Opinion: Columnists

Ron Arnold: Meet the little nobody from Texas with big power at EPA

By |
Opinion,Ron Arnold,Columnists,Texas,EPA

He dropped out of nowhere and landed with a crash in the director's seat of the Office of Environmental Justice at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Matthew S. Tejada, 33, Texas-born Latino, Ph.D. (History, Oxford University, 2006) and five years as a community organizer (like the young Barack Obama), was appointed director by former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson in January.

Jackson pushed Matt Tejada through Big Green's revolving door from Air Alliance Houston, which was suing the EPA (Tejada's signature is on the notice of intent to sue), leapfrogging him over EPA insider candidates.

The chair of EPA's National Environmental Justice Advisory Council welcomed Tejada as "an unpleasant surprise," according to Inside EPA.

Tejada is another Big Green plaintiff-turned-EPA defendant like Al "crucifier" Armendariz and his flip from WildEarth Guardians to an EPA regional director with a lawsuit pending, the perfect setup for a sue and settle deal.

Tejada's unexpected hiring alarmed industry leaders fearing a radical with power, and jolted the national environmental justice movement -- they didn't know this little nobody from Texas.

Who is this guy? He's actually a big somebody in a segment of the movement known as "environmental justice" or sometimes "environmental equity."

EJ denizens are Big Green's ambulance chasers, building constituencies in "Poisoned Places" -- as areas like the Mississippi River shorelines near New Orleans are claimed to be.

EJ activists are community organizers among the poor and minorities who live near refineries and industrial complexes in "fenceline communities," blame their ills on industry, and demand reform -- and, in some cases, free relocation.

EJ groups are small but their constituencies -- not members -- comprise many thousands. Tejada's six-employee Air Alliance Houston (with a $9,000 EPA grant) has a web of group affiliations and admirers that is truly astounding.

Matt Tejada's backstory is an epic of network building. It shows plainly in the lawsuit his AAH filed against EPA -- with three other groups -- including close friends, the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, formerly a project of the far-left super-networked Tides Foundation. Private foundations are a powerful networking force in Big Green.

LABB is a money machine (over $1 million in 2011-2012, including over $168,000 in EPA grants) that empowers communities using a five-gallon bucket, plastic bag, and air pump rig anyone can use to take air samples as "scientific" evidence of pollution. The samples have proven unreliable, but fence-line communities, the media and donors love the politically powerful gimmick.

Ironically, of the $1.7 million in foundation grants to LABB, over $400,000 came from the Marisla Foundation, based on the Getty Oil fortune.

The bucket idea came from Tejada friends in the California-based LABB affiliate, Global Community Monitor ($726,000 in foundation grants), with chapters in over 20 states and several countries worldwide.

Denny Larson, founder and executive director, got the bucket idea in 1995 with the Refinery Reform Campaign before it reorganized as GCM. "We use science, but only in the service of organizing," he wrote in a 2006 handbook. Politics rules.

Tejada's Air Alliance Houston shows his organizing skill: He began as the Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention and convinced Mothers for Clean Air to merge, blending their constituents into AAH.

He convinced a foundation based on the fortune of a developer instrumental in building the Houston Ship Channel to give AAH over half a million dollars.

He routinely piggy-backs with dozens of other groups, including the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter and the Environmental Defend Fund. Hundreds of thousands of constituents.

America lost 66 oil refineries 1990-2010, closed by regulations that sapped their capital. Do not underestimate the "little nobody." Unelected, unaccountable Matt Tejada's pro-regulation constituencies are bigger than the EPA.

Washington Examiner Columnist Ron Arnold is executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise.

View article comments Leave a comment