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ENVIRONMENTALISTS ARE WORRIED by Pat Suter
The environmental community nationwide is set for a bad time. They look at the record that Bush has made in Texas and then look at his critical appointments and are getting ready for a long battle to keep what has been accomplished since 1970.
Last April the 30th anniversary of EARTH DAY was celebrated world-wide. Major strides have been made in correcting the worst of the pollution and in acquiring some very important natural places that are so important to preserving the ecosystems. So why are we worried? We look back to the era of Ronald Reagan and shudder. He appointed the point man for the environment in the person of James Watt. The man represented the worst of the western persona in the minds of those who believed that the natural world should be preserved as much as possible. He advocated strongly that the federal government should butt out of the western states and allow land owners do their will with the national forests and other federal lands. As a result, the various environmental groups, from the National Audubon Society to the National Wildlife Federation to Environmental Defense and the Sierrra Club to name just a few, saw their membership double and their lobbying become very effective in Congress. They were able to stop the worst of the proposals of the Reagan administration and ultimately forced the resignation of James Watt. However, Reagan did succeed in redcucing the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)_ to ridiculously low levels and it was years before that agency recovered.
So what has George W. Bush done? He has appointed a protege' of James Watt, Gale A. Norton, as his Secretary of the Interiror. She is a lawyer and favors local solutions to problems and is suspected to be a look at Texas for insight into what is expected to happen at the national level. Governor Bush believes in delegating authority to people who will carry out his beliefs. Nothing wrong with that you say. This is after all the American way. And this is so. The problem arises in that his supporters are those from big business who do NOT believe in environmental protection. Bush himself instituted the so-called voluntary compliance idea to correct the most blatant abuses of the grand fathered petrochemical plants. These are the plants who were in place in 1972 when Texas passed the first air pollution control laws. It was expected by the legislature then that when these plants upgraded that they would begin to observe the current laws. Well, guess what? Most plants in Texas did not change to meet the standards and hence Texas is the number one polluter in the nation. Bush and some of the largest plants held many TV appearances and pledged that they would bring their plants voluntarily into compliance. No deadline on this change. The governor has OPPOSED any mandatory requirements. The latest estimate of percent reduction due to these voluntary actions is between 2 and 5 percent.
Texas still leads the nation in toxic releases in both on-site and off-site releases. Houston became the number one city in the nation in air pollution. Nueces County is still number twenty-two in total toxic releases out of some 3500 counties in the nation. Under former Governor Ann Richards, Clean industries 2000 program was initiated with some 150 member industries voluntarily committed to reduce by at least 50 percent their pollution generation or disposal by 2000. No results of this program have been announced. Only one local industry has answered my request for their results and they claim to have met their commitment. Clean Cities 2000 includes 70 cities that voluntarily committed to reducing solid waste by 50 percent by 2000. Some progress has been made in this program which ws also begun under Ann Richards. Enforcement has been lax however. Locally, Corpus Christi initiated curb side recycling but has resisted going to once a week pick-up. Therefore, participation is low to moderate. New rules are now in place for brush and trash pick-up. We will see how this works.
Under Governor Bush, state funding for the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) increased 14 percent. The increase in funding is due to the need to meet new federal programs and to pay settlement of a lawsuit to a company called Tejas. Tejas sued the state after the stated scuttled plans for a centralized inspection and monitoring vehicle emissions program in non-attainment areas of the state. It is important to point out that Texas ranked 46th among states for spending on environmental protection on a per capita basis, including 47th among states for spending on water resources and water quality on a per capita basis, and 46th for per capita spending on drinking water.
Houston is now faced with very stringent anti air pollution restrictions because the program that was partially in place by the Tejas company in 1995 was scuttled by Governor Bush. His comment was that Texas could take care of its own problems. Tejas had already spent lots of money setting up their facilities in Houston when he pulled the plug. Hence some $12 million must be paid to this company and this money comes out of the air pollution funds of the state. Houston is still number one in the nation in air pollution.
Texas also has problems in other areas being number 49th in the nation in per capita spending on state parks. It is 46th in teacher salaries.
With George W. Bush appointing many of the same people as his father did and also some from the Reagan years, environmentalists are worried. Because I belong to many of the largest environmental groups in the U.S., I have already been inundated with requests for more money to fight the upcoming battles.
A message received by Bill Alling and forwarded to our members:
I received this from a financial planner friend... interesting
> > no wonder people want to be congressmen....
> > Perhaps we were asking the wrong questions in this past election:
> > Our Senators and Congressmen do not pay into Social Security, and,
> > of course, therefore they do not collect from it. Social Security
> > were not suitable for persons of their rare elevation in society.
> > They felt they should have a special plan for themselves.
> > Many years ago they voted in their benefit plan.
> > In more recent years, no congress person has felt the need to change it.
> > After all, it is a great plan.
> > For all practical purposes their plan works like this:
> > when they retire, they continue to draw their same pay until they die,
> > except it may be increased from time to time by the cost of living
> > adjustments
> > For example, former Senator Bradley, and his wife, may
> > be expected to draw $7,900,000.00, with Mrs. Bradley
> > drawing $275,000.00 during the last year of her life.
> > This is calculated on an average life span for each.
> > Their cost for this excellent plan is $"0", nada, zilch.
> > This little perk they voted in for themselves is free to them.
> > You and I pick up the tab for this plan. This fine retirement plan
> > come directly from the General Funds. Our tax dollars at work!
> > Social Security, which you and I pay into every payday for
> > our own retirement, with an equal amount matched by our
> > employer, we can expect to get an average of $1,000.00 per
> > month from our Social Security plan. Or, we would have to
> > collect our benefits for 68 years and 1month to equal the
> > Bradleys' benefits.
> > Imagine for a moment that you could structure a retirement plan so
> > desirable that people would have extra amounts deducted from their
> > pay to enhance their own personal retirement income. A retirement plan
> > worked so well, that Railroad Employees, Postal Workers,
> > and others who were not in the plan would clamor to be included.
> > This is how good Social Security could be, if only one small
> > change were made. That change would be to jerk the Golden
> > Fleece Retirement Plan out from under the Senators and Congressmen.
> > Put them into the Social Security plan with the rest of us.
> > Then watch how fast they would fix it!!!
> > If enough people receive this, maybe a seed will be
> > planted, and maybe good changes will evolve.