TX DEQ Boss Mum on Meetings With Asarco Lobbyist

"Just what did Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Chairman H.S. Buddy Garcia talk about with a representative from an El Paso copper smelter as he was preparing to approve its permit application last year?

The controversy over whether the dormant Asarco smelter should be allowed to reopen cooled off after the environmental agency, led by Garcia, gave the smelter the go-ahead last year to resume operations. It died entirely when Asarco announced early this year it would permanently close the plant after an unfavorable federal ruling.

But the to-do lingers in an open records battle about the meetings between Garcia and the Asarco lobbyist. The open records showdown touches on attorney-client privilege, the rights of a lawmaker to oversee state business and possible out-of-school meetings between the chairman and the smelter company. It is another distraction for an agency that has been accused of being on terms too familiar with companies it regulates."

Asher Price reports for the Austin American-Statesman May 18, 2009.
 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009