Second Try: TCEQ Asked for Opinion on Asarco Prosecution
by Sito Negron
Posted on December 21, 2007
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality refused this week to explain its letter to County Attorney Jose Rodriguez, and on Friday Rodriguez's investigator sent the TCEQ a letter asking the agency to clarify its position.
In October, Rodriguez asked the state environmental agency to review the possibility of criminal charges against Asarco stemming from alleged violations in the "transportation, storage, and disposal of hazardous wastes."
Read the background here. [npt oct. 29]
The TCEQ responded Dec. 17. [tceq letter]
NPT attempted to clarify the meaning of the letter, and was told by a TCEQ spokeswoman that the agency would not comment further. When pressed for an answer why the agency would not find it in the public interest to clarify its actions, the spokeswoman responded: "What the executive director said (in the letter) is what we're going to say."
State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, who has pressured the TCEQ to justify its actions in regards to regulating Asarco, in response to a request for comment on the TCEQ refusal to explain its letter, said that the agency is failing its responsibility. [npt background]
“I am very disappointed in TCEQ. Back in the 70’s the agency was created as steward for clean air and clean water. Instead, in El Paso, Dallas, Waco, Houston and the Gulf Coast, the TCEQ is now the protector of polluters.”
That sentiment was expressed in a Dallas Morning News editorial Dec. 2, which addressed the agency's opposition of EPA 's proposal for tougher ozone standards: "The commission's current and former chairmen, its executive director and its chief engineer all have fought new pollution limits. The clean-air agency's apparent opposition to cleaner air reveals how far off-track this bastardized agency has veered.
"If the TCEQ is committed to protecting business interests, perhaps that should be its new directive. Then state leaders could create an agency that actually focuses on environmental quality." [dmn editorial]
The Friday letter from Bruce Manvell, the investigator for the County Attorney's office, cites Texas Water Code 7.203 in asking the TCEQ, in writing, to determine whether criminal prosecution against Asarco is warranted, and to explain why or why not. (See letter via link below)
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