In a campaign that has been somewhat light on major issues, the Environmental Protection Agency has caused the environment to pop up on the radar.
Thursday, the EPA proposed lowering acceptable smog standards from 75 parts per billion to between 60 and 70 parts per billion — a federal standard that will be difficult for major cities across Texas to meet, putting highway funding at risk and creating potential restrictions to business growth. This comes on the heels of a decision that gave the EPA more authority to go around legislators to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
This plays right into Gov. Rick Perry’s anti-government encroachment theme. “From cap and tax legislation to regulating CO2 to moving ozone targets,” he said, “the Obama Administration seems intent upon following flawed science down a road that will lead to the loss of hundreds of thousands of Texas jobs, while doing nothing more to protect human health.”
Democratic challenger Bill White doesn’t agree with using carbon dioxide regulation as a threat, but says of the recent announcement, “It's ridiculous to suggest that somebody would be targeting Texans with a national health standard."
In Austin last week, White laid out the three things he says need to happen to clean up the air in Texas. The audio is attached. “If you do those three things, you will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and also strengthen our economy,” he said. “If you don’t do those three things, you wont.”
Of his three, the state's role is murkiest with regard to fuel use in vehicles — principally governed by federal fuel economy standards. White says Texas does have the option of adopting a vehicle standard similar to those adopted in other large states — an idea Perry has opposed.
Perry’s campaign says that, even though the population has grown by nearly 3.5 million people, Texas’ air is cleaner than it was when he became governor in 2000 — largely due to the fact that Texas from has installed more wind power than any other state and is a leader in alternative energies, including “solar, biofuel, clean coal, and nuclear efforts.”
If Hutchison becomes governor, Pounder says she would tackle the issue by improving the transportation system to shorten commute times — thus improving fuel efficiency. She would also encourage efforts to allow businesses and individuals to voluntarily be more energy efficient, as well as promoting the development of alternative energies ranging from clean coal to wind to nuclear.
Democrat Farouk Shami says, ""It's politicians like Bill White, Rick Perry and Kay Bailey Hutchison that have neglected our environment for years with political posturing. It's time for Texas to lead on this issue and as governor, I will focus on green, clean and renewable energy initiatives. It's time to stop pointing fingers and just flat out lying about scientific fact and take action to help Texans breathe clean air."
I asked Republican Debra Medina's campaign how she’d approach the issue, but have yet to hear back.