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Monday, June 8, 2009

20000620 Public hearing in Austin on the TNRCC (TCEQ); Asarco lobbyist quoted

"June 20-21, 2000 Public Hearing on TNRCC Austin, Texas

109 people singed up to testify at the hearing--many more than at any other Sunset hearing that’s taken place this year. Over 90% testified in favor of changing TNRCC to better protect public health and the environment.  Industry lobbyists uniformly opposed most of the good recommendations made by Sunset staff.

For those of you who were not able to make it to Austin to hear the 16 hours of testimony, we’ve provided a sample below for you.  The first quotes are from Mike Davis, an Austin lawyer representing citizens concerned about refinery pollution, and Alfred Williams, a resident of Corpus Christi and neighbor to dangerous refineries.  The second quote is from an industry lobbyist.  His testimony will give you a taste of the language, themes, and quality of debate we’ll be facing in the legislative session on these issues.

Anyone can listen to the hearings by accessing the audio archive on the Sunset web page: (go to General Information, scroll down to the “public hearing” link and you’ll get to the live and archived audio)
Mike Davis (Slack and Davis law firm)
“My experience in trying to obtain information is that the record keeping system at the agency is abysmal.  What I’ve found is that to get meaningful information about a facility is nearly impossible at the agency.”
“[We compiled Valero’s upset history from 1994-1999--a project that took hundreds if not thousands of hours. Their emissions are routinely] understated by 80-90%.  If you look specifically at 1995, they reported 325,000 pounds of emissions.  When you roll in the upsets in there, they had 4 million pounds of emissions-- a 92.6% understatement-an amount that exceeded their permit level, in a year which, coincidentally, they received the Governor’s Environmental Excellence award.  In 1997 Valero had 53 upsets, in 1998 82 upsets, in 1999 they had 100 upsets.  But there is nothing in the regulatory oversight at TNRCC that does anything to deter that.  There is no penalty...”
Alfred Williams
“I live in Corpus Christi Texas.  I’m living in the same location I was when I moved there 30 years ago, and there were no refineries then.  They moved in next to me.  And my problems have gone downhill ever since.  I don’t know how many of you have ever had to leave home at night and you’ve worked all day and you’re tired.  And you have a kid who’s scared to death, or a wife tell you I can’t breathe and you have to call an ambulance and take her to the hospital... And then when you call TNRCC you get a recording.  Any time after 5:00 they’re gone.  Then 2 or 3 days later they come out and say to you, ‘you didn’t smell anything, didn’t nothing happen, you have to be lying because we talked to Valero and they said nothing happened and they must be telling the truth.’”
“I don’t get clean air any more.  I get the left-overs.  I live it day in and day out.  It’s a nightmare.  I’m here today to let you know something has to be done.  TNRCC is not doing it’s job.  I’ve come here today, taken off work to tell you my problems because TNRCC, they don’t have no time for little guys like me.  It’s always what the industry says.  They are always right and you are always wrong.  I have neighbors up the street who say, ‘we don’t call the TNRCC because TNRCC never does anything.’”
Kinnan Goleman
(Goleman is currently registered as a lobbyists for the following entities, among others: ASARCO Inc., Celanese Ltd., Deer Park Refinery, Equilon Pipeline Company LLC, Exxon Mobil, Gulf Coast Waste Disposal Authority, Koch Industries, Motiva Enterprises LLC, TXI Operations.)
“What is ‘the public?’ I believe I represent the public...”
“...One entity has the duty and responsibility to protect the public welfare and the public health and the environment--and that’s the TNRCC...Others, even those that may name themselves under some heading such as ‘public interest’ or something, are really just a special interest.  And what we have frequently in permitting and regulatory contexts are two principal specials interests in competition with the TNRCC--the tennis ball being batted back in forth.  The command and control advocates vs. the regulated entities that are seeking increased innovation and efficiency from the TNRCC.”
“A variety of claims of TNRCC prejudice--being biased against citizens-- are contained in the environmental activists’ group material filed with staff and in testimony here today... We have to remember that claims do not equal evidence...a vial of water, even one that has discoloration, may not serve as evidence of any violation or any threat to public health or welfare...Great care needs to be take in making any significant changes as to how TNRCC employs its expertise... as it gathers evidence of non-compliance, just so that people with claims can be appeased.”
June 2000 Public Hearing
- quoted under fair use, for public good and not for private gain -

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