Two Senators question TCEQ cuts to article

Two state senators have written to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality chairman, calling the agency’s edits on a paper about rising sea levels censorship.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, wrote a letter today to TCEQ chairman Bryan Shaw, a copy of which the American-Statesman obtained from his staff. Ellis wrote that he is concerned with the specific changes made by agency staff, such as scientific observations on sea levels.

It’s unclear when — or even if — the state environmental agency will publish the report about the state of Galveston Bay without a chapter on rising sea levels after the chapter’s author, Rice University oceanographer John Anderson, refused to make changes requested by officials with the agency.

The environmental commission has said in a statement that it disagrees with parts of the report and said it would be “irresponsible to take whatever is sent to us and publish it.”

“As far as I can determine, TCEQ did not have concerns as to the legitimacy or reliability of the observations, as no competing data was ever provided by agency staff. Indeed, the only explanation that comes to mind is that the facts simply proved inconvenient to the agency and other state leadership, and thus they were excised,” Ellis wrote.

State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, also sent a letter to Shaw today, but staff declined to release a copy immediately.

Anderson previously told the American-Statesman that the state is attempting to censor him and keep the public misinformed.

“To have a state agency come and say, ‘That’s not keeping up with our philosophy,’ that’s just absurd,” Anderson said in an interview Monday. “That’s just non-science.”

[Updated at 5:08 p.m.: An agency spokesman confirmed that they received Ellis’ letter and will reply promptly.

“We certainly understand the Senator’s concerns given the amount of misinformation being reported,” Terry Clawson, an agency spokesman, said in an email.]

A former commissioner and executive director of the state agency criticized the agency’s cuts as well. Larry Soward said he does not recall the commission ever taking such a hands-on approach to a report they do not agree with.

“If the commissioners are saying they want to base their decision on sound science, then why restrict the articulation of what science shows?” said Soward, a Gov. Rick Perry appointee who left the agency after his six-year term as commissioner expired in 2009. Most recently, Soward consulted for an attorney who is suing the commission over a new coal power plant and the protection of an endangered species.

Posted in: Press Releases • Tagged with: