Page 24


MARCH 11, 1994 VOLUME 86, No. 5 FEATURES Davidians: Convicted Prophets By Dick J. Reavis 5 Kay Skates … By James McCarty Yeager 7 Gonzalez Opens Doors at the Fed By Deborah Lutterbeck 8 DEPARTMENTS Editorials: Annvironmentalism 3 Molly Ivins 10 Jim Hightower 1 1 Journal Light Sentence in Midland Stirs Gay Murder Protest 12 Dallas Homeless Get Bulldozers 13 Las Americas Remember Guatemala By Howard Campbell and Julius Rivera 14 Books and the Culture The Ecological Clock Book review by Ray Reece 20 Mothers Without Fathers Movie reviews by Steven G. Kellman 21 Political Intelligence 24 Cover art by Gail Woods b THE TEXAS server N ANN RICHARDS was elected 1lAgovernor in November 1990, Texas environmentalists had some reason to believe that the millennium had arrived. She was a progressive who, during her campaign, had criticized the importation of hazardous waste to be dumped in Texas; among her first acts when she took office in January 1991 was to call for a moratorium on hazardous waste dump permits until the Legislature could pass stricter regulations. As her campaign rhetoric gave way to a more pragmatic administration that was inclined to compromise with industry, perhaps some letdown was inevitable. She got her moratorium on hazardous waste dumps, but only until the Legislature rewrote the laws that eventually allowed construction of a controversial hazardous waste incinerator near Channelview, east of Houston, a project she had spoken out against. But the Water Commission in January 1993 also rejected. Hunter Industrial Facilities’ application for a solid waste storage and disposal facility in a salt dome near Dayton and in July 1993 . the commission rejected Texcor Industries’ application to build the state’s first commercial low-level radioactive waste disposal plant at Spofford, near Del Rio. Also, environmentalists who were used to making speeches and being ignored by the regulators found they now had access to the agency officials and the negotiating table when the deals were struck. Most of the environmental lobbyists are inclined to give Richards and her regulatory appointees credit, particularly after four years of bitter experience under Bill Clements and what was expected of Clayton Williams. But that credit is strained for people at the grassroots, such as Wanda Erwin of Winona, who blames her family’s health problems on the noxious odors from the nearby Gibraltar Chemical Resources plant, which injects untreated hazardous waste at high pressure into the Woodbine oil and gas formation in East Texas [See “Mothers Fight Dumps,” TO 9/4/92]. Likewise, Bill Addington of Sierra Blanca has little patience for state officials who not only allowed New Yorkers to ship their sewage to a sludge ranch in Hudspeth County, but now are promoting the rural county 80 miles from El Paso as a low-level radioactive waste disposal site. And shrimper Diane Wilson of Point Comfort has little use for the politicians of both parties who not only have allowed the industrial pollution of Lavaca Bay but have given tax breaks to petrochemical industries to continue polluting the bay [See “Raw Deals in Point Comfort,” TO 9/18/92]. Activists from North, South, East and West Texas recently travelled to Austin to air their complaints at a special hearing of the new Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. The creation of a superagency to regulate air, hazardous waste, solid waste and water was one of Richards’ major environmental coups during the 1991 legislative session. On September 1, the three former water commissioners incidentally including two women and an AfricanAmerican chairman, became the new Natural Resources Conservation Commissioners and started looking at ways to provide comprehensive environmental regulations as well as to protect petrochemical jobs. Leading off the complaints to the TNRCC on February 21 were residents of Winona, near Tyler, where the Gibraltar Chemical plant was shut down September 22, the first time a state environmental agency had ordered the shutdown of an industrial facility in Texas. The plant was allowed to reopen a week and a half later, after independent consultants certified it could operate within its permit. But Phyllis Glazer of Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins Winona, noted that the plant still does not have air monitoring equipment, so residents must call state inspectors when they smell suspicious odors. By the time the inspector arrives to sniff out the complaint, the odor oftentimes has passed, but Glazer said MOSES has documented that on at least seven days in January and February emissions from the plant have caused adverse health effects such as breathing difficulties, headaches, diarrhea, eye and nose sensitivity, sore throats, mouth sores, nervousness, muscle spasms and flu-like symptoms. Glazer asked Chairman Hall to initiate proceedings to revoke Gibraltar’s permit. Bill Addington of Save Sierra Blanca called for the commission to review the permit of Merco Joint. Venture Co. to spread 240,000 tons of human and industrial sewage sludge from New York across 90,000 acres of rangeland in Hudspeth County, near El Paso. He noted that Merco was fined $12,000 for spreading contaminated sludge that did not meet pathogen restrictions. “This is a cost of doing business in a $168 million contract,” he said. “Twelve thousand dollars means nothing to this consortium of companies from New York. This is a slap on the wrist. We don’t need to give them a $12,000 fine; we need enforcement and more checks on the sludge project that brings 20 to 70 railcars a day to our home.” Addington, a member of the Governor’s Working Group on Radioactive Waste and the Rio Grande Council of Governments Water Task Force, also said he and members of his family have received death threats and he blamed supporters of the sludge project with burning his family’s lumber yard. Richard Boren, U.S. coordinator of the EDITORIALS Annvironmentalism: Too Much Carrot and Not Enough Stick? THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3