December 17, 2010
By KATE GALBRAITH
Every politician needs a villain. George W. Bush had Saddam Hussein; Barack Obama had George W. Bush. Gov. Rick Perry has the Environmental Protection Agency, which has had the audacity to order Texas to do more to keep its air clean.
The Obama administration’s E.P.A. has aggressively crossed swords with Texas air-quality regulators — especially since Al Armendariz, a hard-charging academic, took over the agency’s south-central regional office a year ago. The E.P.A. has insisted that the state’s air-pollution permitting system for big plants is too lax. It has told Texas and every other state to prepare for regulation of heat-trapping gases, a hated concept in these parts, where skepticism of global climate change as a man-made phenomenon runs deep.
Last week, the E.P.A. took a swipe at the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and natural gas industry. The commission had failed to act to protect two homes in Parker County where the water wells have been contaminated by gas drilling, the agency said. So it stepped in over the commission and ordered the gas company (which claims no responsibility) to fix things.
Conservatives’ political reaction to all of the above has been outrage. . .
Environmentalists in Texas, of course, applaud the E.P.A. The agency, they say, was weakened during Mr. Bush’s presidency but has gotten its legs back under Mr. Armendariz, a Texas native on leave from his engineering professorship at Southern Methodist University. Before his appointment, Mr. Armendariz appeared in the muckraking film “Gasland,” about natural gas drilling, to criticize the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s main pollution regulator, as being too slack.
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