Page 6


Kim Phillips at a Waco area landfill JOHN GAYUSKY Blitzing the PTA The Chemical Industry and the TNRCC Lay Siege to Texas Moms BY MICHAEL KING CHLORINE PLUS COMBUSTION = Dioxin. We’d better begin with that ex tremely brief lesson in elementary chemistry, because the chemical industry, especially through its hired lobbyists in the other trade organizations, is spending a great deal of money and time right now trying to make certain you don’t remember that equationor its corollary, that like dioxin, many forms of organochlorines in general use are also highly toxic, persistent, and bio-accumulative. According to its own estimates, the industry will have spent one hundred and fifty million dollars by the end of 1995 attempting to convince the public that the widespread use of chlorine-based chemicals is entirely benign and defeating any attempt by environmentalists to point out the dark cloud overwhelming that silver lining, to wit: Chlorine plus Combustion = Dioxin. Some of those big bucks were spent in Texas last fall, making certain that an annual gathering of parents and teachers did not go on record in favor of developing alternatives to chlorine-based products, nor in opposition to the burning of hazardous wastes in cement kilnsacknowledged ins, among other toxins. At the annual statewide Texas PTA convention in Austin, November 10-12, two such resolutions were proposed. Thanks in large part to a coordinatedand highly misleading public relations blitzkrieg by professional lobbying groups such as the CCC, the Texas Chemical Council, the cement kiln industry, and a host of individual representatives of various Texas chemical companies, the TPTA was prevented from hearing any extended floor debate on either resolution. The first resolution, on dioxin, was seriously weakened prior to convention consideration \(to the extent of omitting on cement kilns, was “postponed indefinitely” after only cursory floor discussion. The various participants have quite different perspectives on the convention outcome. In the aftermath, TPTA environmental chair Kim Phillips and Texas Chemical Council Issues Coordinator Mark Shilling each say they were pleased that the two sides could come together and find corn mon ground on the dioxin resolution, although Phillips and her PTA supporters are clearly less satisfied than are Shilling and his friends in the chemical industry. The cement kiln result was less ambiguous, and so are the responses. Harold Green of Midlothian’s Texas Industries, Inc. is delighted that he “defeated the attack on [his] company” by postponing the resolution; proponents of the resolution say they were “outmaneuvered,” even “mugged” by the well-financed and professionally organized public relations campaign of TXI and the chemical industry. At first glance, it might seem odd that a school-based organization like the PTA would be engaging in controversy about environmental matters. But in recent years local PTAs, like many community organizations, have become increasingly concerned about questions of pollution and environmental protection, particularly when these questions affect the siting of schools or the health and safety of elementary and high school students. In recent years, for exam ple, state PTAs in Pennsylvania and Idaho have adopted resolutions against the use of cement kilns for the burning of hazardous waste, the Texas PTA has opposed the siting of schools on old landfills, and the national PTA has taken positions on lead, asbestos, pesticides and other pollution issues. The most recent PTA battle to defend the Texas environment began in North and Central Texas. Last , spring, eleven local PTA chapters in Cedar Hill, DeSoto, and Duncanville adopted a resolution opposing the burning of hazardous waste in cement kilns in the nearby Midlothian area. Closer to Waco, the Midway High School PTA, by a vote of four hundred and eighty-one to three, passed a strong resolution against dioxin pollution, specifically calling for the support of alternatives to chlorine-based products and processes. Once the local initiatives had been reviewed as to form and confirmed by the state board as being state or national in scope, they were distributed to all two thousand and seven hundred Texas PTA chapters in August and Octo 4 JANUARY 26, 1996