Involuntary Victimization by ‘Voluntary Compliance’

Those of us who have fought against the end of real environmental protections saw it coming a long time ago, when the worst president ever (Bush) was governor of Texas. With backing from corporate welfare advocates, the air pollution controls in our state were eliminated. Polluting industries were given freedom to poison us all, under the ruse that they were going to clean up the air voluntarily.

Masquerading as pro-business was and still is the tactic used by criminal corporate interests that controlled Texas, then the U.S., over far too many years. Voluntary compliance was its weapon of mass pollution; reporting was done by the industry doing the pollution instead of by any controlling authority. Needless to say, the polluters found the air quality quite amenable for their purposes. Districts where polluters were located were enlisted involuntarily to fight, literally, for every breath.

In Pasadena, TX, a famous case was brought against a Crown Central Petroleum plant by Texans United and a number of environmental action groups and finally won after citizens near Crown’s facilities had suffered many years of foul air emitted by the Pasadena refinery.

The appeals court specifically rejected Crown’s argument that the TNRCC’s orders were an adequate enforcement response, stating that:

Texan United’s lawsuit is based on the premise that the 1998 [TNRCC] Agreed Order does not go far enough to ensure that Crown will not violate federal emission standards in the future. The summary judgment evidence [presented by Texans United] supports this premise.

“The TNRCC, under Governor Bush, tried to block and sabotage citizen efforts to get Crown to clean up its act,” said Neil Carman, Clean Air Director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “Now citizens will finally have their day in court to seek the comprehensive remedy that TNRCC should have required years ago.”

“Crown’s violations have continued because TNRCC has been in bed with the company,” said Texans United Director Rick Abraham. “TNRCC let Crown continue its violations for years until citizens took action to protect themselves. Then it let Crown off the hook with an inadequate administrative order and left residents to continue breathing Crown’s illegal pollution.” Crown was one of ten companies that, in November of 1997, joined Governor Bush’s well-publicized “voluntary compliance” program to reduce air pollution from older facilities like Crown’s. TNRCC recommended Crown for a “Clean Air Action” award in June 1998 that said that “we’re breathing easier thanks to you.” According to Abraham, “Crown got a sweetheart deal” from TNRCC because it helped Governor Bush promote his program. (Emphasis added.)

No wonder that the meeting in Copenhagen finds air pollution worse than is reported:

Emissions of some greenhouse gases are substantially higher than companies and countries report, say scientists.

The previous administration lasted eight years and opposed meaningful efforts to clean up the air. It continued fouling the air we breathe by calling for voluntary compliance on the part of polluters, policies that resulted in involuntary suffering on the part of the rest of us.

The criminal intent of the administration during the bad years of 2001-2008 was responsible for pollution of our system in many ways. Cleaning up the residues is our involuntary contribution to the justice and representation we were denied for those years.

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