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4-41-41s ?rit44;_ ” .. 4 Jae, fi 4etir 481.0441 . *I% lab. ,430 ’41.?.Naro41/4 ti k: 44″r . y Ejv-vi :Sh : If. ..vir3s*-41 -:40:414,,5 At:E:tget\\c-igii;-i-ci,.. t -4.:____-;-._Ar,p.,er::5-1 5.7L- =1- “\\-e -.14; -r L 1.414′ s a grain farmer from the Panhandle, who vehemently opposed the granting of a permit for a corporate hog farm across the road from his house. He sued and won his right and the right of all citizens to participate in permit hearings. However, Trainwreck has recently published rules trying to get around the court order and close the hearings again. Meanwhile, Texas is going in the opposite direction from other states like Iowa, Oklahoma, and North Carolina on large, confined animal-feed operations, particularly hog farms. These outfits produce enormous amounts of fecal waste that threatens water supplies and water quality. While other states are tightening regulation of the waste, Texas has been moving to cut the operations free of regulation. The agency also began providing advance notice of “surprise inspections” of large industrial facilities, thus lending a surprising new meaning to surprise. Trainwreck also opposed the E.P.A.’s attempts to strengthen national air-quality standards and all but stopped monitoring water quality in the state’s rivers and streams. As bad as Trainwreck was under Bush, the commissioners finally decided something had to be done about the state’s grandfathered refineries, utilities, and chemical and industrial plants. These plants are exempt from state pollution controls because they were in operation before the Texas Clean Air Act went into effect in 1971. Former state representative Sissy Farenthold says the grandfather exemption was meant to be for “a few years, maybe four,” giving the plants enough time to come up to the new state standards. Twenty-eight years later, the same 850 plants are producing 36 percent more than one-third of the state’s total air pollution. The Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, and Public Citizen have worked for years to increase pubic awareness of the issue, and pressure on Trainwreck gradually increased. Not just greens were involved; because every one of the state’s major metropolitan areas is or soon will be declared in “nonattainment,” the E.P.A.’s immortal euphemism, that means the loss of highway in a state where highway spending has precedence over all other state functions, including the public schools and public health. The E.P.A. designation also leads to some restrictions on business. Just as Trainwreck was about to crack down on the grandfathered plants, Bush stepped in. The Sierra Club and an environ mental coalition called SEED got the following information through an open-records request. In 1997 Bush’s environmental director warned the governor that industry was concerned that his three appointees to Trainwreck, those environmental firebrands, were “moving too quickly” and “may rashly seek legislation this session.” Within a few months the governor quietly asked two oilcompany presidents to outline a voluntary program for the grandfathered polluters, which is something like asking criminals to set the length of their own sentences. In June 1997 the same two oil execs summoned two dozen industry representatives to a meeting at Exxon’s corporate headquarters in Houston and handed them an outline of the voluntary emissions-reduction plan Bush had requested. A memo written by a DuPont executive who attended the meeting indicates some astonishment: “The approach of the presenters was pretty much like, `This is the way it’s going to be. Do you want to get on board or not?’ Clearly the insiders from oil & gas believe that the Governor’s Office will ‘persuade’ the T.N.R.C.C. to accept what program is developed between the industry group and the Governor’s Office.” And they did. The governor of the state with the highest volume of air pollution in the nation accommodated the -state’s biggest polluters. After almost -three decades of unrestrained pollution, he let it continue under the guise of “voluntary compliance.” Of the 850 grandfathered polluters, 28 have come up with a plan to reduce pollution, but only 3 have actually done so. Hell of a program. Two years after his 1997 gift to oil, gas, and electric utilities, Bush moved to have his voluntary-emissions program written into law. In what could be his last legislative effort in Texas, his staff beat back a revolt by House Democratic liberals against setting this nonsense into law. The D’s put up a bill requiring the plants to use what environmental engineers call the Best Available Control Technology. The governor’s office had its own bill, written by R. Kinnan Goleman, a lobbyist for energy and utility companies who is also general counsel for the Texas Chemical Council. Goleman’ s bill permitted the use of ten-year-old pollution-control technology and voluntary compliance with the law. Every newspaper in the state ran angry editorials opposing this joke of a bill. Despite the eleventh-hour stand by the Democrats, the deal went down. Two campaign-finance watchdog groups, Public Research Works and the Center for Responsive Politics, discovered this 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 14, 2000 ,