An Idea Worthy of Our Consideration

Under current law, EPA can designate states to enforce federal environmental laws if they, in fact, actually enforce the law and run competent programs. Once given by the EPA, rarely is this power taken away from a state.

But when a state doesn't do a good job of enforcing the law or runs a program ineptly, the EPA considers taking back responsibility.That's happened recently in Iowa with the enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources had been heavily criticized by state environmental groups for allowing huge CAFOs – Concentrated Animal and Feeding Operations to pollute the state's waterways. Beginning five years ago, they petitioned the EPA to take direct control of enforcing the Clean Water Act in Iowa. Their petition prompted an EPA investigation. The results confirmed the criticisms of the environmentalists and now the EPA is seriously thinking about stepping in.

Texas environmental groups should take note.

There is plenty of evidence on the public record to suggest Governor Perry and his Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are engaged in an active campaign of "nullification" of federal environmental laws just as Alabama Governor George Wallace was intent on negating federal civil rights legislation and rulings  in the 1960's. But instead of standing in the schoolhouse door, Perry is using the world's second largest environmental agency to slow and obfuscate enforcement of the law in the name of his own over-the-top pro-industry agenda. The penalty for this kind of behavior 50 years ago was having the National Guard and Federal Marshals come into Alabama and make sure the law was followed. All we need in 2012 is for EPA to re-establish competent control over half a dozen federal environmental laws.

And if you don't think our Governor and his environmental agency are so nefarious as to construct a strategy to frustrate federal environmental law enforcement, what about stripping them of their responsibilities strictly because of their incompetence at administrating the federal programs. Take the last DFW air plan.…please. TCEQ kept insisting that the turnover of new cars on the road would almost singe-handedly produce the cleanest air in 25 years in North Texas. Not only was that forecast epically wrong – and off by a larger margin than the TCEQ's last clean air plan failure in 2007 – the plan actually left the region with dirtier air than when it began. It was bad science. Call this incompetence or call it incompetence by design. Either way, the result is the same. The Clean Air Act is not being effectively enforced by the state of Texas.

There are excellent reasons to believe that as long as Governor Perry and his TCEQ acolytes are making the decisions, DFW residents won't be able to breathe safe and legal air. It was obvious to many observers that needed pollution controls for industry didn't get included in the state's 2011 air plan for DFW because it would hinder the Governor's ability to raise money from this sector and it might appear to contradict his anti-regulatory political message. Rumor has it that Perry will run for Governor again in 2014 in order to re-position himself for another try at the Presidency in 2016. DFW's next clean air plan is due from the Perry TCEQ in….2015. As long as Perry has ambitions for higher office, your lungs are doomed

Along with trying to mobilize public opinion and rally local officials, maybe one thing DFW residents should be doing by way of self-defense is preparing a petition to EPA requesting it take over Texas' enforcement of the Clean Air Act.


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