Page 8


I want to subscribe to the Observer. NAME ADDRESS CITY, STATE, ZIP 1 YEAR $32 2 YEARS $59 3 YEARS $84 CHECK ENCLOSED BILL ME 307 W. 7th St Austin, TX 78701 512-477-0746 FAX 512-474-1175 they delivered 1,000 letters of protest against a TNRCC policy they claim will cause 2,617 deaths a year in Texas mostly among children and the elderly. There are factsand there is also the truth. The truth is that the Nominations Committee hearing on Barry McBee was an embarrassment that created only the illusion of public process. In their letter, the Senators invite the public to come to the Capitol to listen to the tapes of the proceedings. We’ll do better than that. Send us five dollars and we’ll mail you the complete tapes. Our bet is that anyone who listens to them will conclude that the Senate’s screening of the Governor’s appointees is hardly a test of appointees’ qualifications. The current process, in fact, is summed up by Senator Lucio’s comment at the Nominations Committee hearing. “I have no doubt that in terms of background qualifications, both of you are highly qualified,” Lucio told the two political appointees on February 10. “If your nominations get to the floor, you have my support.” The Senators take issue with my comment, “Any time the unctuous and dapper Senator Eddie Lucio gets close to anyone with any real economic or political power, the Senator’s going to violate the state’s sodomy law.” They describe their colleague as “courtly.” In fact, compared to Senator Lucio’ s environmental record, that assessment is genteel. The Lower Rio Grande Valley district he represents is one of the poorest regions of the state. It also is one of the most chemically contaminated regions of the nation, where last year Brownsville lawyer Tony Martinez, representing sixteen families of children with chemical-related, devastating birth defects like anencephalia, settled with local polluters for $17 million. Granted, many of those polluters are American companies operating in Matamoros and Rio Bravo, on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. But the combined effect of their pollution and similar pollution on the American side of the river is believed to be responsible for numerous birth defects and other serious health problems. A bold and creative public servant might have taken the lead in pressing American companies in Mexico to clean up, while supporting strong environmental legislation on the Texas side of the river. Senator Lucio’s environmental record, to the contrary, is astounding. Last session alone he voted for: the “takings bill,” described by the Sierra Club as a “potential nightmare for environmental protection and other necessary government activities”; for a bill to weaken the state’s air emissions inspection program for motor vehicles operating in polluted cities; for a bill that would have seriously undermined the TNRCC office of public interest counsel; for a bill that would have required the TNRCC to perform cost-benefit analysis on environmental rules before the rules could be adopted; for a bill that exempts from City of Austin environmental restrictions all developers building along the Barton Creek watershed; for a bill that would have required opponents to prove that a TNRCC permit was a threat to public health, rather than requiring the applicants to prove their projects are safe; for a bill that would have limited the TNRCC’s ability to adopt rules or policies more stringent than federal requirements; for a bill that would have imposed a restrictive statute of limitaL tions on the prosecution of polluters; and for a bill that limited the City of Austin’s authority to use extraterritorial jurisdiction to protect the environment outside the city limits. Senator Lucio’s 1-14 record on environmental votes monitored by the Sierra Club is the Democratic premier anti-environmental record for the last session. Having voted to limit regulatory protection for his. constituents, Senator Lucio then voted to limit their access to the courts. In particular, he voted for a measure that limits plaintiffs’ ability to collect in lawsuits where there are multiple defendantslike the suit Tony Martinez settled that provides millions in compensation for the families of anencephalic babies born in the Senator’s district. Lucio also supported a forum non conveniens measure that now prohibits Mexican families harmed by American companies from bringing those companies to justice into Texas courts. That was just one session’s work. What Senator Lucio does to his constituents brings to mind another sexual metaphor, although the Senator might argue that by voting for him, his constituents became consenting partners. Senator Lucio’ s colleagues describe him as “courtly.” If that voting record is courtly, then George Bush is Louis XIV. L.D. 56,New. 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 28, 1997