THE BIG CONVERSATION:
Let's just call it this season's other knock-down drag-out political fight.
In the latest battle of the pollution wars, the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday moved to, as expected, revoke the state's air pollution permitting system, which the EPA has said violates federal air standards and environmentalists have alleged allows facilities to hide polluting practices.
The fight, a textbook case of states' versus federal rights, has engaged virtually the entire state political establishment, pitting environmentalists and Democrats against businesses and Republicans. And it again worked its way into the governor's race Wednesday, with Rick Perry using the episode to tie opponent Bill White to regulatory efforts (or, Washington) and White carefully looking to attack Perry's environmental policies without leaning on displays of support for the Obama administration. On Wednesday, Perry called on the federal government to "rein in this rogue agency, and stop the EPA from continuing to threaten Texas families, their jobs and cost of living." White retorted, "Instead of solving a problem that he was alerted to by the Bush administration, Perry created a confrontation with the EPA in order to write new chapter in his book about the federal government."
As for the permit removal and its immediate effects on the state's plants and refineries, the Tribune's Kate Galbraith reports that, so far, it's all a bit unclear:
The big question now is "how heavy EPA wants to be in rectifying those individual permits," said Matthew Tejada, the executive director of Air Alliance Houston, an environmental advocacy organization. For example, he said, the EPA could issue notices of violation against the affected plants, take over the permitting program from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or fine Texas for having an illegal program. Joe Hubbard, a spokesman for the EPA region that includes Texas, said that the agency was adding staff to aid the transition to a stiffer regulatory regime.
- Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has appointed the 11-member Senate Select Committee on Redistricting, set to tackle what is sure to be one of the next legislative session's most contentious issues. Why the appointments so early? "Redistricting is too important an issue for the Senate to wait until the legislative session to begin addressing," Dewhurst said, according to the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, will chair the committee and represent West Texas, which is expected by most, because of population decreases, to lose seats after lines are drawn.
- Emotionally disturbed foster children are often shipped across the state for treatment in residential centers, an official told lawmakers at a hearing Wednesday.
- As Gov. Rick Perry's campaign touts raising $1 million in 24 hours, the Bill White camp is directing attention to a February Dallas Morning News story.
"I'm all for Texas turning blue, but not like this." — Hector Uribe, Democratic candidate for Texas land commissioner, after performing CPR and resuscitating a collapsed jogger near the state Capitol on Wednesday
Obama ridicules Barton over BP apology — The Dallas Morning News
Democrats ask tough questions at gambling forum — San Antonio Express-News
Texans can apply for U.S. health insurance pool — Austin American-Statesman
Shootout in Juárez, bullets in El Paso — The Associated Press