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Greens Want Texas Clean

The Alliance for a Clean Texas, a broad statewide environmental coalition, met Tuesday at the Capitol to announce their "four steps to a cleaner Texas." The 27-member body is a melting pot of organizations including fishermen, religious leaders, doctors, and consumer and environmental groups. Among their legislative priorities, ACT called for an increase to the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard, which mandates the percentage of energy generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and biomass. Since pioneering a successful RPS in 1999, Texas now has one of the nation's least ambitious goals: 5% by 2015 and 10% by 2020. ACT is advocating 10% by 2015, 20% by 2020.

Also announced were recommendations to reform Texas' regulations on air pollution, advocating further tightening of power plant emission standards to limit nitrogen oxides and sulfurs, and implementing new controls for toxic mercury pollution. Dr. Kimberly Carter of Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility reinforced ACT's objective to change Texas' designation as the country's No. 1 producer of mercury pollution from coal-burning power plants. She noted a multitude of childhood illnesses, ranging from asthma to cerebral palsy, directly attributed to mercury exposure. Karen Hadden of Austin's SEED coalition cited an estimated 1,100 premature deaths in Texas in 2004 linked to coal particulate pollution.

A reorganization of the state's haphazard water conservation and development laws, specifically giving locally elected governments the power to protect their water resources, was one of ACT's central recommendations. Pepper Morris with Guardians of Lick Creek recounted the "near tragic experience of development in Western Travis County" that recently threatened the historic creek.

Citing a state auditor's report that found that polluters, on average, are allowed to keep 81% of the money they earn by breaking environmental laws, ACT demanded that the 79th Legislature increase Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's enforcement budget, "leveling the playing field for law-abiding businesses," by requiring TCEQ to recover any "economic benefit" derived by polluters who break the law. ACT hopes to make the agency aggressive beyond new internal recommendations finalized this month, aimed at making the enforcement process more meaningful. Texas Public Interest Research Group's Luke Metzger, who has led efforts to create stronger TCEQ reins on polluters, said "the recommendations are good, but disappointingly minor changes that abdicate responsibility of the key issues." Those issues, he said, are halting the economic benefits of polluting in Texas and speeding up the timeline on bringing the state's heaviest polluters into compliance.

More info about ACT can be found at

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