Texans used to be able to request public records on chemical plants around the state for any information, including the content of those plants, until now. Republican Attorney General, Greg Abbott, has declared that state records on chemical locations can be withheld from the public.
A group of Wendy Davis advocates gathered today to express their discontent with the announcement. Though they were jammed together in the back room of a the Little Birds preschool, the topic they discussed was serious.
â??We want to work out a plan so that weâ??re not only aware of whatâ??s out there, but how to respond when those places, you know, should have an accident,â?? said John Andrews, a Wendy Davis campaign volunteer.
The various Davis advocates discussed how they believed Abbottâ??s reasoning behind the decision, including protection from terrorists and of the sensitivity information, stripped them of their rights. They also scoffed at the idea that Abbott said residents could simply go to different locations and ask for the content themselves.
â??I think itâ??s ridiculous. I think itâ??s a smoke screen. I think itâ??s a fear tactic,â?? said Andrews.
â??Heâ??s asking us to drive around and go to these places. Drive around?â?? said an angry member of the group.
Abbott defended his decision saying that it was meant to protect the residents of the state by keeping the information secret from terrorists. Local state representative, John Smithee (R) of District 86, said that he understands the necessity to regulate and protect the chemical contents, and knows that Abbott is simply reacting to discussion with the Legislature. However, he also admits that he sees both sides of the situation and understands residentsâ?? desire to have that information.
â??My suspicion would be that there are chemicals that are stored even in this area right now that could pose someâ?¦that could potentially pose some harm to public health,â?? said Smithee. â??I would really like to know if any of those chemicals are located anywhere near where I live or where I work and I feel that most Texans feel that way. So we need to find a way to protect those contents but still get the information out there so that people can prepare if they would like to do so.â??
Smithee said that he believes this is not the last time this topic will be discussed in the Capitol. He described this decision as a broad brush approach to the issue, but acknowledges that it will take a more detailed and neutral approach to make both sides of the argument happy.