The package attempts to break the vicious cycle that’s hampered recycling efforts in the past: Without facilities in place to process used paper, plastic and so on, it’s hard to start a thorough recycling program, but with no such program in place, recycling companies won’t set up shop because there’s no stable, reliable market for recycled products. “The , recycled paper industry needs incentives to invest in the capital improvements to their facilities,” said Virginia Jones-Smith, a staff scientist with the Texas Environmental Defense Fund. The preference would supply that incentive. “The government represents 20 percent of gross state product,” said Land Office spokesman Dave Roberts. “That’s a big market. If you can get state agencies to commit to buying recycled material, you create a market.” Jones-Smith reports that after California adopted a similar program a few years ago, the market expanded so fast that preferences were no longer needed after four years; the price of recycled paper had become competitive with virgin paper. The recycling plan passed the Senate in early May. The main opposition to have surfaced so far is the newspaper lobby, many of whose editorial boards no doubt support the concept of recydling as long as they don’t have to sacrifice for it. Detoxifying Texas The recycling legislation has been grafted onto another popular environmental initiative, the moratorium on toxic waste incinerator permitting, which itself is part of an omnibus hazardous-waste package, Senate Bill 1099 by Sen. Steve Carriker of Roby. The bill, drafted with input from the governor’s office and incorporating ideas from several other lawmakers \(including Sens. Judith Zaffirini require the Water Commission to “prepare an assessment of the state’s need for commercial hazardous waste disposal capacity by March 1, 1992.” require the Water Commission to hold public hearings \(with much greater public applies for a permit to operate a hazardous waste facility. require applicants for hazardous waste permits to put up a minimum $50,000 bond; the money would reimburse citizens and public-interest groups for the costs they incur in hiring experts to testify about the potential dangers of a facility. Applicants would have to disclose financial information on their companies so that state regulators can judge whether they are capable of adequately managing the waste whose source and nature they will also be required to disclose. Applicants must also demonstrate that they have adequate management experience to run a facility, and that an adequate emergency response is available in case of trouble. Carriker says this provision will especially help rural areas such as those in his Wichita Falls-area district, which may rely on small, volunteer fire departments for emergencies. tighten siting requirements for waste facilities. For example, they are prohibited from being located in a 100-year flood plain, and depending on the kind of facility, must be kept from 1,000 feet to five miles from schools, residences, churches, parks, and public water supplies. The water commission will also be required to consider compatibility with local land use patterns, and the need for such a facility, in deciding whether to grant a permit. And TWC will be required to come up with rules for inspecting and monitoring compliance at the facilities including, perhaps, requiring applicants to pay for an onsite inspector; and. impose a moratorium on issuing permits VIC HINTERLANG State Sen. Steve Carriker until the needs assessment is completed and new rules implementing the above conditions are written. Those involved expect this process to take at least a year. Legislative resistance to commercial hazardous waste disposal sites was fueled by community oppositio in several Texas towns to proposed waste-disposal facilities. \(TO, 10/ support, the hazardous waste bill has passed the Senate with only one serious injury the moratorium isn’t really a moratorium any more, since all aspects of the permitting process except final approval will now continue until the act’s effective date, probably next September. Thus, the pending projects before the commission \(there were 17 at press time, but the number could be expected to increase drastically once the deadline became the newer, tougher standards the Carriker package and the needs assessment would implement. Crimes Against Nature Attorney General . Dan Morales surprised many doubters when he made cracking down on environmental criminals the centerpiece of his 1990 campaign. He surprised them even more when he followed through with a tough, well-thought out package of proposals introduced by Houston Sen. Gene Green and Dallas Rep. Steve Wolens. The bills would move all criminal penalties for environmental crimes to the state penal code, use state government to help collar environmental criminals, and increase civil penalties for environmental offenses. According to Nancy Lynch, the assistant attorney general who drafted much of the package, the county and district attorneys who will enforce the new penalties are much more familiar with the penal code than the obscure statutes in which many environmental penalties now reside, making prosecution much more likely. The new penalties should help rein in many of , the deliberately undercapitalized companies that are responsible for much so-called “midnight dumping” of toxic chemicals; their executives might use bankruptcy to avoid a fine, but they can’t escape going to prison. Moving the statutes to the penal code also makes it easier to convict polluters: Presently, a prosecutor has to demonstrate that a toxic waste dumper acted “knowingly and intentionally” a difficult standard to prove to a jury. The current set-up, Lynch explains, “allows people to shelter themselves by purposefully being ignorant”; for instance, telling subordinates or contractors to get rid of a company’s dangerous waste and not tell the boss what happened to it. The executive responsible for the dumping would get off scotfree a huge loophole that Morales’ package will slam shut. If Morales’ package is enacted, the criminal can still be convicted can prove he acted recklessly or with criminal negligence standards that are far easier to meet. Morales’ package also bolsters the civil ecutors. “The state agencies have been proceeding almost entirely under administrative penalty orders,” said Lynch. “In that length of time there has not a been a single contested case or appeal from an order. What that means is that industry is perfectly happy with the fines we’ve got now. That indicates that enforcement has been lax.” Under the new system, referral of cases involving repeat offenders and unpermitted violators to the Attorney General’s office is mandatory. So when industry puppets like the Water Commission and Air Control Board won’t take the necessary tough line, the AG could give them encouragement or take the companies to court himself. Some had expected Morales to start an environmental strike force of prosecutors in the AG’s office, but by relying on local prosecutors, the criminal law package won’t have a high “fiscal note’ that is, won’t require the expenditure of new funds from an already budget-strapped state government. The strategy deprives opponents of stronger environmental laws of an excuse to kill the package on the grounds the state can’t afford it. In THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25
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