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Interagency Coordinating Council indicates just how little faith environmentally progressive lawmakers have in those compromised bodies. The biggest flaw in Parker’s plan \(much of which is said to have been inspired by the Houston-based public interest group Texans set their own goals for reducing discharges. Though this omission is no doubt a bow to the reality of the business lobby’s strength, Sierra Club lobbyist Kramer professes to detect enough good faith on the part of industry and the existing regulatory agencies that he is not too concerned about the lapse. Given the historic lack of good faith on the part of polluters in this state, however, his optimism is hard to share; it seems likely that many businesses will set minimal, easily achievable goals that do little to reduce pollution. A similar Parker package passed the Senate two years ago, only to die in the House. This time, the legislation is snagged in the Senate. According to Shea, the public accountability and enforcement provisions have been so weakened during the tortuous path through the Legislature that “there are no teeth left in the bill.” The House version, written by that body’s environmental affairs chairman Robert Saunders, is still weaker, contends Shea; for example, by equating “waste reduction” with “waste minimization,” Saunders’ version would permit waste incineration itself a source of pollution as an alternative means of disposal. Refuse Reuse Parker also introduced the first recycling policy in Texas history. The series of bills, worked out with staffers from the Land Office, would: give recycled products a preference in state purchasing and procurement policy; set a statewide recycling goal of 40 percent of the state’s waste stream by 1994; provide incentives to recycle municipal solid waste, and give tax breaks to companies that use recycling equipment; provide for a marketing development study and implementation program at the General Land Office; and establish a recycling awareness program to teach citizens, especially schoolchildren, the importance of recycling; Parker’s bill would also correct many skewed incentives that give a market advantage to virgin products, which should lead to development of a market for recycled goods. It would impose a $2 per tire fee to finance disposal of used tires, create a used-oil recycling program, and prohibit dumping of batteries and yard waste in landfills. Toxic Legislati i Despite environmentalists’ crowing over this session’s green tint, legislation affecting the environment is nothing new IIITexas. It’s just that, in the past, those bills usually, harmed the state’s ecology, not helped it. And just to show that some lawmakers can’t bear to part with tradition, here’s a rundown of a few of the anti-environment bills polluting the Capitol docket this spring. Trashes to Ashes Rep. Ric Williamson has introduced a bill that sets up what Brigid Shea of Clean Water Action calls a “slush fund for incinerators.” The Weatherford Democrat’s bill would give a competitive advantage -paid for by taxpayers –to incinerators over recycling facilities, and undermine support for what environmentalists call “source reduction”: that is, reducing use of unnecessary materials in the first place. Incineration’s high cost has slowed development of such facilities. but Williamson’s incinerator socialism would supply an artificial incentive for a method that couldn’t make it in the free market on its merits. The main objection to the plan, however, is that trash burners are air and land polluters. According to Jim Marston of Texans for the Environmental Defense Fund, when paints, metals, and other solid wastes are burned, they release toxins, both in the ash and the air. Finally, environmentalists say, the “burn-it” mentality undercuts efforts to cut down on waste at the source. Shea says composting and recycling can cut such wastes by as much as 90 percent. Most cityincinerator contracts require the city to supply the incinerator operator with a specified number of tons of municipal solid waste every month, and many require specified amounts of paper and plastics. A town contractually obligated to deliver that much refuse thus has a disincentive to cut back on waste production through recycling and source reduction. Williamson didn’t show up for a hearing on his own bill in early May, and it has been left pending in committee. Watering Down Aquifer Protection House Bill 181 by Rep. Tom Craddick would exempt cities, districts, and water au , thorities from regulations issued by underground water districts. The Midland Republican filed the bill because “the Upper Colorado River Authority pumps a lot of water for Odessa, and there’s some talk of creating a water district out there,” said Catherine Perrine. water chair of the League of Women Voters. Such a district could devise rules that would force Odessa to end its profligate water usage, which has been causing the water tables to drop a foot or two each year for the past decade, Perrine said. The real victims of municipal overpumping are farmers who rely on water wells for irrigation. “In virtually all major aquifers in Texas, there’s some part where groundwater is being overpumped, that is where we’re taking out more than we’re putting in,” Perrine said. “It’s principally where some city has its \(water] well field.” Environmentalists believe that, by removing pressure for cities to conserve the precious liquid, Craddiek’s legislation would undermine efforts for innovative water management strategies. Austin Bashing Austin-area developers, abetted by Sims and Saunders, Victoria Sen. Ken> Armbrister \(perhaps the worst environmental villain of cobbled up a bevy of bills intended to retali ate against the city of Austin for its progres sive environmental ordinances. The effect of most of the bills would have been to let state agencies like Parks and Wildlife, the TWC, and river authorities \(all of which have been dominated in the past by anti-environment high standards for protecting endangered species, regulating pollution and development, and so on Although aimed at the city of Austin, many of the bills would have a statewide impact by making it financially impossible for any city to regulate development in environmentally sensitive aseas like Austin’s Barton Creek watershed. A number of lobbyists and legislators like Robnett and former Rep. Stan Schluete.r property during the Austin real estate boom and have a special interest in sabotaging the city’s environmental regulations. But Austin Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos has so far managed to trash the bashers, shooting down the whole flock of anti-environment bills, which should make it easier for other Texas cities to follow Austin’s lead and> enact stricter ordinances in the future. The Devil You Don’t Know According to Clean Water Action’s Shea, HB 1819. by Craddick, would devastate Texas’ “right-to-know” law pertaining to hazardous chemicals. The state department of Health requires companies to report dangerous chemicals to the agency, which it uses for local emergency planning commissions to aid local firefighters and police in case of accidents. Historically, Texas’ disclosure standards have been tougher than the federal government’s. but Craddick’s bill would raise the ceiling on amount of chemicals reqiured to be reported, meaning that three-quarters of the companies now required to report would be exempt. The bill would also undermine enforcement efforts by reducing funding for efforts to detect violators. -B.C. 24 MA y 17, 1991