the Sierra Club, SEED, GHASP, Environmental Defense Fund, Public Citizen, American Lung Association, Texans United Education Fund have been loudly critical of the state’s intention, proclaimed by Governor Bush, to address the pollution crisis in Texas by asking the grandfathered companies to “volunteer” to cut back on emissions. As of late April, the Governor and the TNRCC had announced that thirty-six Texas companies had joined the new CARE program. The companies promised emission reductions, in total, of approximately 25,000 tons a year. When environmentaltions would do little to diminish air pollution, as they amounted to less than 2 percent of the grandfathered emissions alone, the program’s supporters reacted angrily not to the pollution, but to the criticism of the Governor’s program. Representative Ray Allen, who wrote the bill creating ‘CARE, denounced the environmentalists’ “inflammatory rhetoric.” Allen, a Republican from Grand Prairie, is chairman of the House subcommittee on grandfathered pollution. As several environmental activists who had joined in an April 1 press release criticizing CARE rose to testify April 2, he asked each in turn if they agreed with Tom Smith of Public Citizen. \(Following the announcement of the latest round of “volunteers,” Smith said, “Bush is trying to blow smoke in thought the Governor was intentionally trying to deceive the public, most of the speakers from the Sierra Club, EDF, SEED tactfully retreated, saying they couldn’t speak to the Governor’s intentions, only to the limited effects of his program. Smith was not at the hearing, but said afterward he stands by his comments. All the environmental representatives, reinforced by citizen witnesses, testified against the voluntary program. George Smith of the Sierra Club, Peter Altman of SEED, Raymond Alvarez of EDF, each argued that these corporations already had enjoyed twentyseven years to “volunteer” for pollution reductions, and their sudden promises to do better are simply too little, too late. Martina Cartwright, of Texas Southern University’s Environmental Justice Clinic, pointed out that pollution-related problems fall disproportionately on poor people and minorities, who lack the resources either to fight the companies, or to volunteer to move elsewhere. Patricia G6mez of Corpus Christi testified she has lived next to a refinery for more than fifty years, enduring the dangers and fears from “leaks, spills, fires, and explosions.” Gomez had been a citizen nominee to the TNRCC’s CARE committee \(predictably signed a minority report that dissented from the industry-supported voluntary plan. Gomez was particularly critical of the state’s ingrained unwillingness to share information about the extent and dangers of air pollution with Texas citizens. “I have lived next to a refinery for fifty-two years,” she told the House committee, “and until I served on the CARE committee, I did not know there was such a thing as grandfathered pollution.” One refreshingly less than tactful witness against the voluntary program was Dean Cook, a member of the Pasadena local of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers union. He insisted that the pollution control program needed to be mandatory, and \(citing industry’s heavy representation in the TNRCC’s planning and impolluters write the pollution laws?” Cook’s choice of analogies was equally blunt. He compared the poisons of pollution to those sold by drug dealers, and asked the committee, if the profits of the corporations were more important than the health of the surrounding communities, why the Legislature didn’t simply “let them sell crack, and poison the neighborhoods that way…. Voluntary coin “Citizens should not be sacrificed to corporate economic wealth.” Patricia G6mez pliance,” Cook concluded, “is bogus.” That was too much for Chairman Allen. He angrily denounced Cook’s comments, and used them as a negative example throughout the hearing. He said Cook’s definition of corporate “crime” was not recorded in the penal code, and he praised the corporate volunteers under the Governor’s program as demonstrating “good corporate citizenship and integrity.” But Dean Cook has a particular reason to be skeptical of the corporate volunteers: among them is his own employer, Crown Central Petroleum, which locked out Cook and his fellow union members more than two years ago, and has since run the Pasadena refinery with non-union contract workers \(see “Locked Out on Labor Day,” filings with the TNRCC, there has been a three-fold increase in the amount of highly toxic sulfur dioxide emissions from the refinery since the lockout began. “They have no respect for the environment, they have no respect for the workers,” Cook said. “They have no respect for the people who live around the refinery. When the union was running the plant, we had protection that allowed us to speak out about health and safety issues, environmental issues. The people working in there now do not have that privilege.” Prior to the lockout, he said, Crown had bluntly told union negotiators that “the union had a voice in health and safety issues, and they didn’t want the union to have a voice in health and safety issues.” From Cook’s perspective, the fact the Crown is one of the CARE program’s volunteers “is an embarrassment to the program. And I think it was just a ploy because of this lawsuit [Crown is being sued by the neighborhood and Texans United for pollution violations]. They’re trying to portray themselves as good guys, because of this lawsuit.” Cook said that he is part of a growing trend among workers, particularly in heavily industrialized Harris County, to see union issues and environmental issues as related. “The workers have been frightened into believing either we pollute, or we don’t MAY 8, 1998 THE ‘TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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