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LEGISLATIVE OBSERVER High-Dollar Representation BY ROBERT BRYCE IT’S GETTING HARDER to tell when legislators are working for taxpayers and when they are working for themselves. Take Carl Parker and Mark Stiles. Parker, the recently defeated state senator from Port Arthur, and Stiles, the cement company executive and state representative from Beaumont, have a way of combining state business with personal business. Last year, while still in the Senate, Parker, a lawyer, represented a Louisiana-based company named Newpark Resources, which was seeking a permit from the Texas Department of Health. The company wanted the permit in order to operate a radioactive waste disposal facility in Port Arthur. Stiles, who has managed to sell the state a couple trainloads of cement for prison construction, also sells cement to Newpark. Last August, Stiles wrote a letter to TDH, saying the permit was “of utmost importance to my district.” And even though the new facility would mean transporting truckloads of radioactive materials through his district, Stiles made sure in his letter to “reiterate that no public meeting is required.” Parker, who now works as a lobbyist for Southwestern Bell, Coastal Corporation and several other clients, might have used state workers to help him keep track of the TDH permit. TDH officials said Parker attended meetings regarding the permit and in an August 12 memo on the subject, TDH administrator Ralph Heyer wrote that “On July 7, 1994, I was contacted by Ms. Jennifer Mohn from Senator Parker’s office. She requested information related to the activities associated with a company by the name of Newpark Resources Inc … She inquired as to whether there would be a public hearing before this license would be issued. I stated that there are no requirements under agency rules for public hearing for a NORM [naturally occurring radioactive materials] decontamination facility.” The permit could mean tens of millions of dollars to Newpark’s subsidiary, SOLOCO, which is the only company authorized to process NORM waste in Texas. Company officials say the Port Arthur Robert Bryce is a contributing editor of the Austin Chronicle. facility could generate $10 million in processing and disposal revenues during 1995. \(Newpark, a publicly traded company, handles toxic waste for the oil and gas industry. The company had $56 million in gross The radioactive material the company handles collects in pipes, valves and tanks during oil production. The saltwater that exists in or adjacent to oil-bearing formations often contains low levels of Radium Carl Parker FILE PHOTO 226 and Radium 228. These elements become suspended or dissolved in the saltwater that comes to the surface with the hydrocarbons. As the saltwater reaches the surface, the radioactive elements precipitate out of the water and leave deposits, known as scale, on metal surfaces. These deposits contain NORM. If the radioactive emissions from the scale exceed a certain regulatory threshold, the waste is classified as NORM and it must be disposed of under a series of state rules. Parker bristled when asked if state employees did any work for his personal clients. “If everybody who wants to be so sanctimonious about legislators making a living would get out and start supporting the idea of paying legislators a living wage, we wouldn’t be talking about this. If I were born rich I could have been pure a whole lot easier,” Parker said. “I have never used my staff for anything I have been making money on.” The former legislator paused for a breath, then attacked the Observer. “Really, I am suspect of. you. You get money from all those left-wing environmental groups. So you probably distort the facts for them. We are both whoring, but one of us is just cheaper.” \(Given that SWB pays him at least $25,000, according to filings at the Texas Ethics Commission, Coastal pays him at least $100,000 and the Texas AFL-CIO pays him at least $150,000, in addition to the $54,000 annual pension he gets from the state, there’s no doubt that this reWhen asked again about the phone call from Mohn to TDH and his work for Newpark, Parker said, “I don’t think I was representing them at the time. I don’t know exactly when she called. But it would have been an appropriate phone call to find out what was going on anyway.” In September, TDH granted SOLOCO a permit to operate a commercial NORM facility in Port Arthur. And Parker and Stiles got their wish: No public hearings were held. If someone wanted to have a hearing, they would have to be attentive readers of the Texas Register. On December 2, TDH published a notice in the Register, saying that it had “taken actions regarding licenses for the possession and use of radioactive materials as listed in the table below.” The notice made no mention of the facility’s location. Instead, it listed the licensee as SOLOCO of Metairie, Louisiana. Philip Shaver of the Bureau of Radiation Control at the TDH, defends the decision not to have a hearing. “A public hearing wouldn’t necessarily assure that they [SOLOCO] would do anything substantially different from what we have allowed them to do.” Several groups protested the lack of an opportunity to speak on the issue. On December 30, Richard Lowerre, an attorney with the Austin law firm of Henry Lowerre Johnson Hess & Frederick, requested a hearing on behalf of several area residents. A hearing has been set for April 4, at 10 a.m. in the Port Arthur Public Library. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11 -,1111.1P