Sam Coats' Concrete Problem

Categories: Politics
Waste not, want not: Sam Coats is on the board of directors at TXI, which ain't no friend of the clean air.

Till today, it's likely most folks had no idea that mayoral candidate Sam Coats is on the board of directors of Texas Industries, better known as TXI, the largest producer of cement in Texas -- and, says here, "the largest burner of hazardous waste in Texas, and possibly the nation." But this morning, enviro activist and filmmaker Jim Schermbeck sent to the media and posted to Downwinders at Risk (North Texans are the "downwinders," incidentally, "at risk" from the air pollution emitted from TXI's plant in Midlothian) an essay that's making the rounds in which he takes Coats to task for being on the board of a company that's choking us to death.

In short, Schmerbeck says it's one thing for Coats to sell himself to Dallas voters "as a savvy businessman with ties to Continental Airlines and Schlotzky's," but something else entirely for Coats to ignore the fact he's on the board of directors of "North Texas' largest industrial polluter and hazardous waste disposal operation." Oh, and he's also the director of a company, Safety-Kleen, which Schermbeck says "pays TXI to burn hazardous waste in their 47 year-old cement plant in Midlothian, just south of Dallas."

Schermbeck's question: How does Coats reconcile his promise to care for the citizens of Dallas when he's involved with companies who are polluting our air? Unfair Park'er Matt Pulle says the question hasn't yet come up at any of the mayoral forums, which have thus far been dominated by Tom Leppert, Don Hill, Darrell Jordan and Ed Oakley. But we're guessing it's bound to rear its head real, real soon. Schermbeck's entire essay is after the jump. --Robert Wilonsky


Sam Coats' Dirty Secret -- It's Not Little

As he solicits votes from Dallas residents, mayoral candidate Sam Coats portrays himself as a savvy businessman with ties to Continental Airlines and Schlotzky's.

What he doesn't mention is that he's also on the board of directors of North Texas' largest industrial polluter and hazardous waste disposal operation -- TXI cement. Or that he's also a director of a company -- Safety-Kleen -- that pays TXI to burn hazardous waste in their 47 year-old cement plant in Midlothian, just south of Dallas.

Study after study has shown pollution from the TXI Midlothian plant significantly affecting DFW air quality. A recent modeling exercise by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality concluded that the plant could contribute up to 5.5 parts per billion of ozone on the worst summer days-more than any other single industrial polluter in North Texas. EPA included Ellis County, home of the TXI Midlothian cement plant and two others, in DFW's "non-attainment area" for ozone pollution in 2003 because so much smog-forming pollution comes from the cement plants.

Since 1989, citizens living adjacent to, and downwind of TXI have fought to end the practice of burning hazardous waste in facilities now considered obsolete and lacking modern pollution controls. The furnaces, or kilns, TXI uses to burn hazardous waste do not even have scrubbers on them, much less any of the other kinds of controls a typical hazardous waste would have as standard equipment. The plant is the largest hazardous waste disposal operation in the region and is consistently among North Texas' largest toxic air polluters with approximately half-a-million pounds emitted annually. Information about TXI's toxic pollution can be found in the company self-reporting Toxic Release Inventory online at RTK.net or through EPA TRI Explorer at the official EPA website.

Safety-Kleen collects waste of all sorts, including hazardous wastes, mixes them all together in large facilities called "blending plants" (there's one in Denton) and then pays to send that waste to cement plants such as TXI to be burned as "fuel." Such waste contains metals or chlorine which are not flammable. The result is hazardous waste residues going up the stacks in Midlothian and being delivered where ever the wind and gravity take them.

TXI is currently fighting tooth and nail against adding modern smog pollution controls recommended by the state's own experts in a special court-ordered study released last year. These controls have been shown to reduce smog pollution at cement plants in Europe by 80 to 90%. State Senator Kim Brimer of Tarrant County recently filed a bill -- SB 1177 -- mandating the testing of these controls in Texas. TXI has sent wave after wave of lobbyists to kill it.

How can a candidate for mayor ask for support from voters in Dallas while at the same time making it harder for them to breathe? When his company is actively working against installing modern pollution controls?

Maybe that's why Coats has failed to disclose his ties to TXI and Safety-Kleen on the campaign trial. If he was proud of his connections to these two companies, don't you think it'd be right up there on his public resume with giving people rides on planes and making them sandwiches?

It gets more interesting when you know that the City of Dallas had announced plans last fall to pass a new "clean air" cement procurement spec that would prohibit municipal projects from buying cement from TXI's old haz-waste burning kilns. It's coming up for its first vote before the City Council's Transportation and Environment Committee in the next month. If as expected, this new procurement policy passes the entire City Council, would it be a goal of a Coats Administration to have it gutted?

It's time to ask Coats what he considers more important: keeping TXI's industrial dinosaurs free of pollution controls or improving Dallas public health? Time to ask why his service to TXI is not a direct conflict of interest with the City's goal of cleaning up air that has not been in compliance with the Clean Air Act in 16 years?

Dallas voters and the people who inform Dallas voters need to fully explore whose Mayor Sam Coats would be -- Dallas' or TXI's?



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