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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
EPA Air Pollution Plan Sparks Reactions
Wednesday, June 11, 2014 • Posted June 12, 2014

AUSTIN — The Obama administration on June 2 publicized what it termed “the first-ever plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.”

The plan, a set of proposed actions to be administered by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, states that, “cutting carbon emissions will help prevent up to 6,500 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks among children.”

In a news release of his own, Gov. Rick Perry reacted, saying, “President Obama’s decision to impose drastic new restrictions on America’s energy industry is the most direct assault yet on the energy providers that employ thousands of Americans and fuel both our homes and our nation’s economic growth.”

The Obama administration further stated the plan would “reduce electricity bills by approximately 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system, while creating tens of thousands of jobs across the country.”

But Perry said the air Texans breathe today “is cleaner than it was in 2000, even as our population has grown by nearly 5.2 million people” and “statewide, from 2000 to 2012, nitrogen oxide levels from industrial sources were reduced by 62.5 percent and from 2000 to 2012 ozone levels were reduced by 23 percent, a 12 percent greater reduction than the national average.”

However, the Obama administration pointed out that governors would have “flexibility to meet the proposed standards using the energy sources that work best for each state” and, “there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here.”

Along with its plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants, the White House posted a fact sheet for Texas and one for each of the other states. The Texas fact sheet includes details under such headings as: A Cleaner More Efficient Power Sector in Texas, Improving the Health of Texas Residents, and Cutting Carbon Pollution in Texas.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, praised the Obama administration’s proposed EPA rules, saying, “There is an urgent need to act, and the President has answered the country’s call. My preference is that Congress would act, but we all know that’s not going to happen.”

“Climate change is already here: the country’s 12 hottest years on record have come in the last 15 years and Texas is in the midst of one of the worst droughts in recorded history,” Ellis continued. “If we want to leave our children and grandchildren a safe and healthy environment, we’ve got to limit carbon emissions — just like we’ve done with arsenic, mercury, and other pollutants,” Ellis added.

Republicans hold convention

An estimated 7,000 people reportedly attended the 2014 state convention of the Republican Party of Texas, June 5-7, in Fort Worth. GOP candidates who won March primaries or primary runoffs on May 27 were confirmed as nominees.

Delegates participated in a straw poll for the presidency in 2016: U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz drew 43 percent of the vote to Gov. Perry’s 11.7 percent. Among various topics drawing media attention were debates over immigration policy, optional “gay conversion therapy” counseling for homosexuals and Second Amendment rights.

States settle with drug maker

Attorney General Greg Abbott on June 4 announced Texas and 43 other state attorneys general secured a $105 million agreement with drug maker GlaxoSmithKline LLC.

The agreement resolves a multistate investigation against the company for unlawfully promoting its asthma drug Advair and its antidepressant drugs Paxil and Wellbutrin.

Under the settlement agreement, GlaxoSmithKline must pay the State of Texas a total of $6.2 million, Abbott said, pointing out that the drug maker violated state consumer protection law by misrepresenting the uses and qualities of the three named drugs.

State and federal law generally prohibits pharmaceutical manufacturers from marketing their drugs for “off-label” uses that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Abbott said.

Comptroller honors lawmaker

State Comptroller Susan Combs on June 5 awarded state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, with a “True Texas Hero Award” for his leadership in authoring two bills passed by the Texas Legislature.

The Legislature passed Cook’s House Bill 11 in 2007 and HB 11 in 2011, identically numbered bills requiring electronic reporting for all wholesale alcohol and tobacco sales. Those bills “made it easier for the comptroller to identify and investigate retailers who either under-collected sales tax or collected sales taxes but failed to remit the proceeds to the state,” Combs said, adding that the bills “have helped the state gain more than $523 million in tax revenue.”

DPS joins inspection effort

Texas Department of Public Safety last week announced that state troopers, inspectors and investigators would participate in intensified commercial vehicle inspections from June 3 to June 5 as part of Roadcheck 2014, a nationwide enforcement effort to increase motor carrier, vehicle, driver and cargo safety and security.

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