THE STATE OF TEXAS Early 2010 Inflation Rates TEXAS 1.8 % DFW 1.4 % HOUSTON 2.2 % U.S. AVERAGE 2.3 % Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics denied. Producers moved their $30 million project to another state. Hudgins said the decision wasn’t censorship. He said he told the filmmakers their characters were factually inaccurate and that they chose not to apply for a grant. “The characters were based on real people in Texas who are still alive,” Hudgins said. “I showed them the script, and they said it was inaccurate.” Problem is, lawmakers have forced Hudgins to make such judgments. The standard he’s working with is about as wide open as West Texas. “It’s a very difficult determination,” he said. “I won’t hedge on that. But I take it very seriously.” MELISSA DEL BOSQUE TEXAS VS. EPA Permitted To Pollute THE FACEOFF BETWEEN PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S EPA and Gov. Rick Perry’s Texas Commission on matically. On May 25, the EPA prohibited the com mission from issuing a permit for a refinery in Corpus Christi, and promised to do the same for dozens of other industrial facilities if TCEQ doesn’t fix its flawed flexible-permit program. Such drastic action is unprecedented and signals that new EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz is not backing down from his promise to end business as usual in state environmental regulation. “Flex” permits issued by TCEQ give polluters a pass on reducing emissions at individual sources such as smokestacks and storage tanks, instead placing a cap on entire facilities. The EPA and environmental groups say such caps are too lenient and virtually unenforceable, in part because the program is riddled with secrecy. The Texas attorney general’s office has ruled for years that emissions data must be made public under the Clean Air Act, but often defers to TCEQ to decide what emissions data are released. TCEQ has allowed companies to decide what’s confidential. For example, the flex-permit application for Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Baytown chemical plant lists as “confidential” an analysis of health effects from storage tanks. Exxon also refused to make public details on pollution released during startup, shutdown and maintenance. In 2006, President George W. Bush’s EPA wrote to the TCEQ that withholding such data was contrary to federal and state law. “All emissions data must be made public,” the letter stated. Nonetheless, TCEQ permitted Exxon’s Baytown facility. Today no one knows what type of startup, shutdown and maintenance activities are authorized under the flex permit. Ilan Levin, an Austin lawyer with the Environmental Integrity Project, says he recently raised the secrecy issue with EPA officials. “You should have seen their jaws drop,” he said. “For a regulator who deals in air pollution, this is unheard of.” Perry responded to the EPA’s effort to fix the flex-permit program with typical bombast, calling the move part of Obama’s “campaign to harm our economy and impose federal control over Texas.” FORREST WILDER DEPT. OF GENTRIFICATION East Austin Cleanup ON A RECENT FRIDAY NIGHT IN EAST AUSTIN, SEVEN Austin Billiards, a local bar, nightclub, and pool hall. I was riding along on an initiative to curb violent crime in what the officers call the “East Riverside Corridor”a low-income area populated primarily by recent immi grants from Latin America. The city would like to see the area redeveloped from strip malls, seedy bars, and Mexican restaurants into mixed-use residences and retail businesses. Upscale apartments and condos are under construction. At Clicks, the officers followed protocol. One carded the bouncer at the door, another went to the bathroom, and the others circulated through the crowd, shining their flashlights onto people’s drinks and peering through the dark, trying to spot anyone who looked underage. Satisfied nothing transparently illegal was going on, one beefy, mustachioed officer greeted two men leaning against a pool table. They shook hands; “We’re looking at Friday and Saturday nights, from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m.,” said APD Lt. Paul Christ. “We have one sergeant and six officers, on overtime, working that area.” The department says that by targeting bars and nightclubs in the area, it can reduce robberies, assaults and public intoxication. Statistics indicate the East Riverside corridor is a crime hotspot, and the officers I rode with were adamant that the initiative is the result of those numbers. When I asked APD Commander John Hutto whether the anti-crime initiative is linked to city support of redevelopment in East Austin, he said, “Absolutely. We recognize that there’s quite a few bars and nightclubs along Riverside Drive, and what we’ve seen in the past is that more often than not, our late-night violent crimesyou know, the robberies and aggravated assaultsare in some ways fueled by alcohol.” Erica Leak, a senior city planner who oversees the East Riverside Corridor Master Plan, said the area is already changing. “A number of older apartment complexes have been torn down,” she said. “With more private investment in the area, that often helps ENCE BROWSE examples of redacted flex permits at txlo.com/flexpermits READ about the East Riverside Corridor Master Plan at tx1o.com/riverside JUNE 11, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1 3
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