Washington, DC – The recent hullabaloo over the Bush administration’s cozy relationship with energy companies is reminiscent of the way Bush, as governor, conducted business in Texas, according to documents compiled by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Back in the Lone Star state, after receiving more than $900,000 in campaign contributions from energy, chemical and other polluting companies, Governor George W. Bush allowed lawyers and lobbyists from those companies to write drafts of agency decisions and administration-sponsored legislation.
PEER has assembled more than 40 examples of this f influence peddling on environmental policy and enforcement during Bush’s term as governor, including:
Exempting Oldest and Biggest Air Polluters from Clean-up: Under consultation from the state’s biggest industries, Governor Bush vigorously fought the elimination of legal loopholes, called grandfathering, to exempt industrial plants in operation or in the process of being built from complying with Texas environmental laws. According to the state regulatory agency, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC), these plants contribute 903,800 tons of pollutants a year — 36% of the state’s industrial total.
Voluntary Pollution Controls: The Bush administration developed a “voluntary” pollution abatement policy and dismantled its traditional enforcement program. The program was developed through a series of closed-door meetings with representatives from the oil and gas industry. Only after the industries agreed to the policy was the process opened to public comment, but by then the outcome had been determined. The voluntary plan formed the basis of the state’s regulatory policy.
Immunity for Polluters: In May,1995, Governor Bush signed into law legislation written by Bush supporter and Texas Chemical Council lobbyist Kinnan Goleman. The law created sweeping protections for polluters who performed internal environmental or safety audits at their businesses. Texas law made such audits “privileged” even from use in criminal prosecutions, and polluters could not be held responsible for violations discovered in these privileged audits.
Re-writing Superfund Policy: In 1997, the Texas Legislature passed legislation that limited the liability of the owners of polluting facilities. The law was drafted by a TNRCC-led working group made up of representatives of polluting industries and a few local government officials. Not a single representative from the environmental community participated in the working group.
“President Bush hasn’t outgrown his reliance on corporate lobbyists to frame his policies,” stated PEER’s National Field Director, Eric Wingerter. “The keys to the oval office should not be sold to the highest bidder.”