Texas House Declaws Enviro Commission, Makes Fighting Pollution That Much Harder

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Frackers, oil companies, plastics makers, wastewater managers -- more or less anyone who spews a little shit into our midst in order to keep things running around here has dumped some money into the lap of Rep. Warren Chisum, the Republican from Pampa heretofore known for his fight against gay marriage. This week, Chisum is doing his part to repay them, ushering an amendment through the state House that will make it considerably more difficult for communities to keep polluters from overdoing it.

The bill in question, which passed the House on Tuesday, technically keeps the state's already impotent environmental regulator, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, in place. But an amendment offered by Chisum makes sure the commission won't have to do too much work when doling out permits to potential polluters.

Currently, if someone files an objection to a permit application before the commission, it's up to the applicant to prove that it will follow the state's not-exactly-powerhouse regulations. It's a setup that makes sense, since the companies applying for the permits typically stand to make truckloads of money off of them, and the opposition typically stands to gain very little, unless you count the extra arm the growing out of Little Jimmy's back.

But under Chisum's amendment, the burden of proof will shift to whoever's contesting the permit -- often surrounding communities that don't have the resources prove their case. "This bill is one small step for the Texas House, and one giant leap for Texas polluters," Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, told the Associated Press. "Texans will feel the effects of this bill -- literally."

It wasn't the only amendment Chisum slipped into the bill: From the Statesman:

Another successful Chisum amendment cuts fees imposed on the delivery of petroleum products. The fee cuts would slice $7 million a year from a pool of money used to remediate pollution related to underground storage tanks, but Chisum said it would ultimately save drivers from pass-through costs at the gas pump.

The bill passed the House and is expected to breeze through the Senate, so it's not like Chisum's riding solo on this declawing mission. But it's no surprise he's the lead missionary, considering the generosity of energy interests and other polluters, which were responsible for a good third of the $100,000 he raised in the second half of last year alone.

You scratch my back, I'll make sure you have more money with which to scratch it. That's the saying, isn't it?

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