Austin - Under Governor George W. Bush, factory pig farms are flocking to Texas and creating big environmental headaches, according to documents released today by Texas Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Texas PEER).During Bush's tenure, Texas has issued permits for new pig plants producing more than 2 million hogs whose waste literally creates lakes of feces and urine.
By the mid-90's, as neighboring states began to ban new large scale hog farms, operators were lured to Texas by the promise of lax environmental regulations. Many of the biggest hog plants congregated in the Panhandle where three-quarters of all the state's pigs are now bred.
Texas is hospitable to these huge hog farms primarily due to the "business friendly" attitude of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC), the state's environmental agency. TNRCC has routinely sided with the pig factory operators against local citizens:
*The agency developed streamlined permitting rules which made it virtually impossible for citizens to contest new factory farms. Even after a citizen group won a legal challenge to the rules, TNRCC simply issued a new version of the rules which also curtailed public protests;
*TNRCC's complex odor investigation procedures work in favor of hog farms by making it exceedingly difficult for ordinary citizens to document violations; and
*TNRCC's weak standards for manure management and odor abatement heighten the likelihood of air and water contamination.
Noxious odors, toxic fumes and pollution from excess animal waste are sickening Panhandle residents. Rather than face the health effects and a deteriorating quality of life, Panhandle families are forced to relocate. The conditions are even hard on the pigs -- an estimated 5% of the animals never make it to market.
"Under Bush, pig factories banned from Oklahoma are moving to Texas," commented Texas PEER Coordinator Erin Rogers. "People in the Panhandle are playing second fiddle to the pigs."