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In climate politics, Texas aims to be the anti-California

The state has filed seven lawsuits against the EPA, and its members of Congress want to check the EPA's efforts to curb greenhouse gases. 'At times they're their own country,' one observer says.

November 07, 2010|By Neela Banerjee, Tribune Washington Bureau

Just weeks earlier, the EPA had issued the so-called endangerment finding, which said carbon dioxide emissions were a threat to public welfare and therefore subject to regulation.

"I represent a national organization, Coalition for Responsible Regulation Inc, and its members, which already has filed (in fact, we believe we were the first to file), and I'd like to begin the coordination process," Groten continued in the e-mail. "Plus of course we would like to see state petitioners involved, and Texas is an obvious candidate."

The first Texas suit challenging the endangerment finding was filed about five weeks later.

The Coalition for Responsible Regulation was formed to challenge the EPA, its incorporation papers say. Its Houston address and officers are the same as those of Quintana Minerals Resources Corp. Quintana's leaders, including chief executive Corbin Robertson Jr., have given tens of thousands of dollars to Abbott's and Perry's war chests. Robertson has also donated to Barton and many others in Congress.

By some estimates, Quintana is the largest private owner of coal reserves in the United States; only the federal government has bigger reserves.

Robertson, who began as an heir to a Texas oil fortune before diversifying into coal, is a founder of two new groups that work to refute climate science.

Texas environmental regulators and Groten, attorney for the coalition, said that Texas decided on its own to file suit. "It is safe to say that Texas needed no push from CRR or anyone else to understand and protect its own interests," Groten wrote in an e-mail.

Abbott said that Robertson's donations to his election comprised a tiny portion of his overall contributions. He said his office had sued at the behest of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and no one else.

"All of our decisions are based on the law," he said in a phone interview. "Any suggestion to the contrary is just make-believe."

The EPA says it will continue its efforts to scale back greenhouse gases, regardless of Texas' resistance. In an e-mailed statement, the agency said: "The state government in Texas seems to have different priorities right now, but we have not yet given up on our efforts to work with them."

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