Fort Worth Star-Telegram Editorial: “Texas governor should watch what he says about EPA”

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The Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board calls it Rick Perry's “dark side” – the way Texas’ ten-year old Governor hides reality in his political rhetoric. Their editorial, “Texas governor should watch what he says about EPA” makes an essential point about the way we cover the Governor's race going forward:

Gov. Rick Perry's response to this week's Environmental Protection Agency clean-air enforcement actions in Texas might help him sell his book or even get re-elected, but they won't resolve the EPA's long-running objections to state policy or help Texans understand the issues involved.

Rick Perry is crying wolf about Washington in an attempt to hide from his own failed record here in Texas. For Rick Perry’s campaign audience, every critical issue facing the state of Texas – from our $18 billion budget shortfall to the EPA’s decision to take over Texas’ permitting process for certain refineries and industries from the TCEQ – is President Obama’s fault. Yet in 2006, President Bush’s EPA began warning Rick Perry and the TCEQ that their permitting process was “contrary to federal law,” and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has ruled for years that “emissions data must be made public under the Clean Air Act.” (Source: Texas Observer, “EPA Takes Down Screwy Texas Air Program“).

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, recognizing that Perry’s rank political statements about state’s rights have no place in an adult conversation like this one, chastised Perry for putting rhetoric ahead of reality — as well they should. If Rick Perry chooses to issue political statements from his state office, then his record as a state office holder should be thoroughly examined and all Texans – elected officials, activists, and the press – should embrace the Star-Telegram’s charge to “help Texans understand the issues involved.”

Democrat Bill White puts the actions of the EPA squarely on the shoulders of Rick Perry. In his statement, released well before Perry's on Tuesday evening:

“Because of Rick Perry's mismanagement of the state's environmental agency, our state is now losing our ability to make our own decisions about air quality and the economy.

Here is the full Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial:

Texas governor should watch what he says about EPA

Posted Thursday, May. 27, 2010

Gov. Rick Perry's response to this week's Environmental Protection Agency clean-air enforcement actions in Texas might help him sell his book or even get re-elected, but they won't resolve the EPA's long-running objections to state policy or help Texans understand the issues involved.

Perry says the EPA's steps to take over issuing operating permits for refineries and other heavy industries in Texas are a “big government” move, part of the Obama administration's “concerted effort to transfer power away from the states to the federal government.”

The EPA says Texas Commission on Environmental Quality guidelines, which have governed the permit process since 1994 but have been revised several times, do not now meet requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.

Perry plans to write a book about state sovereignty this summer, his publisher has announced, and it's one of the themes of his campaign against Democrat Bill White in the November general election.

But the governor is wrong to blame the EPA's action on President Barack Obama. Documents available on the TCEQ website show the EPA objected to the Texas permit process at least as long ago as 2006, under the administration of President George W. Bush. Those objections have been the subject of continuing meetings and often strongly worded correspondence between EPA and TCEQ officials ever since.

After years of those discussions, the EPA published formal objections in the Federal Register in September.

At issue from the beginning has been the state's “flexible permit” process. The Clean Air Act requires refineries and other potential major sources of air pollution to measure and control certain contaminants in each unit of an operating plant.

TCEQ's flexible permits allow permit holders to measure those emissions for the plant as a whole. That, the correspondence points out, allows the plant's operator to place controls on some units while avoiding that step for others.

The EPA also objects to state procedures that it says discourage public comment during the permit process.

The federal agency said this week it will step into that process by requiring a Corpus Christi refinery to obtain a federal operating permit rather than one from the state. The EPA is considering the same action for 39 other refineries and industrial plants in Texas, including facilities owned by ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips and Dow Chemical Co.

The EPA has given TCEQ a deadline of June 30 to submit permit process revisions acceptable under the Clean Air Act.

If there's anything Perry has done well during his more than nine years as governor, it's his emphasis on jobs. He proudly says that Texas “has created more private sector jobs in the last 10 years than any other state in the nation.”

He has reason to be proud of that record. But he shows a dark side when he says this week's action means EPA officials “are willing to kill Texas jobs and derail one of the strongest economies in the country.”

A statement from TCEQ says the moves “will result in very substantial costs to industry in submitting these permits, and those costs will be passed on to consumers in the form of higher costs for fuel, electricity and many other everyday products.”

Emotional overstatements might fit political campaigns or book marketing plans, but they are out of place here. At a time when a botched oil well has spewed nobody knows how many thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, Texas officials should think twice before downplaying concerns about the environment.

Previously on BOR:

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About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.

2 Comments

  1. stacksucker on

    Bill White needs to sell his Barnett Shale gas stock…
    ….it's weighing him down like an anchor in North Texas.  

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