This week’s revelations regarding the test results the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality presented to the city of Fort Worth about toxic emissions from gas wells drew sharply different responses from Gov. Rick Perry and Democratic challenger Bill White.
The state agency gave inaccurate results to the Fort Worth City Council in January and when it realized the error, failed to notify the city or the public for weeks.
The news has sparked calls for a Justice Department investigation and new state legislation punishing state officials for purposefully concealing information.
“The governor has confidence in TCEQ’s oversight of our state’s air quality,” Perry spokesman Allison Castle said. “He expects the agency to provide accurate and timely information to the public, lawmakers and local officials concerning the Barnett Shale air emissions data.”
White’s campaign said the TCEQ’s mistake falls on Perry.
“The fact that the TCEQ didn't even bother to let Fort Worth know about a mistake shows that Rick Perry is failing to ensure state agencies are accountable to Texans,” White campaign spokeswoman Katy Bacon said. “We need a governor who understands the oil and gas industry and who will be accountable to Texas taxpayers.”
The situation may seem like deja vu to White, the former mayor of Houston, who had an extended public spat with TCEQ for months over whether chemical plants and refineries were polluting Houston’s air.
“The TCEQ has been a failure for years,” Bacon said. “When Bill White realized Houstonians couldn't count on the TCEQ to figure out what toxic chemicals were in our air, he took matters into his own hands to measure and analyze independently."
Bacon said levels of cancer-causing benzene and butadiene in the city's air dropped under White.
We have responses from other elected officials over at our Barnett Shale blog.