Citizens Criticize Bush's Grandfathered Bill

(Austin)--Public interest groups today labeled Governor Bush's legislation on grandfathered air pollution as "a CARE package for corporations." "The Governor characterizes himself as a compassionate conservative. His compassion on this issue, however, seems to be primarily for industrial corporations which have had 28 years to come up to today's modern standards for clean air -- not compassion for the thousands of Texans who have to breathe dirty air because of corporate indifference," said Tom Smith, Texas Director for Public Citizen.

"The Governor's legislation is actually even worse than we expected it to be," said Ken Kramer, state director for Sierra Club. "How Governor Bush handles this issue in Texas will foreshadow how he would handle the clean air issue nationally if he is successful in his quest for the Presidency. What we see thus far is not very comforting. His legislation on grandfathered air polluters focuses on voluntary compliance with today's laws, use of second hand technology, credit for phantom reductions of air emissions, and corporate convenience over health effects reviews and meaningful public participation."

Kramer characterized the legislation as "an all-you-can-eat buffet of delectable treats for polluters. The Governor's legislation, filed as H.B. 2504 by Rep. Ray Allen, is a veritable feast of ways in which industries may escape efforts to require significant reductions in air pollution from their plants."

"The results of the Governor's voluntary efforts thus far have been a failure – less than one-third of 1% (only 3,600 tons out of 900,000 thousands of tons) of the air pollution from grandfathered plants has been reduced because of that program, according to a report by the Environmental Defense entitled Too Little, Too Late," said Smith. "Now the public is being asked to ignore the failure of this program and reward industry with more time to continue spewing unhealthy pollution into Texas skies."

"The grandfathered plants volunteering to come into the pollution control permitting process would have a menu of options available to them so they can get a permit with the least possible reductions in air emissions. These options include: voluntary emissions reduction permits, emissions permits through mitigation projects; multiple plant permits allowing some plants to avoid reducing pollution if emissions at other plants the company owns are reduced; and permit by rule," said Kramer.

"The most bizarre of these options is a proposed new category of ‘emissions permits through environmental mitigation projects,’" continued Kramer. "Grandfathered plants might be able to avoid making significant reductions if they took ‘environmental mitigation’ actions totally unrelated to air quality such as creation of a wildlife or plant preserve, creation of an environmental easement, water or soil pollution prevention or remediation, wetlands enhancement, or environmental education."

"In other words," said Kramer, "through this provision the Governor's bill potentially would give polluters credit for phantom reductions. Some of these actions are things that these industries would already be doing for public relations or other reasons but now they would be able to get credit for those activities to avoid emissions reductions."

"The Governor's legislation contains a stealth provision that attacks the public's right to request contested case hearings on proposed pollution for both grandfathered and new facilities applying for a new type of ‘standard permit.’ This provision is a backdoor way of enacting a portion of other heavily criticized legislation (H.B. 801)," noted Kramer. "The Governor’s office has indicated that this provision will be dropped from the bill, and we look forward to its elimination."

Smith concluded "that the Governor's legislation fails in six key tests: (a complete analysis and critique of H.B. 2504 is attached):

"If this legislation were given a grade," concluded Smith, "it would fail. The only way this program will pass in the Legislature is if the Governor and his allies practice ‘social promotion’ for corporations. The Governor says he's against social promotion in our schools. We hope he's against it in our environment as well."