Colorado County Citizen
By Vince Leibowitz
Original article here
AUSTIN—Officials with Texas Campaign for the Environment, an environmental protection group in Austin that has provided some assistance to area residents in fighting permit applications by Altair Disposal Services to build a hazardous waste dump near Altair, said last week that the Skull Creek debacle is just another example that the agency has failed at exercising its mandate to protect the state’s environment.
Andrew Dobbs, a spokesperson for the group, said that while there are a lot of good people working at the agency, it is “more interested in protecting the status quo and avoiding conflict between members of the public and big polluters than protecting human health and the environment.”
He said Texans saw that this month with the ITC fire near Houston.
“They were telling everyone, ‘nothing to see here, folks,’ and you can look out the window and see the sky and see a black poison cloud hanging above them and know that’s not true,” Dobbs said.
“This is very typical of them,” Dobbs said.
“Just like the folks in Altair can tell you about fighting the landfill site, TCEQ staff and the waste applicants were collaborating and were essentially working on the same side,” he said.
He said that TCEQ misuses its mandate to protect the economic interest of business in the state.
“Everyone recognizes we need a healthy business climate to be prosperous and have a happy, healthy population,” Dobbs said.
“At the same time, if we don’t have water and land that is safe to live off of, we’re not going to have any prosperity to worry about,” he said. “TCEQ has completely gotten off balance on this stuff,” he said.
Dobbs said TCEQ’s top stars go on to be consultants and lobbyists for polluting industry in many instances. He noted that the agency’s former general counsel represented Clean Harbors/ Altair Disposal Services in the recent contested case hearing on their permit application for the proposed Altair hazardous waste dump.
“There is zero revolving door between TCEQ and the environment, and quite a bit between polluting industry, he said.
“Until that is fixed, there will be a lot of skepticism between them and the public on whether or not they are really protecting our environment,” Dobbs continued.
“People in Colorado County know that protecting the environment is not some abstract ideal. It’s protecting property, quality of life, your investments, and livestock and game and other things that every Texan cares about,” he said.
“I understand that we don’t want to go off on the deep end on environmental protection, but we don’t need to be falling off on the other side of the horse,” he said.
He said other states do a far better job with environmental protection than Texas.
“Others states do it better than we do—with no death and destruction,” he said. “We deserve better. We believe the people deserve better. It is time for this agency to step up and make sure people are being protected,” Dobbs said.
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