Throughout Kathleen Hartnett White’s six-year tenure at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and in subsequent years thereafter, she has demonstrated thoughtful and effective regulatory insights and practice.
Kathleen has been nominated by President Trump to chair the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and she is being questioned and challenged – not for her record, and not for her qualifications, but because she has refused to define environmental quality and economic development as mutually exclusive.
The Dallas Morning News recently stated in an editorial: “White consistently sided with business interests at the expense of public health as chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.”
The Morning News should know better, because in Texas, it’s clear that “business interests” – which are directly related to jobs and productivity – are not synonymous with, nor have they been responsible for, a negative impact on public health.
Kathleen led TCEQ during an extraordinary period of growth in the Texas population. And yet, the state realized impressive declines in the levels of pollution during that time. For example, from 2000 to 2006, Houston grew by approximately 1 million people, a 25 percent increase, and yet saw eight-hour ozone design values plunge 26 percent.
In 2004, during her tenure, Texas ranked sixth in the nation for lowest NOx emissions, and the leader in efficiency and lowest criteria pollutant emitter of all states that used coal.
Texas’ annual point source NOx emissions dropped about 45 percent the year before she took leadership to the year she left that post, which translates to a reduction from 800,000 tons per year to 420,000 tons per year.
Texas is in the top four states in the nation for low NOx emissions per capita from fossil-fuel fired power plants, and has the sixth-lowest SO2 per capita emissions, even though Texas leads the U.S. in energy produced from crude oil, natural gas, and electricity.
Clearly, environmental protection and economic growth can go hand-in-hand through effective leadership. Results are achieved through smart and thoughtful regulation that strives for real energy sustainability. Accessible, reliable, affordable, and environmentally-responsible energy for citizens and industry: That’s the leadership that TCEQ exercised under Kathleen’s purview.
Listening to her critics, one might think she opposes all regulation. That’s simply untrue, as her record shows. The fact is, she has always supported and insisted on smart regulation.
That was the goal of TCEQ under her watch. And with a staff of 3,000 personnel, an annual budget of more than $600 million, 16 regional offices regulating 315,000 entities, the TCEQ is the second-largest environmental regulatory agency in the world, after the Environmental Protection Agency.
She has also served on the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Economic Development Commission, and the Environmental Flows Study Commission. She recently completed her term as an officer and director of the Lower Colorado River Authority.
White now sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Regulatory Science.
Qualifications, leadership, and insight are why we need her in the White House, leading the president’s Council on Environmental Quality. The Senate should act quickly to confirm her to that post.
Charles D. McConnell served as Assistant Secretary of Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy from 2011 – 2013.
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