March 30, 1999
Bush ‘CAREs’ for Big Air Polluters

Austin — The much-touted program that invites some of Texas’ biggest air polluters to voluntarily install modern pollution controls on their filthy old “grandfathered” industrial plants suffers from an appalling lack of accountability.

The Governor’s Office claims that the so-called Clean Air Re-sponsibility Enterprise (CARE) Program will reduce Texas’ 893,189 tons a year of grandfathered air pollution by 100,000 tons (11 percent). Significantly, however, the Governor cannot say when Texans might breathe easier as a result of CARE.

New Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) data reveal that CARE air pollution reduction pledges that include any kind of compliance deadline will eliminate just 29,975 tons of pollution. This is less than three percent of Texas’ annual load of grandfathered pollution and accounts for less than one-third of the amount of progress that the Bush administration claims for CARE.
Such deadline-deficient, open-ended commitments are hardly commitments at all.

Of the 121 grandfathered industrial sites that have enrolled in CARE, just nine sites (7 percent) provided estimates of:

The other 112 sites listed in the program have failed to commit to both of these key criteria. These commitments have all the accountability of a pipe dream.

TNRCC data reveal that only 68 of the 121 participating grand-fathered sites (56 percent) provided the TNRCC with any estimate of the amount of pollution reductions that their CARE participation might yield (these estimates add up to a total of 117,271 tons). Those CARE participants who volunteered any hint of a compliance deadline estimated that they would reduce their pollution by a total of 29,975 tons.

A recent CARE study by the Environmental Defense Fund, “Too Little, Too Late,” found that CARE participants have so far delivered just 3,602  tons of pollution reduction.

House and Senate panels are debating responses to the grand-father problem this week. Governor George W. Bush, his TNRCC appointees and the heads of key legislative environmental committees endorsed the CARE program as if it were a credible way to rein in grandfathered polluters, who spew 36 percent of the state’s industrial emissions. The Governor’s Office calls CARE the crown jewel of the Governor’s environmental policy.

Under a gaping loophole in the 1971 Texas Clean Air Act, industrial plants existing at that time were “grandfathered” out of the obligation to obtain regula-tory permits, a process that typically requires the use of modern pollution controls. Almost 30 years later, the CARE program invites grandpa polluters to voluntarily permit their facilities—even though these same polluters have squandered the 30 years they have had to do just that.•

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