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Media: Press Clips

Activists calling on Bush to slash plant exemptions

April 12, 1999

By Armando Villafranca,
Houston Chronicle

Community and environmental activists on Monday called upon Texas Gov. George W. Bush to remove exemptions for older manufacturing plants that don't have to meet newer, stricter air-emissions standards.

The group is primarily concerned with the construction of a high school a half-mile from "grandfathered" plants.

"We're not trying to stop and close the school, but no school should be built close to a grandfathered plant," said Juan Parras, community organizer for the Thurgood Marshall Law School environmental justice clinic.

Parras and supporters protested near the construction site of the east Houston high school, which he cited as an example of "environmental racism" because 96 percent of the students enrolled in feeder schools for the new school will be Hispanic.

"What should take precedent in the building of a school is the health and safety of the kids," Parras said. "If they don't have health and safety tests, they can't learn."

Terry Abbott, Houston Independent School District spokesman, said a private consultant hired to conduct an environmental site assessment found no major environmental concerns that would halt construction.

"All the environment tests show there is absolutely no danger to anyone. We couldn't build a school on a site that is environmentally unsafe," Abbott said. "We're putting a school there because we need a school there on that side of town."

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