Congressman Michael Burgess has called on the Texas Attorney General's office to investigate the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, after the TCEQ reported inaccurate results to the Fort Worth City Council and then took weeks to report the error after they had discovered it.
The Republican congressman's rebuke of the TCEQ follows a week in which EPA regional administrator Al Armendariz told the Houston Chronicle, "I think the writing will be on the wall — unless we start seeing better permits that address our objections, we are very likely to begin federalizing others. The state is not following federal Clean Air Act requirements.”
As Phillp wrote yesterday (The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality: "An Agency of Destruction"), Rick Perry's attempt to make the controversy surrounding the TCEQ a states' rights issue simply does not add up. During George W. Bush's term, the EPA pressured the TCEQ to improve its permitting process and to make its data public. To present the EPA's legitimate concerns as a new "federal power grab" is completely disingenuous, as members of Perry's own party are beginning to realize.
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
“Those responsible should be held fully accountable, and I believe that a robust investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s office would be appropriate,” Michael Burgess said in a statement.
Burgess said he was recently briefed by TCEQ on air quality issues related to gas drilling and he's not happy to find out now that he wasn't presented with all of the data.
“I relied on the information I was given, as did many others in North Texas,” Burgess said. “I find it personally offensive to find out that what I have been told may not be the full story on the air quality issues in the area that affect millions of North Texans. There are a lot of questions that TCEQ needs to answer, and the public is right to demand accountability.”
There is one Republican in particular who seems eager to support Perry's position on the issue: Kelly Hancock, state representative for House District 91 in Fort Worth.
Hancock has spent much of the past few days on Twitter expressing outrage at what he describes as "the federal grab of the state's successful permitting process." Hancock is also the vice president of Advanced Chemical Logistics, a company that specializes in "the chemical needs" of the industrial and institutional formulators, oil field, water treatment industries, amongst others.
From the Star-Telegram:
"I think the key point to remember is, in February, the sites were retested, and they all came back significantly below the long-term exposure limits," Hancock said.
Hancock, a vice president at a chemical company, said he didn't understand why the agency bothered to retest the older samples in the air canisters.
"Actually the second tests were very unscientific," he said. "The canisters they used had been sitting on the shelves for a long time. ... If the tests had come back at lower levels, then everyone who's complaining now would want to throw those tests out."
Burgess has had a pretty awful environmental record since entering the U.S. House in 2003. In 2009, the League of Conservation Voters gave him a 0 rating. In 2008, Enviroment America did the same. The fact that Burgess, along with other Republicans, seem shocked about Perry's mismanagement of the TCEQ is a telling sign. There are only so many chemical company executives to defend Perry on this one.
If you haven't already, take some time to read the Texas Observer's recent cover story on the TCEQ. As much as Perry would like to neatly fit this into his Washington vs. Texas narrative, this is a losing issue for him that even some Republican lawmakers are beginning to catch on to.
Previously on BOR: