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Senators versus TCEQ

If there were a competition for the most toothless (least toothful?) state regulatory agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) would surely be a contender for the title, most likely along with the Texas Ethics Commission. It’s gotten bad enough that some Senators are calling out the Governor on this.

Sens. Wendy Davis, Kirk Watson, Rodney Ellis, and Eliot Shapleigh took turns reviewing the litany of TCEQ failures – from potentially illegal meetings between a TCEQ commissioner and Asarco representatives to the denial of public hearings on cement kilns.

Sen. Davis (D-Fort Worth) honed in on the case of Glenn Shankle, the former TCEQ executive director who issued two extremely valuable radioactive waste disposal permits to a company, Waste Control Specialists, that he is now lobbying for.

“Right now industry is having its way with regulators and it needs to stop,” said Davis.

That TCEQ nearly always sides with polluters is not exactly news. The real question is: What are concerned lawmakers going to do about it? The senators promoted their various reform bills but suggested that industry lobbyists had prevented many of them from even getting a hearing. In the absence of significant action from the Lege, the senators are pushing for a thorough house-cleaning directed by the governor, a proposal that is frankly fanciful.

Let’s be honest: Rick Perry has exactly the TCEQ that he wants. Shapleigh calls the problems at TCEQ “systemic and pervasive.” If so, that’s due in large part to Perry’s appointments to the three-member TCEQ commission.

Just remember when you hear Governor Perry blather on about “states’ rights” in front of paltry crowds of true believers that if the state did its job on matters like these that mean ol’ oppressive federal government really would leave us alone. It’s precisely because we have limp noodles like the TCEQ that leads to federal involvement. There’s nothing new or unusual about this – the reason we have federal civil rights laws is because of states like Texas that refused to enforce such protections for their own citizens. Different decade, same story. Kilday Hart has more.

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