Ken Kalthoff, NBCDFW.com
Gov. Rick Perry was in Denton for the ceremonial signing of three bills he says put Texas at the forefront of oil and gas production and protecting the environment, but he refused to answer questions about a possible presidential run in 2012.
Some new Texas laws will further protect the environment as the state continues to lead the nation in oil and gas production, Gov. Rick Perry said Friday.
During the recent legislative session, lawmakers worked to create a fair regulatory climate in the energy sector rather than a "draconian" one that might have prevented expanding the state's fuel sources, Perry said.
"The truth of the matter is: America needs all the innovation that we can muster to reduce our dependency on foreign sources of energy. And again our combination of job creation, improved air quality here in Texas (shows) that it can be done, and that is the right way. We refer to it as the Texas way," he said at Peterbilt Motors Co. in Denton, 40 miles northwest of Dallas, before he did a ceremonial signing of the bills that have already become law.
Starting next summer, drillers must publicly disclose the chemicals they use when extracting oil and gas from dense rock formations. The issue has taken on national importance as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is used in more states.
Texas was the first state to pass such a law when Perry signed the bill last month.
One bill provides incentives for companies to switch their heavy vehicles from diesel fuel to natural gas. It also provides grants to businesses that build natural gas refueling centers along interstate highways connecting Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
Another bill provides funding for additional air monitoring in the Barnett Shale, a 5,000-square-mile underground rock formation packed with natural gas spanning about two dozen North Texas counties.
These new laws show that lawmakers don't have to make "a choice between economic growth and a clean environment," said Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
But some environmental groups have said the state has failed to address serious pollution problems, and Perry cares more about businesses' profits than residents' health. Texas has more oil refineries, chemical plants and coal-fired power plants than any other state -- and leads the nation in greenhouse gas emissions and industrial pollution.
Earlier this week nearly 140 Texas plants, including some of the nation's largest refineries, reached a deal with the Environmental Protection Agency to receive new permits.
But that did not resolve the longstanding dispute between Texas and the federal agency, which last year ruled that the state's "flexible permits" were impossible to enforce and let facilities emit more pollution than allowed under the federal law. At the time, Texas blasted the EPA ruling, challenging it in court and saying it could hurt the companies' bottom-lines, lead to layoffs or even force some older facilities to declare bankruptcy.
Perry frequently uses the EPA as an example of the Obama administration meddling in state affairs. Perry, who is considering presidential run in 2012, left the event Friday before reporters could ask any questions.