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Issue Analysis

    Issue Analysis 109 - Clearing the Air: The Environmental Record in Texas

    09/22/2000

    Given the dynamics of the 2000 presidential race, special interest groups, politicians, and the media have focused great attention on environmental quality in the state of Texas. Vice President Al Gore and his allies portray Texas as an environmental wasteland, and lay this alleged catastrophe squarely at the feet of Gov. George W. Bush. However, an objective look at the environment in Texas shows that, while there are unquestionably challenges remaining, the state has made significant progress over the past five years.

    Given the dynamics of the 2000 presidential race, special interest groups, politicians, and the media have focused great attention on environmental quality in the state of Texas. Vice President Al Gore and his allies portray Texas as an environmental wasteland, and lay this alleged catastrophe squarely at the feet of Gov. George W. Bush. However, an objective look at the environment in Texas shows that, while there are unquestionably challenges remaining, the state has made significant progress over the past five years. In fact, environmental quality in Texas is as good or better than in many other states in the country.

    In 1995, Texas saw ozone readings soar as a heat wave blanketed the state. Levels of other airborne pollutants reached dramatic levels. Hundreds of millions of pounds of toxic releases were reported on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). In the words of the Sierra Club, former Gov. Ann Richards had left the state a “mess.”

    That Texas faces environmental challenges should come as no surprise. Houston alone has 25 percent of the nation’s refineries and 60 percent of the petrochemical industry, major sources of pollution. Yet even with such a large concentration of industry, environmental conditions have improved significantly since 1995.

    Despite measurable progress, Texas’ environmental record has come under fire from special interest groups, Vice President Gore, and members of the media. These highly partisan criticisms deserve an objective analysis, since they imply that the hard work and sacrifices made by Texans to clean up their state have been in vain.

    Texas has already endured a number of political attacks on its environment this election year, and more are certain to come. The millions of dollars spent on these negative ads and partisan charges will do nothing to help further improve the state or the quality of life for its citizens. Rather then dabbling in political campaigns, those who claim to care about the environment should focus on taking actions that will actually improve the quality of the air, land, and water. Such positive actions would benefit all Texans, and all Americans.

     

    Full Study:

    Citizens for a Sound Economy
    Issue Analysis 109:
    Clearing the Air: The Environmental Record in Texas
    (PDF format, 9 p. 136 Kb)