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The QueQue: Bye-Bye Occupy?, Science may win in censorship standoff with TCEQ

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Report editor Jim Lester, vice president of the Houston Advanced Research Center, told the Current by email this week that HARC and TCEQ negotiated a set of changes “acceptable to Dr. Anderson and us,” adding that: “The chapter is close to the original, but has some modifications. The negotiations were attended by lawyers and are covered by confidentiality. So I cannot share the exact changes.”

Looking back at the conflict with TCEQ, there’s one bright spot, Anderson said. “Honesty, probably relatively few people would’ve read [the report] without this whole mess.” Still, the spat did more to highlight how in Texas there’s little appetite for science at the policy-making level, he said. “It just seems like the decisions that are being made by the General Land Office, and by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which are the two agencies that tend to get their fingers into the pie here, are being made without a lot of really good scientific input.”

For sea-level rise, climate change, and how to tackle changes along the Gulf Coast in the coming century, Anderson says Texas is “in a state of denial.” He referenced thin barrier islands like Follets Island near Galveston and South Padre further down the coast, saying, “Certainly in your lifetime you’re going to see some of these barrier islands disappear.”

Anderson also pointed to what he feels are real steps the state could take in looking at the future of the Texas coast. The General Land Office, he insisted, could take the roughly $13 million per year it spends dumping sand on coastal beaches and instead pump the money into wetlands preservation and restoration. “But as long as we have people in Austin, and a governor who denies global climate change and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality who denies it, then we haven’t even made the first step, that educational step,” he said.

Given the political response to their research, Anderson said he and other Gulf Coast scientists at both Rice and University of Texas are hoping to create a consortium of sorts, comprised of well-respected, published scientists who could issue consensus statements on public policy affecting the coast. “In Texas, there seems to be no hard attempt to actually get information, yet you’ve got some great science going on in this state,” he said. “You just don’t see an appetite for it at the political level.” •

* Except there is no meeting. Blasted Christmas!

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