Forrest Wilder reporting in Texas Observer, May 26, 2010:
Agency Of Destruction
Texas’ environmental commission serves its customers well.
Too bad they’re not the public.
When Texas citizens meet their environmental agency, they’re often disappointed. The stories of environmental battles—told in these pages countless times—frequently follow a similar plot.
First, citizens band together to beat back (fill in the blank: a coal plant, industrial feedlot, uranium mine, or something else of your choosing). New to activism, they educate themselves on the rules, laws and politics. At some point, they probably contact an overwhelmed organization such as Public Citizen or the Sierra Club for help. They form a group with a snappy acronym, print literature, create a website, hold meetings and write their Congress member. After a time, they realize that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is holding the cards. A permit must be stopped or penalties assessed to deter misbehavior. Surely the commission, an impartial arbiter, will weigh the facts and side with the people.
More times than not, a bitter reality sets in: The TCEQ is not the people’s friend, but another obstacle. There’s a “well-founded perception that [the public] can’t get in the process or, even if they get in, it’s just a token effort, and it won’t make any difference,” Soward says.
In TCEQ’s internal lingo, “customers” are the companies the agency regulates. In serving its “customers,” TCEQ has allowed itself to be overrun by powerful interests, shown disregard for both science and the law, and cast aside public opinion.
For complete expose’, please visit:
This, of course, is a familiar story. In New York, we know it well from first-hand, long-term experience with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.