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 Downwinders At Risk - Press Room: April 2007

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sam Coats

For Immediate Release: For More Information:
Wednesday, April 11, 2007 Jim Schermbeck 806.787.6567

Toxic Ethics: Coats Reaffirms Polluter’s Agenda
Dallas Mayoral Candidate and TXI Board Member Sam Coats Refuses to Cut Ties
To DFW’s Largest Industrial Air Polluter – Even as the Company Fights City Hall

(Dallas)—A local clean air group is deriding Dallas mayoral candidate Sam Coats decision not to quit his membership on the board of cement giant TXI, or even pledge to distance himself from the company’s campaign to defeat air quality measures backed by current Mayor Laura Miller and Dallas City Hall.

“He doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of conflict-of-interest,” said Jim Schermbeck, staff organizer of DFW-based Downwinders At Risk.”

Downwinders, the 12-year old group that has made the nation’s largest concentration of cement plants in Midlothian its central focus, met privately with Coats after his membership on TXI’s board was revealed earlier in the month. This is the first time the group has spoken out about the results of that meeting, because, representatives say, they wanted to give Coats an opportunity to differentiate himself from the company’s policies that put it at odds with cleaner air in DFW.

“We believe we were being fair and discreet in proposing the meeting, and the pledge. His public statements insisting that he’s ‘working on the inside’ to change TXI policy are not supported by any evidence we’ve seen, or that he’s offered.”

TXI owns the largest cement plant in Texas, located in Midlothian, just across the Dallas County line. It is the single largest industrial source of smog pollution in north Texas and burns hazardous wastes in circa-1960s kilns that don’t have modern pollution controls.

According to Schermbeck, a group of Downwinders members met with Coats March 30th to propose that he either quit his paid TXI board position and sell his stock in the company, valued at between $37,000 and $74,000, or sign a pledge supporting: 1) the installation of pollution controls on TXI’s older kilns in Midlothian, 2) suspension of of toxic waste burning in those same kilns, 3) a city-backed bill in the state legislature (SB 1177) mandating testing of advanced controls that could cut TXI pollution by 80-90%, and, 4) the new “clean air cement “ procurement policy, coming before the Dallas City Council in May. After giving Coats four days to consider the proposal, Schermbeck said he declined to do anything at all. “We even checked back a second time to see if any compromise was possible, but the rejection was total.”

Coats joined the TXI board in 2005, after a decade of controversy involving the company, including
a well-publicized hazardous waste permit fight, and the inclusion of Ellis County into the DFW
“non-attainment area” for smog over Congressman “Smokey Joe” Barton’s objections. But according to Schermbeck, Coats had “an appalling lack of knowledge” about the company’s Midlothian operations. “Even a casual reader of the Dallas Morning News would have known more. His lack of due diligence about the company is as disturbing as his refusal to disassociate himself from it.”

Schermbeck noted that Coats is running for Mayor and maintaining his membership on the TXI board of directors even while the company is lobbying directly against the City of Dallas and other local governments over the fate of SB1177. TXI’s also working to defeat a proposed Dallas procurement policy aimed at steering City Hall money away from the kind of obsolete kilns that burn hazardous waste at its local cement plant. A Dallas City Council vote on the procurement policy is scheduled for May 9th.

“At the same time he’s campaigning for Mayor, his company is campaigning to undermine the City’s clean air agenda. That’s the very definition of conflict-of-interest,” according to Schermbeck.

He said Downwinders At Risk is considering a variety of tactics to make sure Dallas residents know about Coats’ connection to TXI, including media buys, a door-to-door canvass, and showing up at mayoral forums to press the issue.

“We deeply regret we have to take this kind of approach. We did not intend to be spending our time this way. But In 2007, it’s unacceptable that a TXI board member could imagine they could successfully run for office in North Texas without repudiating the policies that have made the company the number one corporate enemy of cleaner air in DFW,” said Schermbeck.


Downwinders At Risk’s March 30th letter to Coats is attached.

Sam Coats March 30, 2007
5925 Forest Lane, Suite 501
Dallas, TX 75230

Dear Mr. Coats

We’re writing on behalf of the Downwinders At Risk board to address what we consider to be an inherent conflict of interest between your candidacy for Mayor of Dallas and your membership on the board of Texas Industries, TXI.

We have no doubt you’re sincere in your candidacy, and applaud your sense of civic duty. We have no objection to you personally running for Mayor. However, the fact that you continue to maintain your TXI board membership while you run for Mayor is troubling to us, and our Dallas supporters.

TXI is the largest industrial air polluter in North Texas. In 2005, it released 7,112,000 pounds of Nitrogen Oxide pollution, the major smog-forming pollution targeted by local, state and federal environmental agencies in DFW. That’s the equivalent pollution produced by more than 197,000 cars annually. In 2005, the last year data is available, TXI reported releasing 888,357 pounds of toxic air pollution, including Styrene, Mercury and Toluene. Four out of the five kilns that TXI operates at its Midlothian plant are considered obsolete by the cement industry and do not even have scrubbers for Sulfur Dioxide, a known respiratory irritant.

Texas Commission Environmental Quality studies have shown that TXI emissions alone can raise DFW ozone levels by as much as five and a half parts per billion. That’s the largest documented impact on smog levels of any single DFW industrial source.

It’s this enormous impact from TXI operations on DFW air quality that we feel pits your continued membership on the TXI board against the City of Dallas’ pursuit of an effective clean air plan.

Within the last 12 months, representatives of the company have denied that TXI has any adverse impact on DFW air quality, condemned the unanimous conclusions of industry experts in a comprehensive report on cement plant pollution, unsuccessfully fought against the North Texas Clean Air Steering Committee adopting resolutions aimed at reducing ozone pollution from TXI and the other two Midlothian cement plants, and is now actively lobbying against the City of Dallas’ new cement procurement policy and legislation that would provide for state testing of pollution controls that could eliminate 80 to 90% of all Nitrogen Oxide emissions produced by TXI.

In every instance, the company’s positions were, and continue to be, at odds with the stated air quality goals or positions of the City of Dallas. We don’t understand how you can reconcile your continued membership on the board of such a company with the goals of cleaner air for Dallas. The two are incompatible.

Imagine if the current Mayor of Dallas had been a member of the TXU board, and not someone who was independent enough to boldly challenge the utility’s plans for a wave of new coal-fired power plants. Citizens need to be sure that their elected officeholders do not have an ulterior motive or hidden agendas when making decisions for the public good.

We urge you to resign from the TXI board and divest yourself of all TXI holdings if you are going to continue to run for Mayor. However, if you don’t resign, we urge you to sign a pledge, that as Dallas Mayor, you would: 1) publicly support pending state legislation providing for testing of advanced Nitrogen Oxide pollution controls on a Texas cement plant, 2) publicly support the installation of scrubbers on all of TXI’s Midlothian kilns, 3) publicly support the new Dallas cement procurement policy, and, 4) publicly support a cessation of burning hazardous waste in TXI’s oldest, most obsolete kilns. We believe making such a pledge would gain the confidence of those who find your unqualified allegiance to TXI at odds with the goal of cleaner air for Dallas.

It was your decision to run for Mayor. We did not initiate this controversy. But now that it has been initiated, we feel obligated to resolve it. We appreciate your willingness to discuss this matter with us personally, and hope you take to heart the information we’ve shared with you. We also hope that no matter your choice you will continue to dialogue with us on TXI pollution issues. We’re confident that after careful consideration, you’ll do the right thing, both for your own civic-minded ambitions, and Dallas residents.
Thank you.

The Board of Downwinders At Risk

Alex Allred Rebecca Bedsole Bornhorst

Keri Allred Reecea Roderick Henderson

Sandy Breakfield Merle Ann Roten

P.O. Box 763844 • Dallas, TX 75376 972-230-3185
www.dfwairplan.org www.DownwindersAtRisk.org Info@DownwindersAtRisk.org