TCEQ: CAPTURED & CORRUPTED
June 17, 2008
Senator Shapleigh to Brief Press on TCEQ Open Records Lawsuit; Agency Seeks to Keep Asarco Ex-Parte Communications Confidential
Written by Senator Eliot Shapleigh, www.shapleigh.org
AUSTIN -- Senator Eliot Shapleigh (D-El Paso) will hold a press conference in the Senate Press Room (2E.9) on Wednesday, June 18 at 2:00 p.m. to discuss Texas Commission on Environmental Quality v. Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General filed in Travis County.
The lawsuit, brought by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), seeks to strike down state law granting state legislators access to confidential agency records for legislative purposes. TCEQ, in the lawsuit, claims the open records law is an unconstitutional violation of "separation of powers" and that the law causes "excessive interference" with the agency.
On February 13, 2008, TCEQ granted a controversial operating permit to Asarco, a copper smelting company in El Paso, Texas. The controversial decision followed years of litigation, a contested case hearing, and well-publicized political opposition from organizations and governments in Texas, New Mexico and Chihuahua, Mexico. On February 14 and 18, 2008, Senator Shapleigh submitted open records requests to TCEQ, requesting various communications between TCEQ Commissioners, Asarco, and Asarco's legal representatives.
On March 4, 2008, TCEQ delivered an 18-page brief to the Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) arguing that the records are confidential and should not be made available to Senator Shapleigh. On May 16, 2008, the OAG ruled that Senator Shapleigh is entitled, by state law, to the agency's records.
On April 24, billing records from Asarco's law firm, Baker Botts L.L.P, became public and showed repeated ex-parte communications between the firm and TCEQ staff and commissioners. The ex-part communications occurred prior to and leading up to the Asarco permitting decision in February.
On May 29, 2008, TCEQ filed suit in the 345th Judicial District in Travis County to strike down the open records law and to keep their records confidential.
What: TCEQ: Captured & Corrupted Press Conference
When: Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Where: Senate Press Room (2E.9)