When it comes to the new regional Environmental Protection Agency head, environmental groups are tired of sending pointed letters. Tomorrow, the campaign to dethrone John Hall as the front-running potential nominee for administrator of the EPA's Region 6 (which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana) goes public. Activists from across Texas and representatives from several environmental groups will gather outside the EPA's regional office in downtown Dallas to protest the possible nomination of Hall, whom they claim is a "polluter lobbyist" with ties to waste, energy and petrochemical companies.
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Hall, the former head of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (now the TCEQ), is said to be one of the front-runners for EPA chief Lisa Jackson's pick to lead the EPA's Region 6 office. Since Hall left the TNRCC in 1995, he's worked as a lobbyist for Alon USA, Total Petrochemicals and Waste Management (see pages 12, 377 and 400 of the Texas Ethics Commission's 2009 list of registered lobbyists) -- a fact environmentalists say should disqualify Hall from administering the very organization that's supposed to regulate such companies. This May, the groups sent a letter stating their concerns to all Congressional Democrats, including Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson.
"In our view, [Hall] represents the very problem of industry lobbyists -- often coming out of a revolving door of being a regulator -- having an undue and often corrupting influence over policy-making," the letter reads. It's signed by the some of the same folks who are organizing tomorrow's press conference and protest, including Robin Schneider, the director of Texas Campaign for the Environment.
The letter also alleged that Hall was provided unspecified servi0ces to the Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) -- according to the Austin Chronicle, he lobbied for them, Fina and Diamond Shamrock in the 1990s -- which is currently under investigation for theft and money laundering by the Texas attorney general. In lieu of Hall, some environmental groups are calling for the nomination of SMU professor Al Armendariz to Region 6 administrator; other possibilities are rumored to include former Dallas mayor Laura Miller.
If you've got any feelings, one way or the other, or just want to see a good showdown, head out to the sidewalk in front of the EPA Region 6 headquarters at 1445 Ross Avenue and Field Street tomorrow at 11 a.m.