Texas’ Political Culture Protects ‘Economic’ Interest Over Environment

It was a bit surprising that the EPA finally has taken a stand against the TCEQ’s practices of giving “flexible permits.” Prominent Texas politicians including the governor criticized the action taken by the EPA and once again, Gov Perry used a very important local issue to launch his attacks on the Federal government as part of his re-election campaign. “I don’t understand the federal response of coming in to the state that should be the poster child, should be the model for this country,” Perry said last week at a news conference. He was also quoted by the Houston Press saying, “Last week, the federal government sent the very clear message that it seeks to destroy Texas’s successful clean air program and threaten tens of thousands of good Texas jobs in the process.”  Perry’s claims that our air permitting program is successful is equally as dubious as his claims that we are the poster child for clean air.

Perry’s comments came at the same Texas Congress-members criticized Obama’s decision to issue a moratorium on deep-water drilling for a period that can take longer than six months. Some Congress members, who rank among the highest contribution receivers from the oil and energy industry in general, mentioned that jobs will be affected if such regulation was to take place, “”It’s exactly the wrong decision,” said Joe Barton, a Republican from Arlington, “It’s going to raise unemployment, and it’s going to raise oil prices.”

One must question the sincerity of such comments and whether they truly are accurate or not. The Dallas Morning News in an articled called “Texans in Congress say drilling support not tied to campaign donations” showed records that were obtained from Center for Responsive Politics that show how many contributions were received by Texas Congressmen:


SOURCE: Center for Responsive Politics

A look at oil industry donations to members of Congress from Texas:
Member Oil/gas industry donations Rank*
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison $2.1 million 1
Sen. John Cornyn $1.6 million 3
Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington $1.4 million 1
Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland $651,718 1
Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas $642,864 2
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth $612,807 1
Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Rockwall $529,468 3
Rep. Kevin Brady, R-The Woodlands $445,697 1
Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Lubbock $440,772 1
Rep. John Culberson, R-Houston $423,561 1
Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco $409,698 9
Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Plano $393,700 3
Rep. Lamar Smith , R-San Antonio $391,147 2
Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston $374,113 5
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon $351,480 1
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler $257,063 3
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas $232,650 10
Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi $220,432 2
Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land $216,300 1
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Humble $208,450 3
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin $207,734 6
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville $195,246 3
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson $178,632 17
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston $173,525 6
Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock $164,150 5
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo $157,350 4
Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio $143,500 7
Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell $139,750 1
Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Mercedes $98,084 9
Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, D-San Antonio $96,500 13
Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso $83,350 12
Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin $51,730 n/a
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas $32,875 n/a
Rep. Al Green, D-Houston $26,400 13
NOTE: Tally includes donations from political action committees and individuals starting in 1989, for the lawmaker’s first year in office if later than 1989.
* Rank indicates where the oil industry ranked among the top industries to donate to a lawmaker. N/A means the oil industry wasn’t among the top 20 givers to that lawmaker.


These numbers are staggering and if you want to bet that those massive contributions don’t alter or affect the decisions of those politicians, I have some beachfront property in Arizona I’d like to sell you. Will any of these politicians stand up against the polluters? It seems, instead, as if the people who are supposed to protect us from those polluters are in bed with those from which we are to be protected– while the well-being of Texans doesn’t seem to be their concern.  Larry Soward, a former TCEQ commissioner who was appointed by Perry said, “We have a culture at the agency and in the state that economic interests are more protected … than the environment.” It should be noted that Soward is now helping Texas environmentalists in their fight to reform the TCEQ.

Without regulating such industries, our health will be at risk and also, opposite to what Texas Politicians say, not regulating such industries is what can negatively affect the Texas economy and employment. The BP spill, for example, has put under threat more than 15 national parks and wildlife which will potentially affect tourism in the state which is important revenue for Texas and it can jeopardize the jobs of many shrimpers, fishers, and many others in the seafood industry. It is time for Texas politicians to work in the interest of Texans, not in the interest of big business. Texas can use clean energy which can bring many more jobs to Texas, it will also ameliorate our health by providing a cleaner environment.