Monday, November 17, 2014


Fortunately or unfortunately I’m cursed with a long memory.  I remember growing up as a child in Port Arthur, Texas, at a time when newcomers to our town were repelled by the awful smell emanating from the various plants around Port Arthur.  Most grownups would simply pass it off as saying it’s the smell of money.  Some odors were intolerable such as that drifting in from the pogie plant near Sabine Pass.  It was literally so bad it would make you throw up if you had to endure it for very long.  

Also, in the early history of Port Arthur, we were the cancer capitol of Texas. And, there were more children's leukemia cases in Jefferson County than any other county in the state. 

I have a vivid recollection of two of my first cousins, who lived in the shadow of one of our major refineries, suffering asthma attacks.  As a young child, it was horrifying to me because at times it appeared that my cousins would die before my very eyes.  It is hard for me to believe that any parent who would witness such an attack in one of his or her children could favor deregulation of industry.  Eventually, my cousins moved away from Port Arthur to the country where one of them enjoyed such good health that he became an all-state basketball player.

When I listen to politicians complaining about governmental regulations, I wonder how many of them would rather have cancer than regulatory mechanisms which wouldhelp clean up our atmosphere.  I wonder how many of our hourly workers, who have voted Republican, would like to do away with the regulations which forced many of the industries to keep them safe on their jobs.  Perhaps had strict regulations been adhered to, the people who recently died of the gas exposure at the DuPont plant here in Texas would not have died.

I had a close relative die of leukemia from exposure to Benzine at one of the plants.  Another uncle died needlessly in an explosion which easily could have been prevented by a few regulations.  My father died of cancer after 40 years in one of the refineries.  I would like to ask these politicians who carp about regulations and wanting to deregulate various industries whether or not they would like to go back to the good old days.  

I’m sure being able to dispose industrial waste by simply dumping it into our rivers was quite profitable for the companies at that time--but it also made the fish in the Neches and Sabine inedible.  It killed the oyster beds which had been growing on the North end of Sabine Lake for many, many years.  Now, because of regulations, the Neches and Sabine are fairly poison free, and the oyster beds in Lake Sabine have returned.

I doubt seriously if the average Texan has ever been intimately acquainted with the air quality permitting process of an industry.  Many environmentalists in Texas refer to the process as licensing pollutants.  The air quality permits in fact determine the number of tons of harmful material which can be released into the atmosphere.  Most of the Republican squawking about over-regulation relates to environmental quality and workplace safety.

Opposition to government regulation in most cases is simply about money.  Unfortunately, too many money-hungry folks would pay no heed whatsoever to a clean environment--nor to what a dirty one does to us all--if it meant making a bigger profit.  So most of the squawking about over-regulation is not about bad government; it’s really about money. 

Were I completely in charge of the world, I would allow some companies to operate wholly without any environmental regulation whatsoever, but I would require their owners and managers to live within the perimeters of the company workplace.  I wonder why more big-wigs of national companies do not choose to live next door to their plants?  

In fact, if the truth be known, I would bet few, if any, of the local plant mangers live next door to the plants they manage. 

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