oh we’re out there Pfs, continued from page 5 CLEAN AIR VICTORY? On October 27, two administrative law judges ruled that the copper smelting facility in El Paso run by ASARCO should not be granted a renewal of its air permit. The facility halted its smelting operation in 1999. ASARCO officials have said they have no immediate plans to reopen the facility but need the permit renewal for an ongoing maintenance program at the facility. Over the course of a two-week hearing held in El Paso last July, judges William Newchurch and Veronica Najera from the State Office of Administrative Hearings listened to testimony on whether the proposed permit would “cause or contribute to a condition of air pollution in El Paso.” If ASARCO is allowed to resume operation, it could emit as much as 7,000 tons per year of new pollutants, including a total of 6,673 tons of sulfur dioxide per year, more than 12 times more SO 2 than all other sources emitted in El Paso County in 2002. ASARCO would also be allowed to emit 7.6 tons of lead per year. Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to clean up widespread lead contamination in El Paso that many blame on almost a century of the smelter’s operation \(See “Clean Up or The ruling by the two judges is not the last word on the issue. ASARCO has until November 28 to file objections. Then, sometime early next year, commissioners with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will take up the recommendation. They can do anything from accept to reject to modify the judges’ ruling. “The commissioners have a wide latitude when they get a proposal for a decision,” says Terry Clawson, a TCEQ spokesman. Environmentalists have charged that ASARCO wants the air permit renewal as a way to forestall what they say will be a costly cleanup of the facility. As part of the hearing process, members of the Sierra Club, which obtained standing in the proceeding to object to the permit, toured the El Paso smelter. Neil Carman, who directs the Clean Air Program of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, testified that the facility is in an advanced state of decay and disrepair, with gaping holes, missing equipment, and inches of potentially toxic dust on the floor. “It’s the worst thing that I’ve seen in my 25 years of doing air pollution work,” he said. “To me it’s evidence that they don’t ever plan to operate again.” says, something about the liberal vision of this society has lost its center and it’s destabilizing and dangerous. And they’re correct. But fundamentalism and fascism cannot make us humane. They can provide a stable society but not a humane one. To do that you have to have a bigger vision. I think some of the best help we have now comes from Eastern religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism, because they’re so different. Buddhism is about waking up from the illusionsnot only the ones that control us but also the ones that comfort us. And the biggest illusion in Western religious thought is that you can talk about a loving God when we know there’s no critter up there. We need the insight of Buddhism to wake up from that. TO: In your book you write that Americans need religion and not politics to help change society for the better. DL: I’d want to change that a little. I’d say Americans need a grounding in morality and ethics and civicsin humanity. Honest religion is one route toward that, but so are honest non-theistic paths. The notion that we treat people, as Kant used to say, as ends in themselves, not use them for our own ends. There’s a very good philosophical path to the same place. And then politics. Politics still, by definition, is the search for power by one partial vision over another partial vision. When I lived in Albany, New York, I was accused of being a Republican because I attacked Clinton for selling out America with NAFTA and the WTO. I would be told, “Well if you’re a liberal you need to support Clinton right or wrong.” If you’re in religion you don’t do that. If you’re bringing the Bible or the Upanishads or the Buddhist writingsthe sources of wisdom in one hand, and the morning paper in the otheryou can’t identify with a political party. Religion should be criticizing political parties as equal opportunity targets, because it’s supposed to be about trying to articulate more of a vision of the whole. Ameni Rozsa is a writer in Austin. 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 18, 2005
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