a way to completely avoid the situation than step up to the plate and go ‘You know what? The air’s dirty’.” \(And in fact one of the Partnership’s precursor organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, in the 1970s funded a Houston Area Oxidants Study in an attempt to discredit Environmental Protection Agency research on the negative health effects of high levels TNRCC had identified a pile of needed research that it just didn’t have the money to carry out, so the Partnership stepped in with a helping hand, bringing money to the table from whatever sources it could cobble, because we are, after all, all in this together. Houston’s usual-suspect environmental lawyer and chairman of the Galveston Bay Conservation and Preservation The Greater Houston Partnership CHAIRMAN Steven L. Miller, Chairman, President & CEO, Shell Oil Company VICE CHAIRMAN Deborah M. Cannon, President, Houston Region Bank of America PRESIDENT Jim C. Kollaer, President & CEO, Greater Houston Partnership But according to Culver, ever since the city’s air quality was used as a punching bag in the 2000 presidential elections, Houston’s business community has seen the light. “We’ve got to get it cleaned up. Now. We agree with that. It’s a black eye. It’s going to keep people from wanting to move their businesses here, it’s going to keep smart young people from wanting to move here for good jobs when they graduate from college…. I think the turning point came about three or four years ago when this whole community, with all the work we’ve done on rebuilding the inner core of the city, all the emphasis on diversifying our economy away from energy, all those things we have to do to be sure that we’re very competitive for corporate relocations… on that list is quality of life and image, and a huge black eye for us is this non-attainment standard. And all this stuff about Houston surpassing L.A. as the smoggiest city… We’d like to be #1 on lots of lists, but not the list of dirtiest cities.” Thus far, the Partnership’s efforts towards clean air have included little more than an advertising campaign, extensive lobbying efforts aimed at securing tax breaks and exemptions for its friends in the petrochemical and construction industries, and the formation of an offshoot organization founded specifically for the purpose of litigating against clean air regulations. Their record notwithstanding, the Partnership hangs its hat on the paramount importance of smart science. “It’s an economic problem to address this in the wrong way,” Culver explains. “It will be false economy and flushing dollars down the drain if we don’t so it smart.” According to the Partnership, and, somewhat less emphatically, to TNRCC, funneling coastal impact money and regulatory research funds into one giant pool of study money is a win-win situation for everyone involved: It will hopefully produce better ozone modeling on which to base revised regulations in time for the mid-course review of the state’s clean air implementation plan in 2004. The way they see it, Association, Jim Blackburn, has a hard time seeing it that way. “I don’t question the need for better computer modeling. I question whether it ought to have been funded by coastal impact money, but more importantly, I question whether it should have gone to the Houston Partnership,” he says. “And I want to be real sure that there’s no overlap between the Houston Partnership’s support of this challenge to the air quality plans [the Business Coalition for Clean Air’s litigation against TNRCC] on the one hand and on the other hand the work that’s going to be done with the proceeds of this coastal impact funding. Because I think that would be highly improper.” The Partnership has gone to great lengths to give the appearance that it is engaged in purely objective, fully credentialed, and thoroughly peer-reviewed science, sans agenda \(excepting, of course, its stated goal of a $9.15-billion Partnership formed the Texas Environmental Research Hall, the business-friendly former TNRCC director, will head the group, which is housed in the offices of the Houston Advanced Research Center in the Woodlands. A board of directors has been partially named, including Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, Houston Mayor Lee Brown, Colin County Judge Ron Harris, and Environmental Defense’s Jim Marston. \(Marston is also on the board of the Texas Democracy Foundation, publisher of The Consortium’s work has just begunthe board is not yet filled, funding for three initial research projects has only recently been approved, and the consortium’s “strategic research plan” isn’t expected to be complete for another month or so. At this early stage, even skeptics like GHASP’s John Wilson concede that the Partnership has put an impres continued on page 18 5/10/02 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1
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