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Ke v in Kre nec k Olsen’s “constituents” are more immediately afraid of regulations about to be imposed by the state on non-attainment areas like Houston. The state recently submitted its pollution control plan for the Houston area to the EPA, which seems likely to approve it. But the approval is contingent upon a promise of future reductions not currently accounted for in the plan. In other words, even with proposed lowered speed limits, time limits on use of heavy construction equipment, tailpipe testing, and other painful regulations, the TNRCC would not been able meet the EPA standards, chiefly because the state waited until the problem reached crisis proportions. Something else will have to give. Representative Zbranek thinks the answer is to close the grandfathered loophole once and for all, and he has filed a bill to do that. Zbranek’s rural Houston-area district is surrounded by refineries, many of them along the coast and in Harris County. Though his district has little industry itself, it is lumped in with Harris County in the region’s pollution control plan and must “share the pain” of lowered speed limits and construction regulations. “My angle is that my district is being victimized by the big polluters surrounding us and we’ve been taken advantage of,” he said. Zbranek served on the conference committee for S.B. 766 last session, when House Democrats led by Glen Maxey of Austin tried and failed to make the emission reduction program mandatory. Zbranek said he knew nobody would volunteer, but he signed off on it because the bill meant a foot in the door and a crack at forcing compliance next session. “I’m hopeful that Ray Allen [the House Republican who sponsored the governor’s plan last session] and Warren Chisum will join with me,” he said. “Because that was one of the agreements we had, that anybody that didn’t sign on this time [for the voluntary plan] wasn’t gonna be happy next time around.” Ironically, Zbranek’s bill, if it passes, may burnish Bush’s reputation in the end. That’s because companies will be given one last chance to volunteer under Bush’s plan, which mandates a more lenient standard for pollution control than current law, before being forced by Zbranek’s bill to apply for the same permit everyone else has had to operate under for a generation. Zbranek predicts they’ll line up to get on board. There is less cause for optimism in another of the state’s perennial environmental issues: nuclear waste disposal. Spurred by Texas’ two nuke-oper ating utilities, the state has been trying to build a dump in West Texas at one or another site for over a decade. Local citizens, joined by city and county governments and environmentalists from across the state, have killed each attempt, arguing that the siting process was political, rather than scientific, and that the proposed below-ground burial technology was unsafe. On the surface a battle pitting citizens against power companies over a public safety issue, the fight has quietly evolved into a battle over privatization versus public control, and, once again, a textbook example of two companies bent on using the Lege to gain a competitive advantage over one another. A Texas-based cialists is leading the fight for privatization, aided by their man at the Lege, none other than Senator Buster Brown, head of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Fighting WCS’s bid to break into the nuke-waste market is a Utah disposal company called Envirocare, which for years has enjoyed a monopoly on forwant to share with Texas. Envirocare has found a champion of sorts in Pampa Republican Warren Chisum, who chairs the House Environmental Regulation Committee. Chisum has stood up for state control of nuke dumping, despite heavy lobbying for privatization from an all-star crew of hired guns. With Brown’s help, WCS may win big this session. Waste Control sued Envirocare over unfair business practices, and now word around the Capitol is that Envirocare may pull out of the fight in order to settle the suit. WCS may well end up with the utility waste contract, which would include not just Texas waste, but also waste from Vermont and Maine \(and quite Richards. Or, under a “compromise” scenario, the state might keep its oversight of utility waste, but allow WCS to dispose of federal government waste, chiefly from the Department of Energy’s nuclear weapons program, which would means untold millions in contracts for WCS. \(WCS is already quietly “storing” large amounts of Department of Energy waste at its facility in Andrews, mean not one, but two dumps in West Texas. Erin Rogers, who represents a coalition of nuke waste watchdogs, calls this a worst-case scenario for public safety. The Texas Attorney General has already informed the Legislature that the state would not be able to control the amount of waste shipped by the DOE to a private company. “Texas would become the nation’s nuke dump,” Rogers said. JANUARY 19, 2001 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7