NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Setting Straight the Record on Pollution in Texas

June 13, 2000

In an April speech, Vice President Al Gore charged that Texas is the "No. 1 most polluted state in America." Going even further, the League of Conservation Voters says Gov. George W. Bush's tenure in Texas led to "worsening air quality and a general governing philosophy that, if applied nationally, would jeopardize three decades of national environmental progress."

Bush's critics cite two misleading pieces of information to support their claims, says NCPA Senior Policy Analyst H. Sterling Burnett: Texas leads the nation in toxic releases, and Houston recently replaced Los Angeles as the city with the nation's "dirtiest" air.

Here are the salient facts:

  • Not surprisingly, Texas did lead the nation in toxic releases since the state leads the nation in chemical processing and oil refining -- but according to the Environmental Protection Agency toxic releases in Texas actually fell by 14 percent between 1995 and 1997, compared with an average 1.5 percent decline for all states.
  • According to the EPA figures, during that period, Texas reduced the amount of toxic chemicals released by 42 million pounds -- more than all the other states combined.
  • Moreover, the toxic release inventory is not a meaningful measure of the risk from chemical releases since it includes shipments of chemicals from one company to another, shipments to a landfill -- even if required by law -- and recycling or reuse of listed chemicals.
  • Also, the EPA considers only the number of pounds of a chemical released -- without regard to its danger.

Bush's environmental defenders point out that he pioneered a voluntary plan that reduced air pollution from industrial plants and utilities in Texas.

Source: H. Sterling Burnett (National Center for Policy Analysis), "Is Lone Star State Nation's Dirtiest? Gore Says Yes, Data Say Otherwise," Investor's Business Daily, June 13, 2000.


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