As I have noted several times, I owe Texas a debt of gratitude. Whenever I am searching for an example of bad public policy to use in class, the Lone Star State comes through for me.
I thought about Texas’ reliability during a research presentation by one of the teams of students in my graduate Law and Public Affairs class. They had chosen Cap and Trade as the policy proposal they were analyzing, and they began the presentation with a brief history of environmental regulation in the U.S. The student delivering that portion of the presentation noted that federal rules were a response to a couple of the downsides of our federalist system: not only is there often a lack of uniformity, but there are some unfortunate consequences to the fact that states compete with each other to lure businesses and jobs. Before the establishment of the EPA, lack of environmental regulations was one of the “advantages” states offered relocation prospects–“come to our state, and you won’t be bothered by pesky rules keeping you from discharging your toxins in that nearby river.”
Even today, some states allow more pollution than others. According to the student researchers, Indiana is the 7th most polluted state in the country.
Texas, of course, is the worst.
Indeed, Texas Governor Rick Perry has been widely quoted touting his philosophy of economic development, which boils down to: states wanting to entice business can succeed by reducing or eliminating regulations.
So what if a few fertilizer plants blow up and level some neighborhoods? So what if polluted air exacerbates asthma and other medical conditions, sickening citizens and driving up medical costs? So what if the companies most likely to be attracted by an absence of regulation are those looking to evade reasonable standards for safety and environmental compliance?
Diminished health and safety is a small price to pay for job creation bragging rights. Just ask Rick Perry.