At a time when in much of the US we are facing the most significant heat waves in decades, global temperature averages have shown 2010 to be the hottest year ever in recorded history, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration / Climactic Data Center just released its most comprehensive report on climate change which may as well have been called “It’s Real and It’s Here: NOW!”, and droughts, heatwaves, and wildfires are causing Armageddon-like conditions around Moscow, causing even the global warming denying Russian government to capitulate to the scientific consensus….. Even with all of that, it would seem like an odd time for the state of Texas to send a shot across the EPA’s bow, insulting them and goading them into a fight over Texas carbon emissions and the Clean Air Act.
But yet they have.
Monday August 2nd the state of Texas sent a letter to the EPA (original can be downloaded here) informing them that we would no longer be complying with the Clean Air Act, specifically provisions relating to the regulation of greenhouse gases. This letter signed by Attorney General Greg Abbott and TCEQ Commissioner Bryan Shaw is full of bluster and short on reasoned legal arguments with any real merit.
What it really remind me of is one of my favorite paintings, Запорожцы пишут письмо турецкому султану or, Zaprozhe Cossacks Writing a Letter to the Turkish Sultan by Ilya Repin. (For comparison’s sake, I would highly recommend following that link to read the text of the Cossack’s letter– it has language saltier than anything else I’ve heard this side of South Park) I just can’t help think of the unabashed joy that must’ve coursed through the veins of the Atty General and TCEQ Commissioner as they drafted this, using phrases like
“You’ve called upon each state to declare its allegiance to the Environmental Protection Agency”
“To encourage acquiescence with your unsupported findings you threaten to usurp state enforcement authority and to federalize the permitting program of any state that fails to pledge their fealty to the EPA”
and the kicker…
“On behalf of the state of Texas, we regret to inform you that Texas has neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring, or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions.”
You know, Greg Abbott and Bryan Shaw– on behalf of me and my family, you have no authority to speak for me because I think you’re dead wrong. And it looks like you’re misrepresenting Texas attitudes about climate change, which generally show more people in favor of strong action (even adopting the dreaded “cap and trade”) than against.
And this whole “we refuse to bow before the EPA” act is so much…. well, I try to keep the blog here PG-rated, so I can’t use the word I’m thinking, so let’s instead say “baloney.” The EPA isn’t some foreign invader trying to get us to change our ways. They’re federal employees doing a job trying to make sure people don’t get sick from pollution. They’re people who try to get rogue states like Texas to comply with federal laws that have been on the books as long as I’ve been alive.
As to the substance of their arguments in the letter, there isn’t much. Any time a letter from a lawyer starts with bluster and bombastic language, it’s because the case they’re presenting isn’t very strong. If their legal case were strong, they would lead with that.
In fact, their case is quite weak. This is, after all, about implementing the FEDERAL Clean Air Act, one of the most successful environmental laws ever written—a law which every other state in our nation complies with- which the Feds have always left to the states to implement, as long as they did so within the law. Regardless of what assertions they are making about state law and rulemaking, this is about implementation of settled federal law. Last I checked in Article VI of the Constitution, federal law is still the Supreme Law of the Land… but perhaps they skipped that part in Constitution-lovin’ class where they skipped right over to the 10th amendment.
Regardless, the Supreme Court made this an issue themselves, when they ruled on April 2, 2007 in Massachusetts v EPA that EPA needs to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. This has been a long time coming and for Texas to feign shock and outrage is indicative of the worst kind of mismanagement and bureaucratic foot-dragging, or worse, political pandering. And for Texas to start yelling “states rights!” when giving reasons to not comply with a Supreme Court decision smacks of the worst portions of our history as a country, and points to a legacy of intolerance and despair. We are better than that– or at least we should be.
On a broader scale, Texas is derelict in their duties to protect the life and health of not only Texans, but in putting the entire planet in danger from catastrophic runaway climate change. Texas, as the 8th largest polluter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, must either act or doom future generations to manmade climate disruption. Governor Perry and his cronies think the best way to deal with problems is to pretend they don’t exist and then childishly and churlishly blame the Federal Government for following the law.
But when all is said and done, this isn’t about Texas vs the EPA or Texas vs Washington: those are political frames designed by political hacks to try to win elections. This is about protecting the climate, this is about clean air for Texas families and children, and protecting our natural resources in a responsible manner.
We need less crass political partisanship and more hard work to solve the very real problems we face.
We need fewer Cossacks and more constructive dialogue from our leaders.
By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.