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The Bush Environmental
Agenda in Action:
Protecting Grandfathered
Air Polluters

This is the second part of a three part series on how efforts to control air pollution have been impeded by the Gov. George W. Bush administration, together with representatives of polluting industries.

While other actions and in-actions by Gov. Bush have played significant roles in hindering efforts to control air pollution in Texas, Gov. Bush's support for preserving regulatory loopholes for polluting industrial plants most clearly demonstrates his cavalier to negative attitude toward the environment.

Air Pollution in Texas

During Gov. Bush's term in office, Texas industry has become the number one emitter of ozone (smog) causing air pollution chemicals in the country. While other states have taken actions to, combat air pollution, Texas continues to fall backward. Every major urban area: Houston, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, Austin, and Longview is now or will soon be declared in non-attainment of Federal minimum air quality standards. Over 12 million Texans, 65% of the citizens of the state; now breath polluted air. See attached chart - (42kb image file).

Overview

In the fall of 1996, in response to increasing public awareness and impending EPA deadlines, the state environmental regulatory agency, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), began steps toward requiring significant pollution reductions from grandfathered industrial plants which account for over 900,000 tons or 37% of all industrial emissions. Working in secret with representatives from the oil and gas industry, Gov. Bush's administration developed a "voluntary" pollution abatement program to allow these facilities to obtain permits without significant reductions in emissions. After being agreed to by industry, the plan was unveiled to the public in a sham process with a predetermined outcome. The voluntary plan formed the basis of the state's regulatory position.

The Bush Agenda: Let Texas Industry Run Texas,
The "Voluntary" Smokescreen

In December of 1996, Ralph Marquez, Gov. Bush's first appointee to the TNRCC, called eleven major industry representatives together to discuss the future of grandfathered polluting industries in Texas. Marquez, a former chemical engineer who is the TNRCC point man for air quality issues, was appointed to the Commission after working for 30 years with the Monsanto Chemical Company, where he also served as vice chair of the Texas Chemical Council's environmental issues committee.

Notes from this and subsequent meetings ontained under a state open records request filed by the SEED coalition show that industry representatives were alarmed that state regulators were planning to propose mandatory actions to clean up grandfathered industrial plants.

(For a complete set of the documents obtained by SEED contact Peter Altman at 512.479.7744)

A TNRCC attorney attending follow up meetings held in January 1997 with industry representatives described their position on addressing grandfathered pollution as, " … they certainly don't think it's a problem. The general reaction from some of the more powerful groups (Texas Association of Business, Texas Mid-Continent Oil & Gas Association, the Utilities) is "Why the rush, why now, why ever?"

Probably at the Governor's direction, and certainly in collusion with the Governor's office, representatives from Exxon and Marathon Oil developed a "voluntary pollution abatement program" that would close the loophole on paper without requiring a significant reduction in air pollution emissions. On April 25, 1997, with no involvement from public representatives, Gov. Bush's environmental advisor, John Howard, sent the "first proposal from Exxon/Marathon…" for a "voluntary program" to TNRCC Commissioner Ralph Marquez.

After further work in private, the plan was presented on June 19, 1997 to a group of 40 representatives of grandfathered industrial plants, with Gov. Bush's environmental policy advisor, John Howard in attendance. No public or environmental representative was aware of the meetings at this point.

One participant characterized the presentation of the " voluntary plan" as, "This is the way it's going to be - do you want to get on board or not?"

Saying that the "voluntary plan" had been developed by "a small group (2-3) of companies from upstream oil and gas", Jim Kennedy, a DuPont employee attending the meeting wrote; "Amoco presented the paper to the group at the meeting as something that has been agreed to at high levels and was not subject to change."

Kennedy's notes also reveal the belief that the Governor would support the oil and gas industry writing its own rules concerning pollution cleanup. He wrote, "Clearly, the "insiders" from oil & gas believe that the Governor's office will "persuade" the TNRCC to accept whatever program is developed between the industry group and the Governor's office."

This is a copy of Bernie Allen Jr's memo which includes Jim Kennedy's notes.

Discussion during the meeting included plans later in the process to set a committee with public representatives to "tweak it (the voluntary plan) a little bit and approve it." Jim Kennedy wrote, (to paraphrase), if they were serious the public should be involved earlier in the process, "This thought was pretty much dismissed-I believe mainly because the leadership doesn't have any real value for public involvement."

The "Voluntary Program" Goes Public: The Sham Committee

As was discussed in secret with industry representatives three months before, the TNRCC announced in September 1997 the formation of the "Clean Air Responsibility Committee" which was publicly touted as forming to develop a "voluntary program" to close the grandfather loophole in Texas Clean Air laws.

Taking no chances, Bush appointees at the TNRCC stacked the committee with seven industry representatives and four citizen/environmental representatives. As predicted, the seven industry representatives endorsed the "voluntary program", with all four citizen/environmental representatives voting to reject it.

In a minority report written by the public representatives it was disclosed that industry representatives failed to consider "a tangible permitting process… public testimony or written comments … and maintain that grandfathered facilities are neither impacting air quality or affecting urban areas." In short, the Clean Air Responsibility Committee was a sham as planned. (The voluntary program" then became official TNRCC state regulatory policy.)

The "Voluntary Program" Outcome: Smoke and Mirrors

In March of 1998, Gov. Bush announced that 36 companies would join the voluntary program cutting 25,000 tons of the 900,000 tons of grandfathered industrial air emissions in Texas. If all the promises were kept, the resulting reductions would be only 3% of the grandfathered emissions in the state. In a study released in November of 1998 by the Environmental Defense Fund, it was revealed that participants in the voluntary program would actually cut their emissions to only one-sixth of what Gov. Bush had initially promised.

Spin doctors for the Bush Presidential campaign portray the Governor's record on air pollution control as exemplary and ground-breaking. A review of the factual record on grandfathered facilities reveals the opposite. It reveals collusion with industry to thwart meaningful improvements in Texas air quality.

Next Week Part Three: Polluters Bet Big on Bush

The third and final segment of Gov. George Bush story on grandfathered air pollution in Texas covers the campaign contributions that polluting industries, their political action committees, and lobbyists gave to Gov. Bush during his races for Governor, and President.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story….

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