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Polluters Bet Big On Bush On The Campaign Money Trail

This concludes the three part series on how Gov. George W. Bush and his administration undermined efforts to control Texas's air pollution by working together with representatives of grandfathered polluting industries.

Air Pollution in Texas

In 1971, the Texas legislature passed legal loopholes, called grandfathering, to exempt industrial plants in operation or in the process of being built from complying with Texas environmental laws. Today, according to the state regulatory agency, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), these plants contribute 903,800 tons of pollutants a year - 36% of the state's industrial total. (1)

Since Gov. Bush took office, Texas has recorded the highest smog levels in the nation, surpassing even Los Angeles. (2) 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 EPA minimum air quality standards set up to protect public health.(3) Over 12 million Texans, 65% of the citizens of the state, now breathe polluted air. (4)

The Bush Response: Secret Meetings and a "Voluntary Smokescreen"

In fall 1996, in response to increasing public health problems and media pressure, as well as impending EPA deadlines, the TNRCC began initial steps toward requiring significant pollution reductions from grandfathered industrial plants.

Unfortunately, working in secret with representatives from the oil and gas industry, Gov. Bush's administration developed a "voluntary pollution permitting program" to allow these facilities to obtain permits without significant emission reductions.

One participant of the secret meetings; Jim Kennedy, a Dupont employee, wrote in a memo discussing the meeting that, "One of the leaders actually stated that emission reduction was not a primary driver for the program."

By the end of the 1999 legislative session, only the grandfathered power plants and a few of the largest polluters were required to reduce emissions. According to the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development Coalition (SEED), over 84% of the polluting facilities are still grandfathered, and remain exempt from Texas's strongest pollution control laws. (5)

Campaign Contributions Are Cheaper Than Complying With The Law

Grandfathered industrial polluters donated large sums during both of Governor Bush's gubernatorial races. Texas election laws allow unlimited personal or political action committee contributions to elected officials.

Political Action Committees (PACs) and lobbyists of the top 100 grandfathered polluters and others that participated in these secret meetings donated more than $670,000 to Governor Bush's gubernatorial campaigns. These participants include some of the largest industrial polluters in the state, such as Texas Utilities, Dow Chemical, Lyondell Petrochemical, Alcoa, Exxon, and many others.

Contributors to G. W. Bush
Gubernatorial Campaigns
Contrib. Amt.
to GW Bush
1993-1998
Secret
Meetings
Participant
Alcoa

$2,000

x

Apache Corporation

$1,000

 
ARCO

$13,250

 
Assn. of Electric Companies of TX

$1,500

x

BP Amoco

$5,000

x

Central and Southwest Corp/ American Electric Power Co

$18,500

x

Champion International Corp

$5,250

 
Coastal Corp

$37,250

x

Crown Central Petroleum Corp

$6,000

 
Dow Chemical Company

$26,000

 
Duke Capital Corp

$23,000

 
Eastman Chemical Company

$7,200

x

El Paso Energy Corporation

$6,000

 
Enron Corp

$30,000

 
Entergy Gulf States

$9,500

x

Exxon

$24,200

x

Fulbright & Jaworski

$67,000

x

International Paper

$5,000

 
Hired Gun Lobbyists for Grandfathered Firms

$150,500

 
Koch Industries

$4,500

 
Lockheed

$17,400

x

Lyondell Petrochemical GP Inc.

$3,500

x

MND Energy Corporation

$2,250

 
Mobil Oil

$250

x

New Century Energies

$2,000

 
Oryx Energy Company

$3,000

 
PG & E

$5,000

 
Phillips/GPM

$11,998

x

Rohm & Haas

$2,000

 
Southwestern Electric Service Co.

$6,250

 
Tenneco, Inc.

$1,000

 
Texaco Inc

$20,000

x

Texas Utilities

$64,800

x

Torch Energy Marketing

$2,400

 
TX Assn. of Business & Commerce PAC

$20,000

x

TX Cattle Feeders Assn./BEEF PAC

$20,000

x

TX Cotton Ginners Assn. PAC

$500

x

TX Mid-Continent Oil & Gas

$18,000

x

Ultramar Diamond Shamrock

$5,000

 
Union Carbide

$3,500

 
Union Pacific Resources

$11,000

 
Valero Refining

$30,000

 
TOTAL

$692,498

 
Source: Public Research Works

According to a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times, Governor Bush received $1.5 million from 55 grandfathered companies when contributions by executives were also factored into the totals. (6)

The largest contributor is the Enron Corporation, a leading energy company, whose representatives and their agents have donated $384,559. Enron Boardmember Kenneth Lay alone gave the Governor $76,000 from 1993 to 1998.

Sterling Chemical was the second largest contributor with $239,000 during the same period. Virgil Waggoner, Sterling Chemicals Vice-Chairman personally gave $85,000 to George W. Bush's campaigns for governor.

The rationale for this level of donation was stated quite clearly in a recent Washington Post article:

"We like Bush because of his evenhandedness, his grasp of our issues," said an executive in the chemical industry which has more plants in Texas than in any other state. "We see him as someone we can work with" on the environment. "We want to do things voluntarily," as Bush prefers, he said "rather than by command and control out of Washington."

In discussing the enthusiasm that the chemical industry has for Governor Bush, the head of a major trade association familiar with the chemical group's plans said:

"This industry has openly said we're going to support Bush and [is] committing to raise a huge sum of money for him" (7)

The Quest for the Presidency and the Texas Two Step

While the Texas Legislature debated closing the grandfather loophole, Governor Bush announced his intention to run for President, and his campaign was financially jump-started by these same grandfathered industries. In just his first months of fundraising, Presidential candidate Bush raised more than $313,000 dollars from representatives of 32 of the top 100 grandfathered industrial polluters.

In July, after Bush signed the "voluntary pollution permitting program" into law, the Bush Presidential campaign announced that it had shattered all fundraising records with a total of over $37 million dollars. By the end of June, the top 100 grandfathered interests and the secret meeting participants had contributed more than $976,000 to Bush's presidential coffers.* This analysis by Public Research Works showed that 25 of the top 30 grandfathered polluters contributed $463,312 to the presidential campaign. These firms emit more than 694,000 tons of grandfathered air pollution annually.

 

Contributions to
Bush Presidential
Campaign March
through June 1999

Secret
Meeting
Participant

Tons
Grandfathered
emissions
annually

3M Company

$1,000

 

892

Alcoa

$1,000

x

104,304

Anadarko

$6,000

 

814

Apache Corp.

$2,000

 

1395

ARCO

$6,250

 

1942

Baker & Botts* (firm lobbyists who do work for many grandfathered polluters)

$82,550

   
BASF

$2,000

x

 
Bayer Corporation

$5,500

 

1054

BP Amoco

$8,500

x

12,772

Cabot Oil & Gas Corp.

$4,000

 

54,052

Central & Southwest/Amer. Electric Power

$8,000

x

20,022

Chevron

$18,000

 

1834

City Public Service of San Antonio

$250

x

4455

Coastal Corp

$10,250

x

8999

Conoco

$9,250

 

1000

Degussa Corp.

$1,950

 

24,614

Dow

$22,650

 

6222

Duke Energy

$8,000

 

18,017

DuPont

$2,000

x

 
Dynegy Inc

$13,250

 

25,311

Eastman Chemical

$19,425

x

4919

El Paso Electric

$1,000

 

3091

El Paso Energy

$39,884

 

12,189

El Paso Field Services

$1,000

 

2597

Elf Atochem NA Inc

$6,000

x

946

Enron

$103,100

 

6609

Entergy/Gulf States Utilities

$4,000

x

9753

Equilon Enterprises

$2,000

 

4061

Equistar Chemicals

$3,200

 

2082

Exxon

$19,250

x

30,660

Fina Inc.

$14,250

x

1532

Fulbright & Jaworski

$8,450

x

 
Goodyear Tire & Rubber

$2,000

x

2344

Hired Guns more than 1 GF client

$11,750

   
Hoechst Celanese

$8,150

 

2375

Houston Industries/Reliant Energy

$43,753

x

14,974

Huntsman Corp

$1,000

x

3677

International Paper

$3,250

 

712

Koch Industries

$30,400

 

9172

Lockheed

$10,250

x

 
Lone Star Steel

$4,000

 

910

Louisiana Pacific Corporation

$250

 

8779

Lyondell

$4,000

x

3267

Mitchell Energy/MND Energy Corp.

$1,000

 

2055

Mobil

$14,000

x

34,261

Monsanto/Solutia

$1,500

x

 
Occidental Chemical

$23,850

 

694

PG&E

$3,250

 

5950

Phillips/GPM

$11,500

x

4368

Pioneer Natural Resource Company

$3,000

 

1222

Reynolds Metals

$2,000

 

3010

Rohm & Haas

$7,000

 

2464

Shell Oil

$25,650

x

11,633

Sid Richardson Carbon Blk/Bass Companies

$15,000

 

2017

Temple Inland Forest Products

$12,500

x

988

Tenneco

$12,000

 

1129

Texaco Inc

$6,500

x

5197

Texas Utilities/Enserch

$42,000

x

247,089

Tx & Southwestern Cattle Raisers PAC

$3,898

x

 
Ultramar Diamond Shamrock

$10,250

 

4586

Union Carbide

$2,000

 

8558

Union Pacific Resources

$22,000

 

5378

Unocal

$3,750

 

2641

Valero Refining

$6,500

 

2688

Vinson & Elkins* (law firm for Alcoa on air pollution matters)

$184,850

   
Vintage Petroleum

$250

 

2809

Worsham, Forsythe & Wooldridge (law firm for Texas Utilities on air pollution matters)

$9,000

   
TOTAL

$976,010

 

761,085

(Source: Public Research Works and Center for Responsive Politics)

* Totals for Vinson & Elkins and Baker and Botts include contributions as of September 1, 1999.

The Governor's top contributor to his presidential campaign is the law firm Vinson & Elkins. As of September 1st it had contributed $184,850. Vinson & Elkins represents Alcoa Inc., which has the single largest source of grandfathered emissions in the Texas, discharging over 100,000 tons annually of pollution. (8) Alcoa was exempted from the two pieces of legislation passed in 1999 to address grandfathered air polluters.

The Enron Corporation, which has also been a generous contributor to Gov. Bush's gubernatorial races, has given $103,100 to his presidential campaign. They are followed by the firm Baker & Botts, which lobbies on behalf of eight grandfathered polluters and has contributed $82,550 to the presidential campaign. Baker & Botts' client list includes the grandfathered polluters: Huntsman Petrochemical, Rohm & Haas, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Amoco Oil, Mobil Oil, Shell Oil, Union Carbide, and Valero Refining.

Texas Utilities (TU) produces the most grandfathered pollution: 247,000 tons of chemicals in the air, from more than 20 facilities. (9) TU also contributed heavily with over $42,000 from staff, directors, and their spouses. In addition, the law firm which represents TU on air pollution issues gave and additional $9000 to the Presidential campaign.

The Cost of Campaign Contributions

Unfortunately for Texans, the Governor's lax policies on air pollution have real human and economic costs. A recent study conducted for the city of Houston on the health effects of air pollution found that 435 people die prematurely every year because of air pollution. In addition, if the region cleaned up its air it would save about $2.9 to $3.1 billion annually in health costs. (10)

A recent study calculated that statewide health impacts of high ozone levels in Texas. This study found 6200 hospital admissions and 14,500 emergency room visits for respiratory and cardio-vascular hospital admissions associated with high ozone levels. In addition, the ozone levels resulted in Texas in an estimated 42,000 cases of shortness of breath and 660,000 asthma attacks.(11) The grandfathered polluters in Texas emit as much nitrogen oxides, NOx, (a key ingredient of ozone) as 18 million cars.

Governor Bush's philosophy of relying on weak "voluntary" programs gave the big polluters exactly what they wanted. It provided them with valuable public relations rhetoric without requiring any substantial effort or reduction in pollution. For average Texans, however, these policies have had dramatic health and economic impacts.

Sources:

  1. Grandfathered facilities background TNRCC web site
  2. Houston Chronicle 10.8.99 Bill Dawson
  3. Four Highest Eight-Hour Ozone Concentrations in 1999 TNRCC web site
  4. Texas Natural Resource Conservation Committee (TNRCC)/State Data Center
  5. Interview with Peter Altman, Director of SEED coalition 9.17.99
  6. Los Angeles Times 7.14.99 Alan Miller
  7. Washington Post 8.1.99 susan B. Glasser and John Mintz
  8. Top 100 Grandfathered Emitters TNRCC web site
  9. Top 100 Grandfathered Emitters TNRCC web site
  10. Assessment of the Health Benefits of Improving Air Quality in Houston Texas, April 1999, Sonoma Technology
  11. Out of Breath: Adverse Health Effects Associated with Ozone in the Eastern Untied Sates, October 1999, Abt Associates Inc.

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