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Thursday, November 18, 1999 - BUSH CONTRIBUTORS IMMUNIZED FOR POLLUTION VIOLATIONS

Austin....Campaign contributors to Governor George W. Bush were nearly three times as likely as non-contributors to receive immunity from prosecution for pollution violations under the Texas "environmental audit privilege" law, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER). Corporations pushing for relief from the prospect of environmental prosecution have contributed millions of dollars to Bush campaigns and account for almost half of all the immunities granted thus far.

Since the 1995 passage of the audit privilege law, one of Governor Bush's earliest environmental initiatives, 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."

Companies affiliated with campaign contributions to Governor Bush filed just 17 percent of all privileged audits but account for fully 48 percent of all requests for immunity from prosecution, according to records compiled by Texas PEER.

"Money talks in Texas but under the audit immunity law it can also buy silence," commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers, noting that state environmental employees are forbidden from revealing the contents of corporate audits. "One of the most troublesome aspects of this law is that even the victims of pollution — the families and communities of ordinary Texans— cannot learn what the companies have done under the veil of privilege."



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