Texas climate change policy must reflect popular opinion

Alex Arevalo

Since President Obama took office in 2009, Texas has sued the Environmental Protection Agency 22 times. The state has only won four of those cases, each concerning air quality and climate change policy. This comes at a time when only 14 percent of Texans reject the idea of global warming, according to a poll by Yale University. These same findings show that more than half of the state’s population feels that something should be done at both the federal and state levels to remedy global warming. This discrepancy in numbers shines a light on how Texas politicians obstruct sensible climate policy.

Currently, public beliefs on environmental policy are not reflected in the state legislature’s actions. If politicians seek to win re-election, it’s crucial that their constituents’ voices are more accurately represented in all levels of Texas government. The first step in doing so is working in conjunction with the federal government to curb global warming.

The most recent lawsuit was filed two weeks ago and pits a coalition of states, including Texas, against the EPA over the Clean Power Plan, a joint project between the federal agency and the presidential administration. The plan looks to cut 32 percent of carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030. The state’s Attorney General, Ken Paxton, was reported to have spent $24,000 on the lawsuit by July of this year.

At that time, the plan had not even been finalized. These premeditated attacks on climate change initiatives impede progress and are evidence of public view taking a backseat to economic priorities.

Paxton’s rationale for the lawsuit rests in his belief that the “federal government has yet again proven its readiness to sacrifice American jobs” in order to push its “liberal agenda”. Ironically, almost 70 percent of Texans believe that corporations and industry should be doing more to address climate change. Calpine and Royal Dutch Shell are among a number of corporations which support the litigation.

Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, a citizen-based environmental advocacy organization, said this is an example of politicians failing to hold big business accountable.

“The core problem of the disconnect is that powerful industries spend millions of dollars on campaigns and lobbying, and the result is that politicians are catering to the interests of big donors,” Metzger said.

The politics of money has always been an influential and sometimes deciding factor in the outcome of state legislation. How obvious it’s become, however, is a disgrace to the citizens who elected these officials. The negligent attitude adopted by Texas politicians toward their voters may not rear its ugly head tomorrow, but it will soon enough. It’s time for Texas to put a stop to the $400,000 and counting they’ve spent on suing the EPA, and start representing the people who have put them in their position in the first place.

Arevalo is a journalism freshman from McAllen. Follow Arevalo on Twitter @alexparevalo3.