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Thanks to Environmental Regulation Texas Style

Austin...Half of the industrial air pollution in the Dallas/Ft. Worth metropolitan area comes from a single plant that has received extraordinary lenience from Texas state regulators, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER). Texas Industries (TXI) operates one of the nation's largest hazardous waste incinerators, about 30 miles southwest of Dallas, and has dramatically increased its air emissions with the permission of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC). The TNRCC, Texas's primary pollution control agency, is headed by a three member board that includes former TXI lobbyist and spokesman for the Texas Chemical Council, Ralph Marquez, who was appointed to that position by Texas Governor George W. Bush.

Despite smog problems that have caused the Dallas/Ft. Worth air basin to be categorized as an air quality non-attainment area, state officials gave TXI license to more than double their toxic releases into the atmosphere. The TXI cement complex in the tiny town of Midlothian burns hazardous waste as fuel. This combustion process releases a witch's brew of chemicals 11,000 tons of chromium, 7,000 pounds of benzene and 3,000 pounds of toluene are part of the more than 35,000 tons of smog-producing chemicals emitted by the plant each year.

As an older facility, TXI is "grandfathered" (i.e., exempt), under a Texas law sponsored by Governor Bush, from having to meet stringent Clean Air Act requirements. In addition to exemptions for cleaning up existing operations, TXI has been allowed to expand its operations and pollution emissions by the TNRCC.

In spite of promises to recuse himself from dealing on TXI matters, Marquez has acted both officially and behind closed doors on behalf of the facility to extend air pollution permits, raise emission limits and downplay findings of danger to the public health of nearby populations. Marquez was recently quoted by Reuters News Service as saying, "I think the Governor does have a commitment to the environment, though it is one of those areas he doesn't often verbalize."

"If Governor Bush was evidencing his concern for the environment by appointing Ralph Marquez to the TNRCC, then heaven help Texas," commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "TXI is a classic case of inside dealing to perpetrate a monstrous act of environmental malpractice."

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