Archive for May 26th, 2010

Cap Metro’s hearing at the Sunset Advisory Commission on Tuesday wasn’t the public flogging many might have expected, given the mass transit authority’s myriad problems over the past several years. It came as a shock to no one as Sunset staff delivered testimony that centered on the financial crisis the transit authority faces. Several commissioners, however, none of whom represent Austin, were surprisingly engaged and cognizant of recent reforms at Cap Metro and gave them credit for their responsiveness to the Sunset Commission’s Staff Report which recommended several changes ranging from financial management to labor contracts to rail safety.

For those who have not followed the story from the beginning (include me in that), Cap Metro’s Sunset review began with the passage last session of Sen. Kirk Watson’s (D-Austin) SB 2015. The bill was co-sponsored by Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin). In addition to calling for the review “as if the authority were scheduled to be abolished”, it changed the structure of the Cap Metro board and called for another review in 2016. (more…)

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The other shoe has finally dropped.

Back in September 2009, we let you know how the EPA had issued rulings that condemned TCEQ’s air quality permitting practices. And today, the EPA stopped asking nicely and took some action.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Objecting to how Texas regulates air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it is taking over the issuance of an operating permit for a Corpus Christi refinery and could step in at some 39 other major facilities across the state.

“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,” EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz said in a telephone interview. “The state is not following federal Clean Air Act requirements.”

At issue here is the process TCEQ uses to permit new industries that contribute to air pollution.  Specifically, these are called “flex permits” and have been roundly criticized by environmentalists and others for being insufficient in protecting human health and safety from dirty air.  During the Bush Administration, the EPA turned a blind eye to these practices, but now are finally giving TCEQ and flex permitting the scrutiny they deserve.

Of interest here is the Sunset Review process that TCEQ will undergo this year and next, giving the Legislature the opportunity to reform the state agency. With EPA showing they are not going to allow the loopholes that flex permitting creates, it is time for TCEQ and lawmakers alike to sunset these specific practices and go about permitting new facilities based on things like… oh, the Clean Air Act.  Because if TCEQ won’t, it certainly looks like EPA will.

Now if only EPA will ask TCEQ to regulate or at least measure emissions of greenhouse gases like the Texas legislature asked TCEQ to do and which they have promised to do in the past?


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Take a look at this op-ed submitted by Public Citizen, EDF, and Sierra Club as commented upon by Burnt Orange Report

The scales of justice may tip toward monied interests

File under “hugely important issue to everyday Texans that most of us know nothing about.” Three prominent pro-citizen activists have been working hard to draw attention to a proposed rule change by the Supreme Court of Texas that would actually increase the ability of anti-consumer special interest groups to influence legislation and regulation here in Texas. SCOTX has proposed allowing lobbyists and special-interest groups to meet privately with state agencies before companies file applications for permits. In other words, Big Money will be able to enter through the back door and make sure they get their approval before the public even knows what’s going on.

This comes at a time when lax regulation and enforcement have led to an unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, when TCEQ has all-but-refused to follow EPA standards, and when state environmental agencies are refusing court orders to provide lawmakers with documents about the very back-door deals the SCOTX is trying to make fair game.

To read more, click here.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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