partment of Health issued fish-consumption bans for several reservoirs because of mercury contamination. According to a coalition of Texas enviros reporting on the state’s perennial Nipdes application in 1996, Texas ranks at the top of every criterion of need for a strong water-pollution program. It ranks number one in major discharge facilities \(those are your next-largest states of Pennsylvania with 390 and New York with 350 major facilities. Texas ranks second in total number of minor Nipdes facilities, about 5,700. Louisiana has the largest number of such facilities in the country, about 6,000. Texas is the second most-populous state, but it has very limited water resources. Many of the state rivers, lakes, and bays are severely polluted. Over 3,000 miles, or one third, of Texas rivers and 44 percent of Texas bays are so polluted that they do not meet the standards set for recreational and other uses. Thirteen Texas lakes were covered by advisories or bans on fish consumption in 1996. Kr listen Warren, executive director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters, said sadly, “Environmentalists ound the country really want to believe Bush is good on the environment. When they ask me about him, it makes me feel bad that I have to tell them the truth.” Bush has signed numerous bills that weaken environmental protection. Most of the anti-environmental agenda of the Republican Revolution of 1994, which failed to pass in Washington, has passed and is law in Texas, including bills concerning takings, audit/privilege immunity, cost-benefit analysis, regulatory flexibility, and reduction of the public’s right to participate. The takings bill in particular, a pet project of the wacko right favored by militias everywhere, threatens to become a monumental problem for the state. But perhaps the apogee of environmental folly during the Bush years was the Tejas Testing fiasco. By 1995, Houston, Dallas, El Paso, and other cities were in violation of E.P.A. air-pollution standards and the state was fixing to start the cleanup process by testing automobiles and making everybody ratchet down the pollution their cars cause. Of course, the only reason the state was doing this was so we could get back our highway money from the feds. But a rightwing radio host in Houston went on a jihad about how this was unconscionable government interference in our lives, and we have a right to breathe dirty air, and so on. \(This is not an original argument in the Lege. Representative Billy Williamson of Tyler, home to an infamous killer asbestos plant, once said on the floor, “I think we are all willing to have a little bit of crud in our lungs and a full stomach rather than a whole bunch of clean air and nothing to eat. And I don’t want a bunch of environmentalists and Communists telling me what’s good for me and my family.” Billy has since died of lung tunist, seized on this little quasi-populist flapette and made himself the champion of all those who felt heavy burdened by having to get their mufflers fixed. By then the state had not only signed a contract with Tejas Testing Technology, but the company also had sixty-five testing centers set up with all the equipment required to test emissions just as the state contract required. Cooler heads warned Whitmire and those who joined him in this rebellion against Big Brother that the state would get sued if the contract was broken. But Bush backed Whitmire, and both pooh-poohed the idea we’d have to pay for it. Bush’s support was critical. Tejas Testing went into bankruptcy as soon as the contract was broken and sued for $200 million, finally settling at $140 million. Now here’s the beauty part. How to pay off this company? By using the funds appropriated to keep the air clean, of course. They took $41 million out of the Clean Air account, $63.6 million out of the Petroleum Storage Tank Remediation Fund, $20 million out of Hazardous Solid Waste Remediation, and $10 mill out of general revenue. The remainder was put off to the next biennium, when they raided Clean Air funds again. Believe it or not, even the Chemical Council, which pays into the Superfund for hazardous-waste site cleanup, was pissed off about it. The state was out more than $140 million, and not a single nickel of it went to make the air cleaner. It was reckless and stupid. You talk about not stopping to think through the consequences of policy. Not only is our air that much dirtier, but now what the state needs is an emissions-testing program. And the air in Houston is so filthy people are rising up to demand one. “Bush and the Texas Environment” is excerpted with permission from Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, by Molly Ivins and Louis Dubose, published by Random House, and currently on the New York Times best-seller list. TM GET THE STATE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS ON-LINE Tough, investigative reporting; the wit and good sense of Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower; Political Intelligence; insightful cultural analysis; and much more. Check out Molly Ivins’ special subscription offer, too! www.texasobserver.org Subscribe on-line or call The Texas Observer at 800-939-6620 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER APRIL 14, 2000
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