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Industry Lobbyist Named as Top Environmental Official

Austin....Under policies initiated by Governor George W. Bush, the state of Texas has promoted the burning of hazardous waste as fuel with adverse public health consequences, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER).

Under Bush, the state of Texas reversed previous policy in order to conduct risk assessments at taxpayer expense to facilitate hazardous waste incineration by cement kilns. Volumes of hazardous waste permitted for burning have nearly tripled from 100,000 tons to 270,000 tons.

Scientists from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, in a review performed for the American Lung Association, found 29 major errors, omissions or unaddressed public health concerns in the official state risk assessment. Despite these concerns, Texas has proceeded with plans to incinerate even more hazardous waste at TXI's cement kiln in Midlothian, Texas.

Ralph Marquez, a consultant to Texas Industries (TXI) and Vice President of Environmental Affairs for the Texas Chemical Council, was Gov. Bush's first appointed commissioner to serve on the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state's chief environmental regulator. Despite earlier promises to recuse himself, in January of 1999, Marquez voted for the issuance of a hazardous waste incineration permit for TXI.

"Industry sets the environmental agenda in Texas — when corporations say ‘jump' our public agencies not only ask ‘how high' but then offer to pay for the jump rope," commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "The pattern of corporate lobbyists being appointed as top environmental officials sets the tone for decision-making based upon self interest rather than public interest and, quite naturally, community health concerns become secondary."

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