Naked City

Off the Desk

Ann Kitchen must sense that her timing is right. The freshman Democratic state rep from Austin has drafted a bill that would impose safety restrictions on pipelines -- including old pipelines re-permitted to carry a hazardous product. Read: the Longhorn Pipeline, which wends its way through Austin residential neighborhoods, then across stretches of the Edwards Aquifer and the Pedernales River. "The bill will give the state the authority to protect the health and safety of the people who live near the pipelines," Kitchen said. "It will also give the people the ability to say no."

As Kitchen prepared to file her pipeline bill, federal Judge Sam Sparks used some non-judicious language to describe the process the Clinton White House used to override EPA officials who required Longhorn to do an environmental impact study. (The city of Austin opposes the permit.)

After EPA officials argued that the pipeline would have significant impact on the environment and that a complete environmental impact study was needed, the White House Council on Environmental Quality overruled the EPA and ordered a limited environmental impact statement instead. Sparks called advantages the federal government provided Longhorn in the permitting process "disgusting."

On Tuesday, the Statesman's Ralph Haurwitz reported that U.S Fish and Wildlife official David Frederick attended a fundraiser at the invitation of Ben Barnes, the former Democratic lieutenant governor lobbying for Longhorn. Barnes has said the affair is a struggle between two pipeline companies, not a "not in my back yard" environmental fight. Indeed, it was reported last year that one of the groups opposing Longhorn's permit accepted contributions from business interests attempting to get a permit for an alternate Houston-to-El Paso gasoline pipeline.

That's a separate issue, Kitchen said: "My concern is a 50-year-old pipeline they want to use for a more dangerous product. They put new pipe in over the aquifer, but not by the schools. It shouldn't even be running by the schools."

Kitchen expects to file her bill by next week. She said local Republicans Terry Keel and Rick Green, whose districts will be touched by the Longhorn gasoline line, have shown interest in the bill...

The buzz at the Statesman has Ken Herman, who recently moved on to the paper's D.C. bureau, packaging up clips of his coverage of GWB on the campaign trail and sending them to the Pulitzer committee. Herman worked on one Pulitzer team in 1977, when The Lufkin News linked the death of a young Lufkin Marine recruit in simulated hand-to-hand combat to recruiters who altered entrance exams to allow mentally deficient recruits into the service. Several of Herman's colleagues quietly suggest his Bush coverage isn't quite up to that standard. They forget that Henry Kissinger won a Nobel Peace Prize.

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