attention, says McLerran. “There is no outreach, although we have applied for a grant to have a public awareness campaign about the hazardous materials routing.” Fred Minton, in Ellis County, has prioritized catastrophe exercises that will train fire fighters, police and other professionals in every kind of response, from plane crashes to hurricanes. His own subcommittee is currently working on such an exercise. Other aspects of Title III work do not receive the same attention, however, because he has to wear one too many hats under the law. “Public information? No, we don’t have anybody doing that,” he said. “They send it [facility inventories or plans] to my office. I just stick it in the file and forget it. I am the emergency manager, the LEPC coordinator and the 911 coordinator. I am working to get 911 countywide and that’s a big enough job.” Emergency Manager Robert Stoeltje of Guadalupe County has himself done most of the work for the LEPC in addition to his regular duties. “We have not done much in the last 12 months,” Stoeltje said. “We appointed a chairman but nothing has happened. I really don’t know what to do about that. We need a meeting. Most of what’s been done, I’ve done it. I’ve identified the plants that should be reporting and put together the plan, but that’s all. We have met the minimum requirements in writing under the law. We got our plan and our Annexes, but we haven’t done a thing else in a year or over a year. We really are not going the’way we are supposed to.” Of the LEPCs surveyed, seven admitted that they did virtually no outreach to the public, largely because they work out of already overloaded -emergency response divisions within the fire department. “We have mostly people connected with the committee on business; emergency people of various kinds and facilities,” Stoeltje said. “We don’t have a good cross section. We have no laypeople on the committee. I shouldn’t even be on the thing. I should work closely with them, but the LEPC should be a separate entity. I’m sorry, but when you have all government officials, no one is going to take a lead on anything. Everyone is wearing two hats, and doesn’t have time in the regular business day to make sure the LEPC is working and also get their jobs done. I may be cutting my own throat on this, but something has got to start going again.” Fighting for a Working LEPC Residents of Texas City, where the 1987 hydrofluoric acid release occured, have actively pursued and publicized information through the LEPC, in order to avoid industry control over risk analysis. According to the Victoria Advocate, in 1987 “Amoco had conducted a $2 million test on the dispersion of hydrofluoric acid a year earlier but did not share its research findings.” Company safety analysts, expecting to clean up a liquid testspill, had spread a plastic spill pad to catch the release but the entire test quantity evapo rated into the air instead. Lethal levels of gas spread over a five-mile test area, according to Fred Millar. Without this information, emergency coordinators sent police officers and fire fighters, as well as residents, directly into the cloud. When Millar questioned the local emergency manager if he had asked for worstcase scenarios, the official replied that the company had told him “it can’t happen here,” according to Millar. In the wake of this accident, a local labor organizer and community representatives from a citizens’ group, which had previously defeated a proposed hazardous waste incinerator, joined the Texas City/LaMarque LEPC. Pointing to the right-to-know mandate, they attempted to redirect the work of the committee, meeting with resistance from entrenched industry and emergency response establishments. In a controversial recertification meeting on March 14, two community members were dropped from the committee and have not Safety Tips Information about hazardous materials collected in your neighborhood should be available to you through your LEPC. Look for the LEPC in the county judge’s office, and if no one there knows what you are talking about call the fire department’s hazardous materials section. Ask for your local emergency plan, Annex Q. Ask for chemical inventories, MSDS forms and worst case scenarios for your local industry. For mote information on your right to know, call Paul Orum of the Working Group on Community Right to Know at 202-546-9707. If your LEPC is not currently active, call your county judge’s office and insist that a meeting date be set. If be or she proves recalcitrant, you may write a formal letter of complaint to David Haun, Texas Department of Public Safety, PO Box 4087, Austin Tx., 78773, and to the governor’s office. Be sure and send a copy to James Makris, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, OS 120 EPA, Washington, D.C. 20460 and to your state and national legislators. If the LEPC is active, find out when they meet again and attend. The Texas Water Commission, PO Box 13087, Austin Tx. 78711, will provide you with a copy of the most recent national and Texas TRI reports for free. In addition, you might want to look at a mote detailed breakdown of the data for your county or your local major industrial plant. For useful number crunching, write the Citizen’s Fund, 1300 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036 or call 202-857 5168, and ask for the TRI report, Poisons in Our Neighborhoods: Toxic Pollution in Texas. –K.M. been reinstated at this time. Their removal came after they attempted to start riskreduction programs and intensified the community outreach. In protest, the third also resigned. In a letter sent to the local judge in March, Gyndy Maldonado, Janet Willie and Glen Erwin, all two-year veterans of the committee, emphasized the importance of public outreach to reduce public risk. “Heavy with first responders and industry representatives responsible for emergency response, the majority of the Texas City/La Marque LEPC has never even attempted to go beyond the traditional emergency response planning,” they wrote. “Over often strong protest, the former community group members were able to introduce some elements of risk reduction. Mandated reports of accidental releases \(Sec. with the community group members asking why the accidents occurred and what prevention efforts were being made. In addition, the LEPC agreed to begin community outreach efforts.” In the Texas Daily Sun, Fire Chief Roy McKinney explained that the LEPC is only required to make emergency plans for the cities and to give information to the public concerning those plans. “It is not our responsibility to ask these plants why they do what they do,” he said. Judge Holbrook, on the other hand, defines the LEPC as a committee “organized to receive information from various businesses and present this to the public. They are also supposed to be able to ask critical questions and get satisfactory answers.” The ongoing debate over the purpose of the committee usually left the three community people in an out-voted minority position. “The Committee became divided 26-3 when input from the community was requested,” they wrote. “We requested that total membership be expanded, with new members to be community group members. There was such resistance. There was also a heated de-. bate over what was meant by community groups. Many argued that government representatives were also community representatives. While this may be true, Congress made these separate categories,” the three members wrote. Judge Holbrook, when asked what action he could take to rectify the problems in his LEPC, said that the SERC had not given him permission to make appointments but only to approve the committee’s choices. In Texas, supervision of the LEPCs falls to the State Emergency Response Commisgovernor. The SERC gave jurisdiction over local LEPC formation to the judge in each Texas County, who may or may not be on the LEPC themselves. The judge approves the members and looks over the emergency plans. The State Emergency Response Commission claims that it provides oversight by checking industry nominees to LEPCs for current vio THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7
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