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value of Triple-D’s contracts with Formosa, saying his business partners “do not feel comfortable” releasing that information. According to a report in the Houston Post, however, the security firm supplies about 34 guards who work around-the-clock for at least $8 per hour, checking vehicles in and out of the Formosa plant. Armbrister disputed the title of managing partner, telling the Post he was merely the manager, a position in which he earns $1,000 a month when he is not serving at the Legislature. The Post also reported that Triple-D has a bid pending on permanent guard service at a site on which Formosa hopes to expand. Armbrister’s aide, Mike Sizemore, told the Observer that the senator and his partners inherited the Formosa contract from TripleD’s previous owners and that it was one of several hundred clients the security outfit services. Sizemore said Triple-D earns a 3 percent profit on the Formosa contract. Legislators are not legally required to reveal the names of clients they work for. However, Texas statutes concerning standards of conduct state that no legislator “should accept other employment or compensation which could reasonably be expected to impair his independence of judgment in the performance of his official duties.” Ethics bills currently pending in the Legislature would require elected officials who are testifying on behalf of a client to reveal that fact when appearing before state commissions considering laws that would benefit that client. Asked about Triple-D’s Formosa contract, Armbrister told the Observer, “I have nothing to hide.” In addition to Triple-D, Armbrister also provides another form of security for Formosa: defending the company’s environmental record. When TWC levied its record fine against the plastics giant, Armbrister stepped into the breach. “It’s still a good and a positive project,” Armbrister told the Houston Chronicle when the fine was announced. “Just because a company has a release, whether intentional or not intentional, and is fined doesn’t discount the [economic] benefits down the line.” That attitude prompted Armbrister to testify on Formosa’s behalf at a TWC hearing on April 10 of this year concerning the company’s request for a permit to build a $24million wastewater plant. Formosa sought the commission’s approval for construction of the facility even though the company had not received the necessary discharge permits. Armbrister told the panel he had investigated environmentalists’ concerns about Formosa’s compliance record and was convinced that the company was interested in more than “just making a dollar.” Rep. Holzheauser also appeared before the commission, telling members: “It is my personal opinion that this [$24million] investment will motivate Formosa to do whatever is necessary to convince the Texas Water Commission that their facility will operate in an acceptable fashion.” Just to make sure the commission got the mes sage, Formosa bused nearly 200 supportive Calhoun County residents to TWC headquarters in Austin for the hearing. Several days later, Armbrister received a letter from Jack Wu, thanking him for his testimony. “All the speeches had an overall positive effect on the Commission,” Wu wrote. “I believe yours conveyed special significance.” Wu’s instinct was correct. According to the Port Lavaca Wave, thenJohnson said he would approve the permit because of Holzheauser’s and Armbrister’s testimony. “It makes it easier for me to de VIC HINTERLANG State Sen. Ken Armbrister cide,” Johnson said. “I was glad to see them here.” Johnson’s fellow commissioners apparently agreed, as the panel unanimously approved the construction permit. Unbeknownst to either the commissioners or any of those testifying that day, a surprise TWC inspection of Formosa’s Point Comfort facility on the previous day turned up numerous new alleged violations. According to a TWC interoffice memorandum obtained by the Observer, the two-and-half hour examination revealed: Hazardous waste stored in unlabeled, undated and leaking drums; storage of hazardous wastewater in storm ditches; unauthorized storage of over 300,000 gallons of liquid hazardous waste inside the firewall of a storage tank and discharge of waste through leaks in a dike; and failure to maintain a two-foot margin below the top of hazardous waste storage facilities. The revelations prompted angry responses from Armbrister and Holzheauser. On April 18 they held a joint press conference demanding a full investigation of Formosa’s operations. “We support economic growth but it cannot be done at the expense of the environment,” they said in a joint press release. On April 24, TWC began a three-day inspection of the Point Comfort facility. Results of the examination were not yet available when the Observer went to press. At their press conference, Armbrister and Holzheauser cited environmental concerns in calling for an inspection. In an interview with the Observer, Armbrister acknowledged more practical considerations. “I’m mad because nobody had the courtesy of telling me that there had been problems out at the plant the day before I testified,” Armbrister said. “I do have to run for reelection, you know.” Asked if he thought Formos made a deliberate decision not to inform him of the inspection, Armbrister replied: “That’s what it appeared to me.” Armbrister also said that if he had learned of the investigation’s findings before testifying, he would have asked that Formosa’s construction permit be withheld until a full inquiry was conducted. “I’m going to be more skeptical about their total operation [in the future],” he said. “Until I am convinced that they are going to be the good neighbors that they propose to be, I don’t intend to accept any contributions from them.” Formosa spokesman Joe Wyatt said he takes full responsibility for withholding information concerning the violations. “I didn’t tell anybody, not because I was trying to keep anything from anybody, but because I believed it was nothing significant,” Wyatt said. “I was told it was one drum leaking.” Wyatt said he only discovered the alleged severity of the problem the following week when he saw the TWC memo sent to Armbrister and Holzheauser. Asked if fear of losing the legislators’ support had influenced his decision not to inform them of the investigation prior to their testimony, Wyatt responded: “This was a very major hearing for us. … It may have entered my mind.” Pollution for Paychecks When the Texas economy hit the skids in the mid-1980s, politicians and the business community turned to economic development as a quick-fix solution. As a result, struggling communities such as Calhoun County began rolling out the red carpet to corporate polluters. “It’s either industry or unemployment,” Calhoun County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Doug Lynch told Texas Monthly. “Once we get our economy stabilized then we can afford to be a little more choosy with who and what we let in.” But Lynch’s argument does not stand up to scrutiny. By concentrating solely on attracting corporate investors, the true costs to communities are ignored. When a corporation relocates or expands its operations, for example, local authorities often lack the funds necessary to provide schools, sanitation, infrastructure or other basic services for the new employees, since they’ve given so much away through tax abatements. The recipients of these giveaways, moreover, are frequently major industrial polluters. As a result, taxpayers end up subsidizing the mess they must later pay to clean up. As the residents of Calhoun County are slowly learning, the rewards of “economic development” may never offset the costs. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7