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Profile of a Prime Polluter

Austin...Alcoa's aluminum smelter in Rockdale is not only the largest in North America but is also the biggest air polluter in Texas, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER). Located about 30 miles east of Austin, the plant emits more than 60,000 tons of acid rain-producing sulfur dioxide each year free from legal pressure to clean-up due to an extraordinary series of regulatory sweetheart deals with Texas state officials.

Alcoa, whose law firm has poured $300,000 into the presidential campaign of Texas Governor George W. Bush, has benefitted from an array of environmental exemptions:

* Because the plant does not supply to the state's electrical grid, the plant is exempt from even the weak requirements of the state's law governing older "grandfathered" polluters three out of four of Alcoa's powerplants pre-date the 1971 Texas Clean Air Act;

* Under an arrangement negotiated with the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), Alcoa can modify its plant without giving up its exempt "grandfathered" status, a maneuver vigorously opposed by federal regulators; and

* Alcoa has resisted proposed retrofits as too expensive despite more than a billion dollars in profits reported in 1999.

Although the company is a prime candidate for the voluntary pollution reduction program (Clean Air Responsibility Enterprise or CARE) touted by Governor Bush, Alcoa has not submitted an application. Alcoa has, however, used a provision of the CARE program to limit its emission fees to the first 4,000 tons of the more than 100,000 tons of pollutants it emits annually.

"Any examination of the Bush environmental record in Texas should start with Alcoa," commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "Contrary to their slogan, Alcoa CAN wait to upgrade their pollution controls and protect the lungs of Texans."

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TX PEER · P.O. Box 1522; Austin TX · 78767-1522
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