Current Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) and his challenger for the job, Bill White (D), have recently been distinguishing themselves from one another on the subject of federal government intervention.
Environmental Protection Agency
Last month the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prohibited Texas from providing an operating permit to a Corpus Christi oil refinery. Al Armendariz of the EPA reasoned that, “The state of Texas has to let me know if they can issue permits that are consistent with federal requirements, and if they can’t, then we will.”
Perry, speaking in a Houston suburb on Tuesday responded “Last week, the federal government sent the very clear message that it seeks to destroy Texas’ successful clean air program and threaten tens of thousands of good Texas jobs in the process. “
The EPA itself described its move as unprecedented. The Clean Air Act dictates limits on pollution from individual units within plants that refine of crude oil into gasoline, kerosene, polymers and other plastic-related chemicals, but Texas has been issuing its flexible permits which place limits only on total pollution emitted by the plants. The state has been issuing the permits since 1994.
Former Houston mayor Bill White used the EPA’s threat to take a swipe at the governor. Siding with the federal government, White said, “Rick Perry’s giving a speech today about his own failure. Other governors have been able to keep the authority to enforce the Clean Air Act.”
The EPA’s takeover of environmental enforcement is not the only area in which the federal government has sought rein in the sovereignty and economy of Texas in general and the Houston area specifically.
Early in 2009, President Obama announced the federal government’s plan to shut down NASA’s Constellation program. In an April 2009 speech, the president promised $15 million to help ease the economic impact to laid off contractors and employees of Kennedy Space Center in Florida. To date there has been no such promise, nor even any mention of any assistance to the contractors and employees at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Governor Perry passionately responded, “The message there was: ‘You’re from Texas. We don’t care about you.‘ I tell people this president has put a target on Texas’ back.”
Bill White agreed in a more measured response, emphasizing the need for more details about the plans for Johnson Space Center. White said, “To properly plan and continue to be a leader in NASA’s new future, the Johnson Space Center community needs more details as soon as possible. I’ll encourage more cooperation and open communication between NASA, our congressional delegation, and our JSC family.”
Cap-and-Trade legislation would also have a negative impact on Texas. The proposed legislation would mandate that businesses dramatically reduce emissions. The Congressional Budget Office reports that the effect on employment would be highly significant on industries that produce energy, such as oil and gas extraction and petroleum refining.
Texas is the leading producer of energy in the nation. It produces 23 percent of the nation’s crude oil and and 28 %t of the natural gas. Texas is also home to 25 oil refineries that refine about 25% of al the oil in the U.S
Perry has frequently spoken out against cap-and-trade, citing its potential devastation on the Texas economy.
Bill White’s position is a bit murkier. His spokesperson Katy Bacon denies that White supports such legislation, but a 2008 memo in which White advises Rahm Emanuel and then President-elect Obama on energy policy, could cast doubt on that denial.
To White’s credit, though, the last sentence does warn the administration to “Be wary of policies which could sharply escalate prices rather than lowering total gasoline or power bills.”
Area of Agreement
So far, enforcement of Immigration laws seems to be the only area in which the two candidates agree that the federal government should take total control.