong to blame the EPA’s action on President Barack Obama. Documents available on the TCEQ website show the EPA objected to the Texas permit process at least as long ago as 2006, under the administration of President George W. Bush. Those objections have been the subject of continuing meetings and often strongly worded correspondence between EPA and TCEQ officials ever since.”

The Star-Telegram acknowledged Perry’s emphasis on jobs for Texans, but rightfully said that “. . . he shows a dark side when he says this week’s action means EPA officials ‘are willing to kill Texas jobs and derail one of the strongest economies in the country.'” And after mentioning TCEQ’s similar claims, the Star-Telegram shamed both parties with these summative statements:

“Emotional overstatements might fit political campaigns or book marketing plans, but they are out of place here. At a time when a botched oil well has spewed nobody knows how many thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Texas officials should think twice before downplaying concerns about the environment.”

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