FOLLOW THE MONEY NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION COASTAL IMPACT ASSISTANCE PROGRAM ft, i4611, HARRIS COUNTY GREATER HOUSTON PARTNERSHIP TEXAS ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH CONSORTIUM COASTAL_ COORDINATION COIJNciL Hijacked, continued from page 7 sive infrastructure in place to oversee the study money, necessitated by the strict requirements tied to federal funding. Still, there are suggestive connections, and not everyone believes that the Partnership’s place at the table has been set without self-interest. For one thing, no representative from the state, much less the TNRCC, has yet been named to the Consortium’s board, though the Partnership has its representative firmly in place in the person of former Partnership chairman Bruce LaBoon. Director Hall says he fully anticipates that the Consortium will be “coordinating” efforts with the TNRCC, but there is no formal coordination mechanism in place to steer that tango. Hall also says he plans to work with the Texas Air Research Center, a consortium of public universities with an interesting pedigree of its own. The Center boasts an advisory board including a Mr. Robert Nolan of ExxonMobil \(a member of the Business Coalition for Clean Air Giblin, of Baker & Botts, whose past work includes representing the Coalition in its suit against TNRCC. The Texas Air Research Center has lately been contracted by Orange County, which is also struggling with ozone issues, to do its own modeling and research project. \(Orange County is paying for its study, not coincidentally, with its own $376,197 slice of coastal “You want,” Jim Blackburn suggests, “to find out if anybody involved in the litigation is involved in the work for the coastal impact money. If they’re smart, they’ll keep them separate. But sometimes they get sloppy” GHASP’s John Wilson thinks he knows how it came to this. “My understanding from the Partnership, not from anybody else, is TNRCC was struggling with this list of projects that they wanted funded, and said ‘Can you help us get money,’ and this is what the Partnership came up with as a scheme to get money. But that also the Partnership’s attitude was, ‘If we’re going to help you get money, we want it not under the control of TNRCC, because we don’t think you guys manage your money that well.'” But Wilson also thinks that in buying a seat at the table, the Partnership may have bitten off more than it can chew. According to this theory, the oversight mechanisms necessitated by the use of federal moneys may actually give the Partnership less direct control than it’s accustomed to wielding. “I think because there is a rigorous scientific process going on right now, and there’s a lot of scientists from a lot of different institutions involved, it’s very hard for [the Partnership] to maintain control over the scientific process as they have in the past, when it was just within TNRCC, and they could basically intimidate TNRCC into keeping anything that wasn’t favorable to their point of view under wraps.” Wilson cites a 2000 study in which several national laboratories conducted flyover surveys of industrial emission sources along the Houston Ship Channel. Tentative data from those flyovers suggests that far from being overfactored, Houston’s industrial emissions may in fact be drastically underreported as a source of smog-inducing pollutants. “If TNRCC had found out about it through their own research, the Business Coalition for Clean Air would have probably threatened litigation over it if they came out in public with it [before] it was scientifically validated and all kinds of crap,” Wilson says. “They can’t do that now because the genie’s out of the bottle, it was done by independent researchers at National GENERAL LAND OFFICE 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5/10/02
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The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.