NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 6, 2010

Two federal notices arriving soon will read like dense legalese.  Stripped of jargon, they'll actually deliver powerful environmental messages for Texas, says the Dallas Morning News.

  • One, expected to be announced as early as today, will say that nearly every Texan breathes dirty air, far more of the population than previously believed; that will force Texas officials to find more ways to cut pollution.
  • Another will say that Texas officials have let too many toxic chemicals fill the air through a permit system that ducked public scrutiny and skirted federal law; that conclusion is forcing changes in how the state regulates its biggest industries.

For decades, national environmental activism has crashed into Texas' go-slow policies.  Now the Obama administration wants much more action from Texas on clean air.  To some, it's an unprecedented and unfair use of federal muscle.

"It's just an approach that is -- I'm sorry to use the word, but hostile," said Kathleen Hartnett White. She's a former chairwoman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under Gov. Rick Perry.

"This is far bolder than anyone can remember on any issue at any time," says White, now a fellow at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin think tank.

White said she suspects that predominantly Republican Texas might be a White House target.  "Call it paranoia if you'd like to -- Texas paranoia," she says.

Texas has a particular stake in the new administration's first-year flurry, says the News:

  • The state burns more coal and emits more carbon dioxide than any other.
  • It supplies the nation with oil, gas and chemicals.
  • And it has millions of people breathing dirty air.

H. Sterling Burnett, a Senior Policy Analyst with the National Center for Policy Analysis sees a return to the federal environmental dictates of the early 1970s.

That era, with Republicans Richard Nixon and then Gerald Ford in the White House, produced the EPA and most major U.S. environmental laws.  It was, Burnett said, a time of mistrust of states.

"The perception was that the states were too slow to act," says Burnett.  "It's the belief that Washington knows best.  They know what the problems are, and the rubes out in Middle America don't."

Source: Randy Lee Loftis, "EPA rulings could force pollution cuts in Texas," Dallas Morning News, January 6, 2010.

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