1999 - BUSH
POLICY SHIELDS 1,000 POLLUTION VIOLATIONS
240 Texas companies have obtained immunity from prosecution for more
than 1,000 environmental violations under the "environmental audit
privilege" law championed by Governor George W. Bush, according to
documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (Texas PEER). Texas state environmental employees are
forbidden from disclosing secret corporate audit results, even when
the violations have public health implications.
Since the 1995 of the audit privilege law, one of the earliest environmental
initiatives of Gov. Bush, 242 companies have filed 1,040 privileged
internal audits with the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission
(TNRCC). Texas corporations averaged more than four environmental
violations in each privileged filing. Under the Texas law, corporations
are protected from prosecution for violations they "self report."
Another hallmark of Texas audit immunity law is secrecy — filings
are treated as confidential by TNRCC and may not be released to the
public. Supporters of the law claim secrecy is needed to minimize
the "potential for adverse community reaction" when corporations admit
the extent of environmental violations or the public health impacts
become known. Similarly, TNRCC employees may face legal jeopardy or
discipline for releasing corporate audit filings.
Companies affiliated with campaign contributions to Governor Bush
filed just 17 percent of all privileged audits but account for fully
38 percent of all requests for immunity from prosecution, according
to records complied by Texas PEER.
NOTE: More on polluter immunity. Next week, we list the corporations
who have escaped prosecution and the extent of their financial gratitude.
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· P.O. Box 1522; Austin TX ·
441-4941 · txpeer@PEER.org