News that Gets My Goat
From today’s Chronicle:
“The Texas attorney general would be able to settle environmental lawsuits filed by cities and counties without input or approval from local officials, under a bill backed by business interests that is scheduled for a hearing in Austin on Tuesday.
“A second bill would bar cities and counties from hiring outside lawyers if they are to be paid from winnings to help fight costly environmental cases aimed at extracting penalties from polluters.
“Together the bills, to be heard before the House Environmental Regulations Committee, effectively would limit local governments' ability to pursue environmental claims against deep-pocketed companies accused of causing significant environmental damage requiring expensive cleanups, according to county and municipal attorneys across the state. The bills are being carried by state Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Garland.”
“Environmental groups are questioning the Texas environmental agency's proposal to remove from its pollutant watch list a chemical that figured prominently in a massive release that led to more than 48,000 claims for damaged health.
“The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is considering removing benzene and hydrogen sulfide from its air pollutant watch list for Texas City, saying monitoring stations in 2009 and 2010 recorded significant drops in emissions.
“During 40 days in 2010, however, the former BP refinery, now owned by Marathon, belched more than 538,000 pounds of gases into the air. The release included at least 17,371 pounds of benzene, the third largest release of that chemical in Texas from 2009-11. Environmentalists say this makes the decision to remove benzene from the watch list questionable.”
-Well, as Rick Perry is fond of saying, “the State of Texas is open for business.” These foxes really resent anything getting in the way of their running the henhouse. Texas cities have had to take polluters to court because the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is an unabashed flackcatcher for industry. Now industry would have relief from even that feeble channel for monitoring and regulation. And benzene! A toxicological revue prepared by the Harvard School of Public Health in 1948 for the American Petroleum Institute (!) states that "it is generally considered that the only absolutely safe concentration for benzene is zero."