Mega pet-coke is a mega problem

This guest post courtesy of Daniel Lucio from Corpus Christi.

It’s no secret that Corpus Christi is viewed as an industrial city. What they don’t tell you is that these industries have abandoned local work forces and destroyed our natural resources. In our city the largest employers are not the oil or port industry, it’s the hospitals. Seriously, you can check the statistics. And there is a reason for it. Near our industrial port, where minorities and low-income families are relegated to because of low housing prices, Corpus has some of the highest asthma, birth defect, and cancer rates in the state.

During our recent TCEQ Sunset Review town hall meeting, some of our citizens had the opportunity to openly voice their frustration with an agency that has systematically failed to protect the people of Corpus Christi, in everything from water safety to air pollution. One story that stood out among others was that of Tom Thomas and Mariah Boone. Tom is a teacher, Mariah a social advocate, both full time parents of two wonderful daughters living the Texas dream in Corpus Christi.

Unfortunately that dream includes his older daughter developing an asthma problem that worsens when the winds blow industrial emissions back toward the city. Did I tell you that Corpus is also known as the “Real Windy City”? Seriously, check it out on Wikipedia. With the advent of a new mega pet-coke facility being built in the city, Las Brisas Energy Center, they are concerned for the health and future of their daughters. And who decides whether this plant, which will (by their own estimates) increase pollutants in the area by 82%, will get built or not? Three TCEQ commissioners sitting in an office in Austin will have final say. Not the administrative Judges or the TCEQ’s own public council, both of whom have recommended that the plant not be permitted. Does this sound like a system working for the people?

I will say this, having worked with our local TCEQ on a variety of issues. Our local office is filled with people who truly care about keeping people and the environment safe. But ask anyone of them if they think that we are adequately protecting our community, and they will tell you ‘No’. As people, they can only do so much before the policies of an industry friendly TCEQ, and the decisions of an industry friendly Commissioner take away their ability to protect us.

Texas is not taking care of Mariah Boone’s daughters. Texas is not taking care of its citizens, period. It’s about time to do something about it, and it starts with the TCEQ Sunset Process.

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