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Déjà Vu: Bush’s Greenhouse Gas Curbs Sound A Lot Like His Ineffective Texas Program

April 16, 2008

Déjà Vu: Bush’s Greenhouse Gas Curbs Sound A Lot Like His Ineffective Texas Program

Voluntary Pollution Controls in Texas Only Reduced Pollution By .25 Percent

AUSTIN, Texas – Nearly a decade after proposing voluntary pollution controls as governor of Texas, President Bush today announced voluntary greenhouse gas reductions for polluters nationwide. However, based on the failure of these policies in Texas, it is doubtful that voluntary emissions caps will achieve the goals Bush has outlined.

Under Bush, Texas began a voluntary program to cut pollution from so-called “grandfathered” polluters, whose combined emissions accounted for more than 37 percent of Texas air pollution. “Grandfathered” plants are industrial sources of air emissions that predate or were under construction when the state’s first major clean air law was enacted in 1971. These plants are not required to meet the permitting, air pollution controls and other environmental protections imposed by that law.

“Out of a total of approximately 1 million tons of pollution emitted by grandfathered plants per year, voluntary programs only reduced emissions by 25,000 tons, or one quarter of one percent,” said Neil Carman of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

A study Carman wrote in 1998 for the SEED Coalition, “Grandfathered Air Pollution: The Dirty Secret of Texas Industries,” detailed the ways in which Bush’s clean air program was ineffective.

“When Bush was governor, he asked polluters to write his plan on how to clean up grandfathered pollution and it failed. This initiative looks like it is based on the same model: Ask polluters what to do, and expect failure,” Carman said.

“We’ve been there, done that, and it didn’t work,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Voluntary emissions controls will work as well for big polluters as a voluntary speed limit would work on the highway.”

Karen Hadden, executive director of the SEED Coalition, said voluntary emission reductions were a failure in Texas and that Bush should have learned from this when he was governor. “Pursuing voluntary reductions won’t get us anywhere and could stall real measures to curb global warming, putting us all at further risk from the very real impacts that are now beginning to unfold,” she said.

“This ‘voluntary’ approach shows the same sort of ‘wait and see’ mentality that has plagued this White House on any number of issues,” said Andy Wilson, global warming organizer with Public Citizen’s Texas office. “We can’t wait for voluntary industry compliance – the time for action is yesterday, and this just underscores the need for real solutions that mandate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Regulation works, while voluntary measures fail.”

To reach Karen Hadden, SEED executive director, call (512) 797-8481. To reach Neil Carman, with the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club, call (512) 477-1729.