where a substantial portion of the county’s pollution complaints originate. THE FIRST Braun bill was considered for two and one-half hours last week by the House counties committee. This was the bill that would permit inspections of plants by health officials. Braun was well-prepared. He played a taped radio interview in which several residents of the Houston ship channel, Harris county’s most densely industrialized sector, had detailed what it means, in human, day-to-day terms, to live near a source of pollution. Then Louis White, a Houston civic leader, spoke. “If just a few years ‘ago anyone had said that we in Harris County would have pollution problems like those in Los Angeles, we wouldn’t have believed it. We need some help, gentlemen, we need this House Bill 66.” Baytown Mayor Seaborn Cravey, whose city is on the ship channel, downstream from Houston’s industries, said the channel is stagnant and when wastes are dumped into it, they collect there until a heavy rain pushes the pollution downstream. Eight times in the past twelve months, Cravey said, “massive fish kills” have resulted in his city from this movement of pollution. “If you haven’t experienced a fish kill in Baytown,” Cravey told the legislators, “you’ve missed something.” Thousands of dead fish are washed into yards, playgrounds, churchyards and streets, he said. Swarms of flies are attracted and the odor is overpowering. “The source of our problem is not within our city limits,” Cravey said. Humble Oil, Baytown’s leading em- ployer, has done an “exemplary job,” the mayor believes, of cleaning its waste water before dumping it into the channel. Dr. Quebedeaux has never been denied access to a Baytown industry, Cravey went on, but he said he knows of industries, upstream in Houston, that have denied access to pollution control workers. “Dr. Quebedeaux needs the right of entry as stipulated in this bill,” the mayor urged. Julian Sanders, the president of a pipe fitters local, told the committee of a recent incident on the ship channel, when a new feed and fertilizer plant opened near a fabricating shop. Twice in the past several weeks the shop was closed down because its employees were driven away from the area by fumescoming from the new plant. Rep. John Wright, Grand Prairie, was concerned about the wording of Braun’s bill, that it would permit abuses. “Are you,” he asked Sandett, “in favor of a health department official entering a plant where members of your union are working and taking blood samples from them? This would be permitted as this bill is worded at present.” “No, sir,” Sanders answered, “I wouldn’t be in favor of that. But there is one plant I know of where employes do have regular blood and urine samples taken, the pollution is so bad.” “Then we can put you on record as favoring blood samples [under this bill]?” “No, sir,” Sanders retorted. He said he doubted that any such abuses would occur if Braun’s bill became law. “The rattle you hear in my voice,” Sanders went on, “is caused by pollution. You can blindfold the natives over there [by the ship channel], drive ’em around, and they’ll tell you just where they are by the smell. . . . No, sir, we’re not concerned about someone’s blood samples, we want our pollution control officers to be able to confront polluters.” UEBEDEAUX said most firms have been cooperative in wanting to abate pollution in Harris County; officials of many companies, he said, had asked his advice. There are “only about five plants in the city [of Houston] that I have trouble with. I’ve sued three of them. The first thing their lawyers do is to stop my entering the plants any more. Officers at other plants keep me in their waiting rooms two or three hours while they clean things up.” The State Health Dept. is to_work closely with the water and air pollution control boards, which have been set up in the past few years. Rep. Jack McLaughlin, Fort Worth, asked Quebedeaux whether he has received “any cooperation at all” from the State Health Dept. “No, sir,” Quebedeaux answered. Quebedeaux said that Braun’s bill would only give a county health officer the same power as that now given to state and county health officials. “I don’t believe Mr. Wright is unaware of how to deal with someone who takes unfair advantage of such a statute. If I misuse a statute, I can be stopped,” he said. “But isn’t the need for a search warrant out the window” with such a law as Braun proposes? Wright asked. Quebedeaux answered that health officials -typically have “almost autocratic” legal rights in fighting disease. Wright persisted in saying throughout the hearing that he was concerned about violating the Texas and U.S. Constitution’s requirements for search warrant?. 1 THE TWO BILLS that the T.M.A.’s Yancy referred to favorably are sponsored by Criss Cole, Houston, in the Senate and Don Cavness, Austin, in the House. Cavness and Braun have been at odds about the effectiveness of the state pollution control program, Cavness believing the state effort meaningful. There has been criticism from some Houston officials and citizens that the Cole-Cavness proposals would weaken pollution control programs in Harris County, substituting the state board’s standards for the tough -er local limits. “There’s no point in us sitting here and passing a law nobody can enforce,” he said; “These boys [referring to industrial executives] have got a lot of money and can keep questions like this in court for years.” , Rep. Ed Harris, Galveston, sought to deal with the constitutional questions the bill might raise. He noted that State Health Dept. officials have had rights of entry onto private property in the course of controlling disease since a 1909 act of the legislature; city health officials were giyen the same right of entry in a later act, and the Braun bill would merely extend this same right to county officers. Jim Yancy, representing the Texas Manufacturers Assn., was the only witness in opposition to the bill. Yancy said the 3,000 companies of his association have long been concerned about pollution and have been doing something about it. “The aim and the end of this bill we all agree on,” he said, “but the means are what I oppose. The right of unlimited entry violates the Texas and federal Constitutions. I don’t need to make the point again, as Mr. Wright has been making it.” Braun’s bill would permit entry to enforce “conditions necessary or desirable” to stop pollution, Yancy noted. “What is ‘desirable’ “? There are bills pending now in both houses of the legislature that are more stringent on the right of entry, Yancy went on, providing that right “at reasonable times and in observance of safety and security regulations.” Also, he said, the other bills would provide that injunctions be issued to restrain polluters, while Braun’s other three bills would provide for fines and, Yancy said, would violate the constitutional right against selfincrimination. Rep. Griffith Moore, Dallas, moved that the bill be referred to the attorney general for an opinion as to its constitutionality. Rep. Bill Clayton, Springlake, committe chairman, said, after some discussion, that he would leave the question up to a subcommittee, whose members would seek the opinion if they felt it necessary. Harris submitted a 1961 state A.G. opinion which, he said, covered the issues raised by Braun’s bill. Cole told the Senate state affairs committee at a hearing last week that his measure would reorganize the 1965 act by which the Texas Air Control Board was formed, to give the board authority to set standards for the state, and permit localities to inspect and report to the board. Local governments can sue a polluter, but only after a resolution is passed by a local governing body. And the Air Control Board would be an “indispensable party” to local government’s suit. ble party” to a local government’s suit. March 17, 1967 5 SOME SENATORS BALK 1
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