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Environmentalists say emissions plan lacking

on 1/19/02.

The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission's endorsement of a voluntary greenhouse gas emission reduction plan on Friday has left some environmental groups disappointed.

Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Texas' chapter of Public Citizen, said TNRCC should have demanded "meaningful targets or goals" for emission reductions.

"We're disappointed they did not go further," Smith told the Houston Chronicle for its Saturday editions.

The commissioners directed TNRCC Executive Director Jeff Saitas to expand agency pollution prevention incentive programs to include carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and assist industry in identifying voluntary opportunities to reduce emissions.

The agency also will encourage alternative energy sources such as methane gas from animal feedlots and municipal landfills and promote increased energy efficiency and conservation.

But the commission delayed a staff recommendation to develop and maintain a registry for reporting of greenhouse gas emission reductions. TNRCC Chairman Robert Huston said he wanted to make sure that the data isn't duplicative of other efforts, such as a Department of Energy registration.

The TNRCC had to estimate the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in Texas because only about half the sources report their emissions to a federal or state agency.

Huston said he disagreed with critics who asked for a tougher stand on global warming.

"There is some strong activity imbedded in these programs," he said. "I'm pretty doggone proud of where it measures up on the action list."

The commission listened to about three hours of public testimony Friday, as environmentalists and business community representatives clashed over whether tougher emissions standards would reduce greenhouse gases, which are believed to contribute to global warming.

Environmental groups called for Texas to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gases. A Jan. 14 report by the TNRCC said Texas is responsible for 10 percent of the greenhouse gases released in the United States annually.

But business community representatives said Texas shouldn't take bear most of the responsibility for a problem that is global in nature. Some speakers even disputed evidence that the earth's climate is changing.

The International Panel on Climate Change predicts that 94 percent of all global carbon dioxide emissions come from natural causes.

Peggy Venable, director of Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, said human activities account for only 6 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, and Texas - although contributing one-seventh of the U.S. emissions - contributes one-tenth of 1 percent.

"It appears that we could stop use of fossil fuel and still have no impact on climate change," Venable said.

Thirty percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Texas comes from power plants. Another 30 percent can be attributed to refineries and industries.

About 26 percent of emissions comes from cars, trucks, buses, trains and planes. The remaining gases are emitted from landfills, farms, office buildings and homes.