Austin – Air pollution standards for the concrete industry have been seriously weakened during the administration of Texas Governor George W. Bush, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER). At the behest of industry, Governor Bush signed legislation prohibiting the consideration of independent air dispersion computer modeling in permits for concrete plants.
The standards were weakened after citizens in Bulverde, Texas paid experts to conduct air dispersion tests concerning a 1995 permit for a concrete making facility run by Ingram Ready Mix, Inc. The Bulverde tests showed that the Ingram facility would emit an unhealthy amount of particulate matter into the air and that the plant would violate health and safety standards. The tests persuaded the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC) to deny the permit.
A subsequent TNRCC survey of all Texas concrete plants found each one to exceed allowable pollution limits when complete air dispersion modeling was done. Rather than take enforcement action, the TNRCC:
* used air dispersion models that disregarded several sources of air pollution at concrete plants;
* remained silent as industry drafted weak air standards for concrete plants. The industry bill, signed by Gov. Bush, prohibits the use of independent computer air dispersion modeling in hearings involving the plants and prohibits TNRCC from requiring the plants to conduct their own air dispersion modeling before beginning construction.
* approved a plant permit for Ingram in 1999 similar to the permit it vetoed in 1996.
“Under Governor Bush, state pollution regulators have taken a ‘hear no evil, see no evil approach,'” commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. “When a pollution standard inconveniences an industry, Texas simply ‘dumbs down’ the standard regardless of the effect on public health.”