INTERVIEWERS: David Todd (DT)
DATE: October 17, 2000
LOCATION: Dallas, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Lacy Goldsmith and Robin
REEL: 2110 and 2111
Please see the
Real Media video record
2111 from our full interview with Mrs. Harrison. Please
note that the recording
includes roughly 60 seconds of color
bars and sound tone for
technical settings at the outset of the recordings.
Note: boldfaced numbers refer to time codes for the VHS
tape copy of the interview. "Misc."
DT: My name is David Todd, and it’s October 17, year 2000.
We’re in Dallas and we’re at the home of Adlene and Maury Harrison,
and we have the good chance to—to be interviewing Adlene Harrison,
who has had many roles in public service on behalf of the
environment, of having served on the City Council here in Dallas as
Mayor, Mayor Pro Tem, being administrator for Region 6, EPA, and for
being on the board and chair of DART, the mass transit agency here
in Dallas, and many other roles that she’s played. I just wanted to
you thank you for sharing this time with us.
00:02:18 – 2110
AH: I’m glad you’re letting me share the time.
DT: Well, thank you. I thought we might start by talking
about your childhood and whether there were times, experiences,
people in your early days that might have influenced your interest
in the environment and conservation.
00:02:38 – 2110
AH: Well, that’s—that’s an easy one, David, because first
of all, my father, who loved the outdoors, although he wasn’t a
hunter or a fisherman, but, he liked to see the natural things, the
natural beauty of the outdoors, he would put three kids in the car,
my mother, of course, also, and we would go to some national park,
or some ocean, or some mountain and we would see it all. It was
great. And sometimes he’d rent a house near the ocean for a month
and we’d play on a beach, and gather shells, and—and all that. And,
so, I instilled that in my daughter because every vacation we took
happened to be
00:03:26 – 2110
where there was beautiful outdoor scenery. We never cared about
the bright lights or the big cities. And, then, also—which is far
more important to me, is that my father taught me to care about
people that didn’t have much, that suffered and no one cared. We
even had big discussions about unions, and my father was an employer
and he said, "You know, people don’t like unions, but, if the owners
of big companies weren’t running sweatshops years ago, there
wouldn’t have been any unions. If they treated their employees
fairly." So, I heard all of this and he also taught me that I’m a
custodian of—of everything, that I don’t own anything, I don’t own
nature and I don’t—shouldn’t abuse it, and I should protect it. So,
I think I started out pretty good.
DT: And as you grew up, I understood, you became
politically active and you were elected to the Dallas City Council
later—later to a mayoral office. And I was curious if you could talk
about some of the environmental issues that might have come up
during your watch—municipal water, wastewater, flood control...
00:04:59 – 2110
DT: ...mass transit, any of those things.
00:05:00 – 2110
AH: Okay, well, first let me make one little correction. I
was Acting Mayor. I wasn’t the elected Mayor. I was the Mayor Pro
Tem, and the Mayor resigned and I became Acting Mayor until there
was an election. I very seriously considered running and, at that
time, we were having problems and just very near a decision about
whether we integrated our public schools, and I had a lot of people
on the council, they were going to speak out against whatever the
judge ruled—because we knew he was going to rule to integrate—and I
decided we needed someone with stability on that council to speak
out to the citizens of this city. So, I opted to stay in that chair
waiting for that decision. And, I sort of knew when it was coming
because I was friendly with the federal judge. And I worked three
weeks on a statement to issue it to the citizens of this city and,
basically, it told why we needed to do that, but, it also said that
I would not tolerate any civil disobedience, and that it would be
punishable. And we didn’t have one rock thrown. We didn’t have one
problem the day all that happened. And I don’t mean everybody liked
it. So, I gave up the opportunity to run for that office. And just
as well, because what would have happened had I won that—in an
election—I would have left anyway when President Carter called and I
became the Environmental Protection Agency Region 6 Administrator.
So, I just wanted to clear up I didn’t run for Mayor, okay?
DT: Thanks. What sort of environmental issues might have
come up when you were in city government in those...
00:07:04 – 2110
DT: ...years in the ‘70’s?
00:07:05 – 2110
AH: ...quite—quite a few. One, marsh and wetlands and,
believe it or not, right in this city there were wetlands, and
developers wanted to develop and to heck with the wetlands. So, I
would always fight the cause and tried to pass an ordinance that
protected them, and we did. But, another mayor came in and—who
happened to be a developer, and that was ripped up pretty seriously.
So, there’s not great protection now. That’s one. I could already
see the air pollution, you know, the handwriting on the wall, and
that’s why I wanted to protect railroad right of ways for future
mass transit, and, so, I worked hard at that.
DT: Can you tell about that effort?
00:07:58 – 2110
AH: Yeah. I decided that if we protected some of the
railroad right of ways that it would be available for later for some
kind of light rail system, or whatever, because I knew our pollution
was not factory related, because we didn’t have big industry, but,
it was car related and fugitive dust mostly. And we were not going
to be able to get people out of their cars unless we offered them
something else. And I know it was optimistic to think we could get
them out even if we had a good public transportation system. But, it
was important in my mind that we looked that way and therefore, we
did protect some of the railroad right-of-ways.
DT: This seems farsighted at the time. Were there people
that tried to fight acquisition of those rights of way as being too
00:08:56 – 2110
AH: They didn’t see the need—they fought it more on a
basis they didn’t see the need of it, and the developers in
particular, you know, didn’t want to say, you know, I don’t want any
control over anything, whether it’s a rail or whatever it is. So, I
mean, it’s—it’s the age-old thing, developers versus the environment
comes third, fourth, fifth down the line. So—and, also, if you
agreed to zone things with too much density it caused a problem, and
I wasn’t for grid patterns that had dense patterns and, yet, I knew
that was detrimental in another way, because they would say, "What
do you need a rail system for because you don’t have the density or
the population to afford a rail system?" So, it was, you know, which
way am I going to go here? Well, obviously, I went towards
transportation and to heck with that, you know. (Phone ringing)
Better cut something here. Hello?
DT: We were talking just a moment ago about some of the
impacts and controls on development, and one of the effects that
always comes to mind for me is drainage and flooding and how you can
deal with these floodwaters. And I was wondering if you could talk
about some of the work on drainage and the current controversy over
the Trinity and the Trinity forest and so on.
00:10:29 – 2110
AH: Well, let me get to s—some drainage that has to do
with right out here in north Dallas. When they let too much
development occur, all of a sudden you had a lot of pavement put
down. And, all of a sudden, all of the drainage went east toward all
the homes—and so they had to then put in big, you know, big sewers,
big this, big that. Nobody cared, they didn’t care. The homeowners
had to fight like crazy. A—as far as the Trinity, we could have done
something to clean up the Trinity a long time ago but what nobody
wants to understand is that we are at the lower end of the Trinity
and all of the bad stuff flows toward Dallas. And, at one time,
Patsy Swank, who was with the public television station, and I would
talk about the Trinity all the time, and we wanted to do something
magnanimous with the Trinity because it was in the old Kessler
Report for Dallas, okay? And we would talk, "We got to go down
DT: Kessler was a landscape architect?
00:11:42 – 2110
AH: Well, he was—he was a big planner—he was a big
planner, and he wrote a—a book and all that stuff. Well, the minute
I got to EPA after saying, "Oh, we’ve got to do all this stuff for
the Trinity and whatever," I said to some of my engineers, "Listen,
I have no political interest in this at all, but, it—if you can, I
want you to look at that Trinity and see, in fact, if they can have
clean lakes and recreation and all that stuff." And in about two or
three weeks they came back to me and they said, "Mrs. Harrison, if
you wanted to keep the water clean, it would take you billions of
dollars to just keep it clean. It never is going to be clean and,
so, therefore, you ought to just protect the forests and the
wetlands, and leave any mechanical things alone, you know?" So, I
quit talking about doing big stuff for the Trinity. Then, here comes
Dallas with its grandiose $240,000,000 bond issue, and I worked with
people here and one of them I told you about, that you ought to
interview. And I thought, you know, I really try not to come out
publicly anymore on local issues but this is such a travesty, and
then I tell the people the truth because they really don’t have a
good plan on what they’re going to do. And all it is is to really
benefit a turnpike. They want a toll road, and they’re get—and
they’re going to put the toll roads on the levies, you know. And as
my husband says, you ought to put pontoons there and—and maybe
that’ll work. But, in the meantime, they didn’t care about the
environment, they didn’t care about the wetlands, they didn’t care
about cutting down forests. And they even have a—like, a rendering
plant right there now that all that waste would be going down there
if there was a flash flood, and all that livestock would come
running loose and we’d have to have Texas cowboys rounding up the
cattle down there. But, I had a press conference and the League of
Women Voters—the same day I had the press conference, and we had
talked about it—they came out for the first time ever, our Dallas
league came out against a bond issue, took sides. And they took big
sides against the people not hearing the truth, and Mary Vogelson
lead the fight for the League, because she understood all the water
qualif—quality. She—she understood the impact of what would happen
there. I came out and—and had, like, a—a six or eight bullet point
press conference that nobody could misunderstand, and did it right
in front of City Hall. And what happened was that the guy from the
Morning News that was there covered it as I said it, and in the
first edition that went out the next morning to the boonies, it was
00:15:18 - 2110
the front page. As soon as the publisher saw that—and the
editor—they call the guy and tell him they’re changing that article,
because they’re not giving me that kind of coverage, and they moved
it, cut it in pieces so it had no impact. And, then, someone
decided—which had nothing to do with me—to raise enough money to put
a full-page ad in of my press conference, and they did that. And
that was about six days before the vote. Now, before that happened,
twenty-two percent of the people said they were opposed to it. So,
that looked like it was hopeless, po—pose the bond issue. The day of
the election we got 48.6 percent of the vote, and had we started
earlier, we probably could have defeated it. But, now, it’s coming
out in the papers. The city didn’t really have a plan, they’re
trying to do it as they go. And I just know that Ned Fritz worked
hard down in there for years, and Mary Vogelson worked hard about
water quality. I worked hard to do things for the people to tell
them what was honest and what wasn’t. And, even though I wasn’t the
big technician, anyone would know that what they presented the
public was wrong. So, what’s going to happen with it? I don’t know,
I know there’s a lawsuit, or there’s going to be a lawsuit of which
I’m not involved with, because if you’ve ever been an elected
official of the city, you’re not going to get into some lawsuit, you
know, with the city where you were born and raised. But, publicly, I
say exactly what I want about that.
DT: You mentioned that the media can cover your statements
as a public figure or as a private figure differently. They can give
you good press, bad press, no press, inside the fold, above the
fold, whatever, can you tell me your experience when you were on
City Council or as this Dallas Mayor Pro Tem, what sort of coverage
they would give to the environment and to your statements about
00:17:51 – 2110
AH: Very good—very good. I helped—well—I sponsored the
arguments. It was the neighborhood that was so strong about it. The
first historical ordinance in Dallas, which was Swiss Avenue, I
sponsored that. I sponsored the West End Historic District and it
was all just boarded up warehouses and some manufacturing outfits at
the west end of downtown. The press was always good to me. In fact,
I won the Headliner of the Year Award. You know the press club deal
every year? But see the press has changed—maybe they haven’t changed
but the publisher wasn’t fair. And I was told by Jim Shutzie(?), who
writes for the Dallas Observer, that there was an
uprising in the press room that morning over my deal because they
didn’t appreciate having a story cut to ribbons and being placed in
another area, and...
DT: This is the Trinity flood way…
00:19:01 – 2110
DT: And, so, you think it’s an issue of what the
publishers want promoted?
00:19:09 – 2110
AH: Well, the Dallas Morning News has always
been for that Trinity project. In fact, they’re the big promoter of
what’s called the Dallas Plan. The Dallas Plan has offices in the
city of—City Hall. I don’t even think they pay for the space, and
they’re the ones that push the Trinity and have public meetings and
all that stuff. Well, everybody has a right to be on one side or
another. I’m not arguing that point but when you have a powerful
newspaper on one side of an issue, the other side usually doesn’t
get told. And that’s why it was so shocking to me about a month or
so ago—I think it was the Sunday paper—on the front page there was a
giant article about all the fallacies that were told about that
Trinity bond issue. And now everything’s got to be changed. Now,
what’s going to happen with the lawsuit? I don’t have the vaguest
idea. But, they got problems, believe me, they do.
DT: Let me ask you something else that might have come up
while you were in city office. I think that some early plans for
Comanche Peak might have gotten floated and, certainly, Big Brown
was on line by then. Were there any discussions with Dallas Power
and Light about the rate base or the kind of energy and air
pollution that was coming from these plants?
00:20:31 – 2110
AH: Oh, I was the big champion—I was the big champion. I
fought Comanche Peak, and I was the only councilperson that
testified at that hearing. I also told, at that time, Dallas Power
and Light—they weren’t telling the truth about the cost of that
plant because they were saying it was
777 million dollars. And I said, "Would you believe, you know,
billions of dollars?" and all that stuff, and then I
questioned them at a hearing, "Why are you using the kind of
equipment in that plant that Con Edison had in thar—in nar—in New
York, I guess it was, and it failed. What are you doing that for?"
And I questioned them about everything, and I said they didn’t need
the excess capacity. So, why should the Dallas taxpayer pay for
that? I also told Dallas they’re downwind from Glen Rose and if
there’s a major, major catastrophe, they’re going to get it, you
know. So in a gridiron show they called me Gypsy Rose Adlene or
something like that—Gypsy, you know, for Glen Rose—no, Glen Rose
Adlene—and they wrote a song about that. I also had major
disagreements over a rate increase as to when it should be given.
And the city attorney’s office, through a slip or a misunderstanding
or whatever it was, let them have a retroactive rate increase on our
utility bill. And I came out publicly and talked about that, and
their—everybody got a rebate in their electric bill. So, you know,
you can either be an activist for the good, not just to hear
yourself talk—I never—I never took on a battle, I took on a war. I
mean, because if you’re going to speak out against everything, you
can forget it. But, I’d just sit there and, if there was something
really big, I didn’t mind being heard. So—oh and I went to Big
Brown, in fact, I have pictures of being there. The lignite plant
you’re talking about?
00:22:56 – 2110
AH: I went there when I was on the council.
DT: And what was your view of Big Brown?
00:23:01 – 2110
AH: Well, I’ve got to be honest, David, it worried me that
you burn lignite. But I didn’t know enough about it. I asked a lot
of questions and, obviously, they must have satisfied me, and I
couldn’t have stopped that—couldn’t have stopped it. I happen to
have great respect now for the gentleman that’s the Chief Executive
of Texas Utilities, Earl Nye. He was just a young guy. I was older
than he was when—I said he carried the rest of their brief cases in
the hearings. But, I think he understands about pollution in the
environment. I think they’re trying to clean up some of their
plants. At least, I’m told they are. I don’t know, but, I’m told
they are. I’m told they are not nearly as bad as some places in
other states. But I don’t want anything that makes people ill. When
I was at EPA we did a study—the Port Arthur Houston area, Beaumont…
DT: Before we get into EPA, why don’t we just discuss how
you got appointed.
00:24:23 – 2110
AH: Okay. To EPA you mean?
DT: Right. I understood that in early ’77, after Carter
was elected, you were appointed to be Regional Administrator for
Region 6, which would be, what? Texas, Arkansas...
00:24:38 – 2110
AH: Oklahoma, Arkansas and New Mexico and whatever I left
out—Oklahoma. Gary Webber, who was a councilman when I was on the
council, and myself, sponsored an environmental ordinance that
created an environmental commission, which still exists.
DT: Well, let’s resume talking about EPA and how you first
got appointed and…
00:25:17 – 2110
DT: …and some of your adventures there.
00:25:19 - 110
AH: Well, I was—I was on the council and some people said,
"You know, it would really be great if you would be with HUD or EPA
or somebody." And, I said, "You know, that’d be good if it was
interesting but I’m not doing much about getting that kind of deal,
you know." Well, in the meantime, Anna Strauss’ brother-in-law was
Bob Strauss, who was the National Democratic Chairman, and she
talked to him about it, and he said, "Have her send me my resume."
Big deal. So, then, I get a call. A guy by the name of Marshall
Kaplan, who had a consulting agency that consulted people about
social services and environmental things—his original office was in
San Francisco, but he opened one here and we did a lot of work
together. I was on the council. He was a consultant. And we became
good friends and he knew I cared about the environment. And—and
then, SMU had a seminar on environmental issues and I was a keynote
speaker, and it so happened that in that audience Doug Costle, who
was the National Administrator of EPA, but he wasn’t then—I don’t
know what he was. I know he was LBJ’s advance man at one time—he
heard me speak. I never met him. I didn’t know him. Anyway, Marshall
Kaplan was a good friend of Doug Costle because Doug worked for him
years ago. And Doug became the National Administrator of EPA. And he
said to Marshall, "Do you know anyone in the num—in Region 6 that
would be any good, because they are terrible down there. They do
nothing, they’ve never had a strong administrator. It’s our—our
worst region, that one and the one in Kansas City." And Marshall
said, "I know just the person." So, he names me, so, Doug said, "Do
00:27:44 – 2110
think she’d come talk to me?" and Marshall says, "I don’t know.
She goes to Washington fairly frequently, I’ll find out." So,
Marshall calls and I said, "Well, it so happens I’m going there for
a League of Cities—National League of Cities meeting and I am going
to meet with Commerce and HUD, because I’ve been asked to." And he
said, "Well, would—would you meet with the EPA administrator, and I
said, "Well, I’d love that, because that is a real love of mine."
So, made the appointment, I went in to see Doug Costle. We s—talked
about an hour and a half, and he said, "You’re my person. If I offer
you the—if Carter—if I can get an okay from the Senators of Texas
and Carter, would you do it?" And I said, "I would." And he says,
"Don’t shop me around," you know, he said—well, I didn’t say I’d do
it, I said I’d think about it, because he said, "I’m going to be
home this weekend, here’s my home phone number, call me on the
weekend and tell me what you decide." And I called and said, "Yeah,
I’d like to do that." So, sure enough, I’m on vacation in California
and the phone rings, and it’s Lloyd Bentsen, and he said, "Adlene,
don’t tell Doug Costle I called you first but you’re our Regional
Administrator." So, that was a Friday. I then c—get a call from
Washington EPA that, "You’re going to have to be in Washington for a
retreat on Sunday." So, my husband, daughter and I pack up. I fly
into Dallas Saturday, change luggage and head out for Washington.
And that’s how it happened. Doug said, "I remember—I remember her
when I heard her speak at SMU."
DT: As an appointed figure, what was it like going up
against civil servants who had seniority and more...
00:29:57 – 2110
AH: Very tough...
DT: ...job protection?
00:29:59 – 2110
AH: ...very tough. I’ll tell you what I did. The first
thing I noticed when I walked in there, there was not one woman on
the executive board. Not one except for the regional council, okay?
And I thought to myself, you know, there’s something wrong about a
federal agency—and I know there are a lot of bright women here—I’m
going to change that. But the first thing I said to them, I gave
them a little of my background and then I said, "You know a lot more
than I do and I’m going to have to learn a lot from you. But I’ll
tell you one thing, I didn’t come here to make friends, you know, I
came here to get results. This is a bad region. You have a bad
reputation and I don’t want to be part of that. So, I may work you
hard but, by the time I’m through, you’re going to have respect for
yourself and this region."
DT: Why do you think it was considered a bad region?
00:31:04 – 2110
AH: Well, because it was so political—it was political.
00:31:10 - 110
AH: Perjury. What I’m saying is there’s a definite
reason the region was so lousy—two reasons.
DT: Which were?
00:31:19 – 2110
AH: Which were? The state—the state government didn’t give
a darn about environmental issues…
DT: The Texas State…
00:31:27 - 2110
AH: …the good old boys, they didn’t care, they didn’t care
about the air, they didn’t care about the water. They didn’t care
about anything. And yet they got money from EPA to help some of
their operating budget. And the other reason is when I got here
there was a deputy in place that worked with all the Senator and
Congressional offices, and he was a good old boy. And if a Senator
or a Congressman wanted a grant for a wastewater treatment plan that
they shouldn’t even have, they’d get beau coup big dollars from EPA
with a grant. And they were disasters. I mean, engineering firms
were ripping people off. They would come into a town and they would
take a plan off the shelf from some other city that didn’t even work
in that city, just change the name and every now and then they’d
forget to change the name, okay? So, we had nothing but bad going on
here and I wasn’t going to put up with that. So, I wasn’t there but
three days when I told the guy he was out of there. And—and I was
told, "Don’t do that because he’s a political favorite. You’re going
to get in big trouble in Washington with all those offices—those
elected officials’ offices." I said, "I know how to do politics,
I’ll take my chances." I never got one call—not one—when I got rid
of the guy.
DT: Did you get many calls from the regulated industries?
Because I know Region 6 has a huge amount of the petrochemical
production for the US.
00:33:11 – 2110
AH: Yeah, I would get calls…
(Talking at same time)
00:33:13 - 2110
AH: …I’d get calls because we were demanding permits and
things like that that they didn’t think they needed and shouldn’t
have to do and all that. And they’d come into Dallas and every now
and then, you know, I had a very long conference table, a long
conference room. I didn’t get that facility, it was in place, it was
pretty nice, I tell you, it was. Anyway, so you’d have industry on
the right side, petrochemical or refinery, and then you’d have some
of my department heads on the other side of the table—and my
lawyers. And they’d start berating bureaucracy and the bureaucrats
and all that stuff. And I’d say, "Let me tell you something, you got
a big company? You got bureaucrats. Anybody that’s got anything big
has bureaucrats. I don’t care if they’re private industry or they’re
government, and you keep beating up on my people, it’s going to get
worse, because if you’d tell them something good they were doing,
they’d want to sit at the table and work with you. But, instead, you
tell them they’re idiots or whatever, and I got a hard working bunch
of people here. So, I don’t appreciate it." And—and that’s the way
it was, I was very supportive of my staff. We had big discussions
before we ever did anything in my office, you know, and as my deputy
would tell them, "When Miss Harrison starts walking around the table
and watering her plants, you’ve lost her, so just don’t go on
forever about something." But, the big deal was in New Mexico—New
Mexico Public Service—they were building a big power plant and the
fight had already started, they’d been back and forth about they
didn’t want to do
00:35:08 – 2110
scrubbers, and then I became the administrator, and they still
didn’t want to do scrubbers, but the person in front of me wasn’t
real tough on them, and I said, "Well, you’re going to do them, you
know, you’re going to do the scrubbers." And, so, I go to New Mexico
and meet with their Chief Executive Officer, Jerry Geist. And he’d
never met me, he had sent flunkies to Dallas. So, when he walks in
the room, he knows who I am because I’m the only woman there. And he
walks over and he said, "My, my, a lovely lady from Texas." And I
said, "I’m the EPA Regional Administrator. Now, would you sit down
and let’s get on with this?" That’s how that started. So, he got
really red in the face with me and, finally, somewhere during the
discussion, he did that pointing finger at me and I said, "You’re
pointing that finger at me? Well, don’t." And he said, "Listen, I
know people in Washington and I’m calling them. You’re going to be
in deep trouble." And I said, "Go ahead, that’s okay." So, I go to
Washington, because Domenici says he wants to see me. He was a
Senator from New Mexico. And I go over there with a deputy of our
legislative work on the national level and our Enforcement
Director—National Director. I said to them, "Don’t say anything in
there because you don’t know anything about it. Let me do it." So
Domenici starts about, "Do you know what you’re going to cost them
in money for scrubbers, and this and that and whatever, whatever."
And—and when he was through, I gave him all the reasons why they had
to have scrubbers. (coughing) I said, "Senator, you know, New Mexico
Public Service changed their mind on what—what kind of construction
they wanted for this power plant right in the middle. And so a hard
wire plant, to change it now, is a little late in the day to do
that. They knew they should have scrubbers, and it doesn’t make any
sense," and I went on and on. He picked up the phone and he called
Jerry Geist, and he said, "Jerry, I never saw this woman before in
my life. She makes a lot of sense. Now, lets put the scrubbers on
there." And when they were ready to have the dedication of the
plant, Domenici called and said, "It’d be nice if we’d both go." So,
I did. (coughing) PS: Jerry Geist and I became good friends.
DT: Speaking of power plants, there’s been a lot of...
00:38:18 – 2110
AH: You’re going to have to stop because I’m going to have
DT: (?) way to talk about power plants in Texas. Could we
DT: I was wondering if you could discuss some of the
decisions that were made and the political process for getting the
grandfathered status that a lot of the power plants have enjoyed for
almost a generation now. And I suppose they also extend to some of
the petrochemical plants but largely the power plants, can you tell
a little bit about that?
00:38:54 – 2110
AH: Well, you know, I don’t know too much about
grandfathering because EPA didn’t have anything to do with
grandfathering anything, the State of Texas did that. The plants I
worked with were not grandfathered. So I don’t know anything about
that. I mean, like, Big Brown, or whatever, it was a new plant when
I was there. So, if it got grandfathered later, I wasn’t even
around, I don’t know anything about it. I could talk about it,
saying it’s wrong. I don’t think anything that causes environmental
insults ought to be grandfathered and yet that was an easy way in
Texas. I don’t know about other states.
00:39:40 - 110
AH: You’re not going to believe it. My phone doesn’t ring
DT: Let’s talk about some other issues that may have
arisen or at least gone by during your watch. You mentioned that...
00:39:52 – 2110
AH: Oh, I’ll tell you one thing that you should know.
00:39:55 – 2110
AH: When I was the Regional Administrator, Texas just was
not going to conform to any kind of air regulations. I mean, they’d
find every reason why they hadn’t, and I just got sick of it. And
there was a major issue—I can’t think of—of what it was exactly—and
I went down there to talk to the Texas Air Control Board. And I sort
of dropped a little bombshell. And I said, "You know, I think we
provide 25 or 30 percent of your operating budget, so, I’m going on
record today to tell you I’m not providing it anymore unless you
conform to these regulations. I’ve given you a lot of time, time’s
up." And then they broke for a recess. I went to the women’s powder
room, and the word had already spread through the staff all over
that building. And there were women in there, they didn’t—they
didn’t know me. They don’t even know what I look like, and they
said, "Do you think that woman means that? We’ll lose our jobs," you
know. And I didn’t say a word—I didn’t say a word, but PS: they
conformed. You know, you can either let them go or you can make them
do what they’re supposed to do. The strategic petroleum reserves...
DT: Why don’t you discuss the idea to set that up and some
of the protections you tried to put in place for the reserve?
00:41:28 – 2110
AH: For the reserve?
00:41:29 – 2110
AH: As you know, President Carter came up with this idea
about Strategic Petroleum Reserves. And since Texas had salt
domes—and Louisiana—they wanted to use those salt domes to sup—to
store the oil. And, of course, to do that, they had to pump out all
this saline. And the way the plan was is the pipe that was going to
carry the saline into the gulf wasn’t carrying it far. And I start
hearing from sports fishermen and—and all kinds of environmental
people, you mentioned one of them—the Stewart...
DT: Sharon Stewart?
00:42:14 – 2110
AH: Yeah, Sharon Stewart. And they started having big
meetings and I start attending those meetings, and I totally agreed
with them that it was a real insult to the red fish and the shrimp
and to any—to any fish, you know. And so I told Department of
Energy, I’m not going to permit it unless that pipe runs way out
into the gulf. And I had my people work on, you know, I had a marine
biologist and, you know, other people that worked out how far it
should go for safety’s sake. And they said, "Well, Mrs. Harrison,
this is your president’s project," and I said, "I know that. But my
president is not going to want to do anything to affect the
environment if you can help it. And so until I get an assurance how
far that pipe’s going out in the gulf, I’m not going to permit it."
So I’m called to Washington and I go to Department of Energy and
sitting around and they had just appointed a general to run that
Strategic Petroleum Reserve Project. And the general walks in, and
they introduce us. And I don’t really remember his name but just for
the sake of this, I’ll say Bill Jones. And they said, "Miss
Harrison, this is General Bill Jones," and I said, "Hi, Bill." So I
demoted him immediately. I didn’t want him to think that General
status was going to mean very much to me, and that probably wasn’t
very nice of me but, as a woman and as someone that was in a
department that wasn’t popular, you have to stake your claim, and I
did that. Oh, PS: they did what we asked them to do. So you had the
Strategic Petroleum Reserve intact and the oil pumped in there, and
I never have known how many days that would last us in a big crisis
but I really didn’t care that they pump some out now.
DT: Speaking of oil and the gulf, could you tell a little
about the Campeche Sedco oil spill that happened in the 1970s?
00:44:38 – 2110
AH: Yeah. It happened I was in Washington when the alert
came through that that K—Campeche oil spill had happened, and that
that rig that was a Sedco rig had blown. I’m not going to blame
Sedco for that because they leased it to the Mexican government—to
Pemex, I guess. And no matter how much instruction they wanted to
give Pemex on how you operate that rig, they didn’t listen. So it
was carelessness—in my opinion, it was carelessness—I’ve got no
reason to protect Sedco but I try to tell it the way I think it was,
and it was just carelessness and poor training. And so we had all
this oil coming toward our Padre Island, and I must have lived down
there week in and week out with the Coast Guard, who happened to be
superb—totally superb in that effort to keep that oil from coming
in, putting all those boons out and all that. But Doug Costle and
EPA begged the Mexican government and other departments of our
government to let us go in there before that oil traveled. They
wouldn’t do it, they messed around for s—let’s see, I think it was
something like ten, twelve, fourteen days. And they would not accept
any help from our government, and we...
DT: To seal off the rig.
00:46:20 – 2110
AH: Yeah, to seal off that stuff. And—and we were going to
lose those turtles and, you know, our beaches and everything else.
Well, by the time we were allowed to do anything, that oil had
traveled. And we did capture a lot of it but, I don’t know about
Padre now, but for years you had these little tar balls and stuff
all over there. But that was really a crisis of big proportion. And
we did a good job in our region, and so did Fish and Wildlife, and
so did Energy, and so did—what is it? National Oceanography, or
whatever that agency is—we were all there—we were all there, spent a
fortune. And that’s when Clements was governor. And he came down,
and he says, "So, big deal." He actually said, "So, big deal," when
he’s seen—standing there on the beaches of Padre. Man, you never
heard such an uproar in your life. I mean, after all, Sedco belonged
to him besides. So he should have just bent over backwards. Well, it
didn’t take him a day to reverse all that and say all kinds of
wonderful things. But that was sort of an exciting, sad time, you
know, killing the fish, killing the birds, killing everything.
DT: While we’re talking about coastal problems, could you
tell about some of your work to clean up the Houston Ship Channel?
00:48:07 – 2110
AH: Well, it’s hard to put a finger on all of—all of our
work had to do with some of the stuff that was flowing out of some
of those ships. The petrochemical plants built right there and the
most we could do is stand firm on either taking permits away, or if
somebody was going to get a permit to make certain they didn’t put
all that waste into that channel. It was a humongous job. Little by
little EPA cleaned up a lot of it—a lot of it. But, I’m going to
tell you how bad it was. My Deputy Water Director and myself went
down to the Ship Channel to meet with some of those people. We had a
lot of meetings with them and did make some progress I will say. But
we walked right by the channel and it was muddy. And he had on a
pair of brand new loafers—leather loafers—expensive ones. I had on a
pair of leather boots. Within very short time, Myron said to me,
"Say, did anything happen to your boots that we wore that day?" And
I said, "Yeah, they’re all cracked." So were his shoes. That’s how
bad that soil was around there? Isn’t that frightening? It’s plenty
frightening. So I worked hard. I kept making Washington aware of it.
The Department of Energy came down. I had a tour all planned for
them and we took them up in helicopters right down the Ship Channel
all the way out to Galveston, and just—you could see this stuff—you
could see this stuff traveling on the water. It was really bad. I
wanted to make people aware of how bad it really was. I did my best
with media. I did my best to haul the line but it took a long time
to clean up a lot of it. I don’t know what it’s like now. I don’t
have the vaguest idea. Do you know?
DT: I hear it’s better. One of the things I think is
interesting about the Houston Ship Channel is that, I think, for
years—maybe even still—the City of Houston was one of the major
polluters. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about
your situation, having once been on a city council, and now being
elevated to work for the Federal Government and having to deal with
a city in trying to help them clean up their pollution and…
00:51:02 – 2110
AH: Well, let me tell you something, I can’t remember the
name of the organization that the City of Houston and the
county—there was a big group and it had an...
DT: Gulf Coast Waste Disposal?
00:51:18 – 2110
AH: Maybe, had a big—it had a name. I cannot tell you how
many times I went down there and worked with those people. And they
were absolutely the most bullheaded people I ever worked with. We
started way back there on permitting cars, okay? And you could show
them what was coming out of the tailpipe of cars. They didn’t even
want to have any stringent laws about that. I never felt that we
made much progress with them. I didn’t believe in threatening if I
couldn’t fulfill the threat but it isn’t because we didn’t try. They
absolutely didn’t care. In fact, I noticed in an article in 1977
when I went to EPA, I had already warned the city of Dallas, and
they were nothing compared to Houston, on what might happen to their
DT: And was the warning...
(Talking at same time)
00:52:30 – 2110
AH: It was like an administrative...
DT: ...and that you had (?) Federal funds?
00:52:35 – 2110
AH: Yeah, that—that—that they would go in, not enough
while I was on my watch but they were headed that way. I wanted to
give them a warning ahead, you know, we gave them a small grant to
put out these air monitors all over. But I can tell you how it
changed—the environment, the air changed. My office was on the
twenty-seventh floor downtown and, when I first walked in that
office, I could look north or west and it was clear as a bell. By
the second year, I could already see a sort of brown and yellow
haze. By the time I left there, man, it was awful. That’s how fast
DT: Tell me what would happen when you looked south from
your office towards the…
00:53:29 – 2110
AH: I couldn’t look south.
DT: Okay. I’m curious—I understood that the south side of
Dallas has long been the poor minority…
00:53:38 – 2110
AH: Oh, well, I worked on the—the lead plant when I was on
DT: Could you talk about...
00:52:45 – 2110
DT: ...how justice might have played out...
00:53:47 – 2110
DT: …either when you were on the City Council or the EPA?
00:53:51 – 2110
AH: When I was on the City Council and we had that lead
DT: It’s RSR?
00:53:56 – 2110
AH: Yeah, RSR. In those days they called it Dixie
something. Okay, same place. I went to the City Attorney and I said,
"We got to do something there because that pollution’s all over that
neighborhood." And they would dig in, mess around, do nothing—do
nothing. I went to EPA and we started in on that lead plant. Well,
the politics of it—it was a state deal. If the state wouldn’t force
them, I couldn’t because that was just one little facet of my five
states. I couldn’t really do a lot, other than to keep telling them
it’s bad. People didn’t care. It was a minority neighborhood. What’d
they care? I cared a lot. And, now, they’re still working on that
place to clean it up, it’s just totally ridiculous. They don’t care.
00:55:01 - 110
AH: Minority neighborhoods just don’t seem to be anybody’s
priority. And I think it’s a shame that, even though they’ve cleaned
up, there are still problems out there. And, when I think I started
back—back on that problem in 1973, talking about 27 years ago.
DT: One of the projects that I’ve heard about and, I
think, we’re going to interview people concerning is a hazardous...
DT: I wanted to ask you about a hazardous waste facility
that’s in a minority neighborhood out near Winona, and it’s had a
pair of deep well injection systems.
00:56:07 – 2110
AH: Let me tell you about the one Winona thing—Wawona or
whatever it is.
00:56:12 – 2110
AH: Yeah, Gibraltar.
DT: American Gibraltar facility?
00:56:15 – 2110
AH: That was not on my watch, however, a friend of mine’s
wife called me and they had a ranch near there, and she’s the one
that spent fortunes fighting them.
DT: Is this Phyllis Glazier?
00:56:32 – 2110
AH: Yes. She said, "This is Phyllis Glazier, and I know
you know a lot of people and so forth, and we got a terrible problem
here." And so I met her for lunch in the neighborhood, and the
lawyer she was going to use was my deputy at EPA. So I know a lot
about it. Now the State of Texas dragged their feet forever on that.
They knew it was bad—they knew it was bad. Finally, didn’t they
close them down?
DT: They did.
00:57:07 – 2110
AH: But, that was a one-woman crusade, kind of. So I don’t
know much more about it than that. I know their cattle got sick, I
know kids got sick. Those deep injection wells were not good.
DT: And what do you think about the whole technology of
deep well injection, which is more common in this part of the
country than most?
00:57:29 – 2110
AH: Well, I’ll tell you something interesting about that.
You probably don’t know this, but when we were trying to figure
out—not we, EPA—this country was trying to figure out what to do
with nuclear waste, I think it was Allied Chemical that talked about
deep well injection. And then I went out to the Ne—Nevada proving
grounds, you know, where they had those un—underground nuclear
tests—and they were testing deep well injections then for waste. I
don’t know what I think about it. I don’t have the vaguest idea. How
do I know that it’s not going to leach into our water deal? I don’t
know that. They’re supposed to know that. I don’t know enough
technically to answer that. So I don’t even think I’d take a stab at
it. What are they going to do with this stuff? You know, what are we
going to do with it? Now—now, Allied Chemical had a deal where they
would encapsulate this stuff in glass, have you ever heard about
that thing? And the government wouldn’t even give them the time of
day. So I don’t know what happened to that. That was when I was
there and I went to Allied’s headquarters to speak to a bunch of
their managers. But—and that’s where I saw all of that.
DT: Let me ask you a question about things on the surface.
There are probably more wetlands in Region 6 than in any region,
maybe, except Region 4...
00:59:16 – 2110
AH: That’s right, what’s left of them.
DT: ...and I was wondering if you could discuss your
efforts to regulate dredging and filling, and your relationships
with the Army Corps of Engineers, the Galveston district in
00:59:27 – 2110
AH: Well, I didn’t necessarily work with the Galveston
district like the Cache River in Arkansas. That was the Memphis
district and they were going to disturb all that and put a canal
there. I stopped that, wouldn’t permit it. In fact, when I was
announced as Administrator, I came home, as I told you, to change
luggage, and I found a note in my mailbox. It was from Ned Fritz,
"Adlene, if you do anything, save the Cache River." I didn’t even
know what the Cache River was. And that was an interesting fight. I
mean, it lasted, and I got my name in headlines all over those
Arkansas papers. PS: they never got the canal. Corps wanted it, gave
them something to do. I never got along with the
01:00:20 – 2110
Corps. They were going to fill a lot of the wetlands in
Louisiana. I beat them in Federal court with the help of EDF, Jim
Tripp, do you know him? And with the help of our Justice Department.
The Corps of Engineers tried to take the permit away from EPA for
years in Congress. It would allow them just free reign on anything
they wanted to do. But, I never got along with them—never. I don’t
know what they’re like now.
DT: Maybe we can talk a little about...
End of reel 2110.
DT: Earlier we were talking about the Section 404 dredging
and filling, and I thought we might talk about another portion of
the Clean Water Act, which would be the Point Discharge
program—NPDES [National Pollution Discharge Elimination System], I
think, is the acronym. One sort of unusual part of it was that that
program was not delegated to the State of Texas for many, many
years, and long after most states had already gotten delegation and
control over that program. Can you explain why that decision was
made to delay it?
00:01:12 – 2111
AH: Well, the decision was made because that decision came
down the pike before I even got there but it stayed in place a long
time, and I totally agreed with it, is that the State of Texas never
proved itself as far as caring about the environment. What’d they
care about discharge? They didn’t care. What’d they care about air?
They didn’t care. So how can you entrust a state agency with that
kind of power when you know they weren’t going to do it right? When
I finally got the message that we had to now let them take charge of
that program, I fought it tooth and nail. I didn’t trust them. I
thought it was wrong and I think part of it may have been budgetary,
you know? I don’t know what it was but had it been my call, I would
have never permitted them in those days, because they hadn’t proven
to me they cared about anything. So it was all politics at the end
when they got it.
DT: Why do you think the State of Texas had this kind of
disregard for environmental issues?
00:02:34 – 2111
AH: Well because I guess, being a native Texan, there’s an
independence about Texans and nobody’s going to tell them what to
do, and nobody’s going to tell them how to run their state, nobody’s
going to tell them how to run the city. It’s going on today. Listen
to the presidential debates, too much government, and too much
government. Well, I don’t know where we’d be without some of the
government things. I’m not saying we have to have a lot but we
certainly do to protect the health and welfare of our citizens. And
that’s what State of Texas has never cared about, still don’t. They
rank fiftieth, forty-ninth, forty-fifth, in all the things that we
should all care about, whether it be education, health, pollution,
or whatever. So don’t get me started.
DT: No, go ahead, you’re on a roll.
00:03:35 – 2111
AH: I just—I mean, for the governor of a state to tell
somebody about voluntary compliance of air pollution is totally
ridiculous—totally ridiculous. For a governor of a state to say,
"Well, the legislature wasn’t in session," when the CHIP program was
passed in Washington, which is a Children’s Health Insurance Program
so therefore, all these hundreds of kids—thousands of kids—can’t
have any health insurance this year, we can’t get the program
started because we’re not in session, that’s what he says publicly.
When is it that a governor can’t call a special session? So I am
totally grieved, in mourning about thinking that our government is
going to do less than they do now if, in fact, Governor Bush is
President Bush. And I—I’m not saying that Gore is going to do that
much better, I don’t know. At least, he has talked environment and
that’s better than not talking at all. But I don’t know what’s with
the people. When are they going to wake up with all the kids with
asthma? All the kids and all the peop—a—a—adults with lung cancer?
My brother has it right now, my sister died of it. So if you say I’m
a zealot about that subject, I probably am.
DT: While you were with EPA, one of the ways you helped
push environmental protection was to help some of the non-profit
groups that had been working on these problems. Can you help
00:05:38 – 2111
AH: Yes, I can tell you something about that. When—I guess
I’d been in office about a year and I decided to have a special
little section that did research and work with non-profits. We even
worked on lignite. We did a big deal on lignite but I also wanted to
work with non-profits and help them if I could. And so we gave
grants to certain non-profits so they could do their work better.
Whether it would be about the Lung Association, whether it be Sharon
Stewart, some of her group of environmentalists. I felt it was
important to show that we cared and to be helpful. I don’t know if
we were the first region to do it but we did it on my watch here.
And if we didn’t have active citizens, I can tell you we’d be in
worse trouble than we are right now. So I’ve always worked with the
environmental groups, always. It did it on the council, did it at
EPA. Still care about it. But I got to tell you about government a
DT: Please do.
00:06:59 - 111
AH: …if I can. In New Mexico, which was one of my states,
I worked with Ladonna Harris, who was President of Americans for
Indian Opportunity. She was half Indian herself. She was the wife of
Senator Fred Harris of Oklahoma, and they since got a divorce or
whatever years ago, but I would go into that office in New Mexico
and she said to me, "You want to see what goes on with some of the
Indian reservations?" And I said, "Yes," and so one day we drove out
of Albuquerque to some reservation—I can’t remember which one—and we
drove in and she said, "This is a laundromat that the Bureau of
Indian Affairs had built on the reservation." So I get out of the
car and I look in there, man, clean as a whistle—clean as a whistle.
I said, "Golly, they keep it so clean, it doesn’t look like they’ve
ever used it." She said, "Well, how can you use something if they
never bought water to it? They just tell the Congressmen what
they’ve done for the Indians but it’s too expensive to bring the
water there. Congressman never comes and looks." Then, she shows me
this little hospital they built, like a six or eight bed hospital,
never been used, no water. So I testified in front of the Udall
Committee and boy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs could have killed
me. Another thing that bureau did was they would make the contracts
for the Indians when uranium was being mined, when the uranium
belonged to the tribe and—or coal—there were big coal deposits in
certain of the states that the Indians owned and they wouldn’t get
five cents on the dollar of what they should have got. But, they
sell this uranium, and I can’t think of the name of this big
00:09:20 - 111
corporation, it was mining the uranium, and the uranium tailings
going in the streams. So I get a call that the cattle are dying, the
drinking water, they can’t drink it and so I go out there and find
out, indeed, that corporation knew exactly what they were doing. So,
I not only stopped them, but I made them bring big tanks of water
into all the people so they could have drinking water, clean up the
streams, and do all that stuff. Well, you know, I think that’s a
crime. This is a federal agency, the Bureau of Indian Affairs. They
was just screwing and tattooing those Indians all the time. And you
cannot tell me those Congressmen didn’t know that. The guy that was
the Chief—McDonnell(?), I think, was his name—he ended up in prison.
You know about him? Very bright guy, had an engineering degree from
the University of Oklahoma but he also was taking advantage of his
people, you know? But he makes a big deal in Washington about EPA
didn’t try to clean up the water from the uranium, when I was
killing myself. So I called him and let him have it. And he met me
in Las Vegas, where our water research laboratory was, and he
brought a big entourage of people with him and I brought some with
me. And near the end of our day, I said, "Would you mind asking your
people to leave the room and I’ll ask my people to leave the room,"
which we did. And I said, "Listen here, you SOB, if you ever tell a
lie about my region, about what we didn’t do, you know we’re the
only ones that ever came in there and helped you." Well, next thing
I know, he goes to Washington, tells them how wonderful I am. Big
friends. But he went to prison because he was stealing money from
the tribe. So everybody stole from the tribes. Everybody did, which
I thought was very sad.
DT: Speaking of the reservations and the fact that they
didn’t have water service and waste water I imagine as well, can you
tell anything about the colonias in Texas and how it came to be that
often times they didn’t get much infrastructure either?
00:12:12 – 2111
AH: I don’t know how it came to be. I just know that no
governor every—ever cared and—and no state legislature every cared,
and the first time it got a real big airing was with Ann Richards,
who tried to help them. But, supposedly, I don’t know, but from what
I read, it’s not too good yet. So therefore, nobody still cares
about that. I can’t tell you any of the technical facts on that. In
fact, I’ll be honest, when I was at EPA I didn’t even know about
them because, you know, things had to come to me. I mean, I couldn’t
go out in the region and find the stuff. I had enough on my desk
that came to me, that I sure wasn’t going out looking. Not that I
didn’t want to, I didn’t have the time to do that.
DT: Were there other issues that came on your desk from
Texas that you’d like to discuss?
00:13:09 – 2111
AH: Well, you know, I had a lot of people like Catherine
Perrine that came to me all the time about water quality and—and
what wasn’t happening. And any time I could help her and give her
information, I was there to do that. There was some people out near
Plano, Texas, that came to me because Plano contracted with a
private firm to bring in water out of wells or something, and it
wasn’t clean and so I got that issue. I got issues in Oklahoma about
the lead smelting plants and the kids weren’t doing well in school.
And so we marched down there and cleaned that place up. So really
every day you could find twenty-five glaring things that would
happen. And I was very responsive. I never fluffed off anything. We
worked hard. We worked long hours. I don’t—I don’t know that any
other Regional Administrator before me in—in that Texas office ever
listened that much, or ever carried a big stick. And I’m not saying
that in a braggadocios way, it just needed to be done.
DW: What about the uranium mine in Kingsville? Did that
ever come up?
00:14:37 – 2111
AH: No—no, don’t know anything about it as a matter of
DT: Did you get involved in any of the early stirrings of
00:14:48 – 2111
AH: Yeah, I did. In fact, the early announcement—I went to
Houston and we met Bob Eckhardt, who was a great Congressman, I
thought, he cared about the environment. I met him and a deputy
administrator, who’s picture you saw on that wall, Barbara Blum, and
we had a big press conference, and wore yellow slickers, and the
whole nine yards and, in a way, Superfund—I watched it some even
after I left. It was sort of disappointing, I think.
DT: How so?
00:15:28 – 2111
AH: Well, they got some sites cleaned up, you know? But,
other massive sites, they didn’t, and there was just too much red
tape that went on. Now sure it’s better to have done some than none
at all but it was a very expensive program and Congress didn’t want
to fund it as much as they needed to. So if you don’t have the
funding, it’s hard to do all of the things you ought to be doing. So
I guess some of it was successful but not nearly enough in my
opinion. But strictly a funding problem, not necessarily that no one
cared, because citizens understand that. They understand those clean
up efforts and they want them. But I was there early in the game.
DT: Can you tell about when you left the game in a sense?
In 1980 the Reagan Administration came in...
00:16:36 – 2111
DT: ...and there were new appointments made and a pretty
dramatic change in the course of EPA. Can you talk a little bit
about that changeover?
00:16:46 – 2111
AH: Yeah. I’ll tell you the difference. When Carter won,
the Regional Administrators that sat there were Republican
appointees. When Doug Costle took over and appointed by a Democratic
president, he looked around at those administrators, and if he found
that several of them had done a good job for a long time, he left
them alone. When Reagan came, he cleaned out everybody except one
guy in Chicago that was a Republican that was there before, who was
a deputy administrator and then became an administrator. I got
called to Washington because there was a big article in the
Herald where I said Reagan would just ruin everything,
because all the gains that were made would go down the tubes. And I
got called to Washington by some of his people, and said, "Did you
say this?" And I said, "Yes, I did because that’s what I believe
because the President couldn’t—doesn’t care anything about
environmental protection." And, so, I was one of the first to go. It
took about a six-month time to get rid of most of us.
DT: And what happened in the years to come during the
00:18:18 – 2111
AH: Nothing good. I’m not trying to be partisan about it
because I didn’t start out as a partisan to begin with. I was in
city government and didn’t take sides, didn’t—wasn’t active in
political parties. They got by with the least they could get by
with. And people had pretty fair rein—free rein of things. And it’s
a shame because before I got to EPA, and that’s—I guess EPA was only
about eight years old or something like that when I got there—they’d
already cleaned up a bunch of streams. I had fishermen tell me that
streams they didn’t fish in they could go back and fish. They made
very rapid progress on cleaning water. That just all went by the
DT: Any thoughts about how or if environmental protection
became more polarized and partisan? I understood that Nixon helped
set up the EPA and passed…
00:19:29 – 2111
AH: Yeah, that’s what’s a shame…
DT: …the Clean Water Act and so on.
00:19:29 - 111
AH: …because it was Nixon that started the Environmental
Protection Agency and he had Ruckelshaus, I guess, first. He cared
about it. And—and they tried. Don’t ask me why all of a sudden it
became a Democratic thing and the Republicans didn’t want it. In
fact, Domenici was a big advocate of the Clean Air Act at the
beginning. He was Republican. So I don’t know what happened. I
really don’t know what happened. Maybe there was big pressure from
corporations that had problems, whether they be refineries or paper
mills or, you know, I had a paper mill in Louisiana, International
Paper, and they built a big plant in Louisiana, and they were
wonderful because they decided to do some innovative things about
environmental problems with paper mills. They put in very expensive
environmental controls and I went there for the opening of that
plant because I was thrilled with what they had done. And Senator
Long was there. And so I get up first and congratulate the people
and all that stuff. Then, he gets up after me and he makes a big
joke about environmental stuff and, "Big deal," he says, "you know,
so the dust goes up and it comes down," and, "ha ha ha," and people
in the audience, good old boys laughed and everything. And there was
no way I could rebut that because I had already spoken. And I’m
sitting right next to the Executive Vice President of International
Paper, I could feel him bristle. Because here he’d spent fortunes
for this modern plant that was going to be state of the art, and
here’s this Senator, instead of saying, "Thank you and it’s great,"
he’s making with the jokes. So, after the ceremony, there’s a big
barbecue, you know, under a big tent and I see Senator Long getting
ready to leave, and his private little plane is not far away, and I
stand up and I had worked with him, okay? He was my Senator, and I
said, "Senator, I want to tell you that I took exception about what
you did. Here we encourage people to have good environmental
controls and International Paper should be congratulated. And for
you to make jokes about what gives people lung cancer and asthma and
00:22:35 – 2111
wrong, and I resented it." He apologized. My husband says,
"You’ve got to be crazy. He’s one of the, you know, strongest
Senators there." I said, "I don’t care. Let them fire me. I don’t
care," and that was my attitude, let them fire me. You know, I had
Bird of West Virginia all over me about something on coal, and—and
he wasn’t even in my area. But Jack Brooks from Beaumont, was a
Congressman who cared very little about environmental stuff and, I
guess, he was from senior—seniority standpoint, was one of the
biggest in power and he wanted this port permitted at Galveston to
let the tankers come right into port, instead of taking the oil off
off-shore, and I wouldn’t permit. And so he called Bob Strauss and
said, "Listen, you got that woman that job," which he didn’t, I
mean, Bob’s a friend of mine and he certainly—they called him, he
said, "She’s great," but, I mean, it was really Marshall Kaplan that
did it. So, he says, "You tell her I’m going to get her fired man
because we want that permit for that port." And so, Bob Strauss
calls me out of a—a retreat that EPA’s in outside of Washington.
Where was it? The houses are old, the place you stay is old, the...
00:24:26 – 2111
AH: No, it wasn’t in Williamsburg, wasn’t that far.
Anyway, I—and you had to go up, I bet, about three flights of stairs
to get to the lobby because we were down in the bowels of that
place, and I get a—a little note to call Bob Strauss. So I go up the
stairs and I call him and he says, "Listen, you are in deep trouble
with that guy." He says, "I don’t know what it’s about," and I said,
"Bob, I’ll tell you what it’s about. I’m not going to do anything
about it." And he says, "Well, you’re handling it—handle it, I’m
just giving you a warning." And so I called Jack Brooks’ office and
they said, "He’s just getting ready to go to the airport to go to
Belgium," and I said, "Well, if he wants to talk to me about that
port in Galveston, he’d better come to the phone." And so he comes
to the phone, and I said, "I understand you’ve got a problem. What
is it? What’s the problem?" And so he tells me and I just flat tell
him why it’s wrong and I’m not going to do it. And he never did a
thing—he never did a thing. So, I mean, you don’t have to cave in to
these people. They have a lot more respect for you if you can tell
them why you won’t than if you cave into them. But, boy, he just
hated me and we became friends. It’s an amazing thing, same thing
with Schmidt in New Mexico, who was the astronaut who became a
Senator, in what’s the name of that city that has that big copper
mine there in New Mexico? Silver? I don’t know the name of it, I
can’t remember but I ordered them to clean up and do all his stuff
and he got angry, and just raised Cain. And—and I bumped into him in
the Albuquerque airport, and he just blasted me. PS: we became good
friends. In fact, on the Udall Committee, he said I was the best
administrator that he’d ever worked with. Because I helped his
staff. I helped him do a lot, improve a lot, and I just found it
rewarding really. I found out the Senators were much better than the
Congressmen. They really were. They were exceptional compared to—to
most of the Congressmen. And that doesn’t mean all Congressmen but
they were brighter. You could really talk it out with them, and
they’d forget about their power and, if you could prove your point,
they left you alone. So I still have hope.
DT: I want to go back just briefly before your EPA days,
before your Dallas City Council days and talk just briefly about a
book that, I think, took a lot of people’s notice, that Rachel
Carson wrote, Silent Spring. I’m curious if it had any
impact on you and your thoughts of pollution and the environment and
00:28:04 – 2111
AH: Oh, I’m sure it did, among other things. As I told you
early on already, my father taught me the importance of protecting
nature and the beauty we have here and all that. And so any old
scrap I’d hear about any environmental problems, you know, I was on
it. Certainly, that was a magnificent book. It was wonderful. So, I
garnered things from that and everything that I did. I mean, she had
a way of writing that most people never did. I just—I just knew you
didn’t mess up things, I don’t know. And—and I would see kids that
had problems. I used to even say to executives of petrochemical
plants, "You know, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised because of where
you live, that when you left home today you had one kid with
bronchitis or asthma or something. Now you ought to think of this as
a health issue and quit trying to dodge doing the right thing." It
just amazed me because the areas they lived in were awful. When we
did our research study on that triangle of Houston, Beaumont and
DT: The Golden Triangle?
00:29:39 – 2111
AH: ...it showed the great incidence of cancer in those
areas. I mean, unbelievable. And, if that wasn’t enough, look how
many years ago that we put out all those research papers on that.
And I think the progress is too slow, I really do. And I think
politicians have a lot to do with it.
DT: In what way?
00:30:09 – 2111
AH: Because, if they cared more, they would make certain
that their state agencies were better. They’d make certain that the
Federal Government was stronger to help clean up their states,
whatever their problems are. And I think lobbyists get to them. The
most effective people in Washington are the lobbyists and they’re so
afraid they’re not going to be elected again if they do the right
thing, that they end up doing the wrong thing. So, unless they live
in a very environmentally sensitive state, meaning the people are
sensitive, I don’t mean they have any more problems than others, but
the people demand environmental protection so they don’t have to
worry about the lobbyists. And I will tell you the lobbyists, by and
large, are the culprit and the gutless politicians are taken over by
DT: Can you tell any of your experiences dealing with
lobbyists on pollution problems in Texas?
00:31:21 – 2111
AH: Yeah, but, I’m not going to name—I don’t want to name
DT: You don’t have to name names, I’m just curious what
kind of relationship you might have and what sort of pressure they
try and bring.
00:31:30 – 2111
AH: Well, they brought it in the city of Dallas, too—let’s
start with the city of Dallas before we even get to the Feds.
00:31:37 - 111
AH: I mean, I was a big advocate of sign control. So we
had experts come in and talk to us about the First Amendment rights
and Kevin Lynch—had you ever heard of Kevin Lynch?
00:31:53 – 2111
AH: Kevin Lynch was our consultant and I worked with him a
lot. And yet I had lobbyists for these sign companies just chewing
me up, and calling me, and pressuring me. And finally, I s—that was
when I was on the Plan Commission and somebody gave me good advice
that I ought to get Bryan Gumbel to chair this sign committee. And
I’d sit on it and we’d have sign industry people on it, and lay
people on it, and whatever. You never saw such pressure in your life
from these sign companies.
DT: And was it sweet talking pressure? Or was it pretty
00:32:39 – 2111
AH: Oh—oh, it was sweet at the beginning and plenty angry
at the end. That’s how it was. And, then, we passed a good sign
ordinance, another mayor came in down the road, to see—way down the
road, because I was on the Plan Commission then. We did sign
ordinance, the Council passed it. So, I wasn’t on the Council yet. I
may have been, I may have left the Plan Commission and may have
voted for that that I helped write. But way down the line a mayor
comes in, okay? And this big lobbyist is a friend of his. They
gutted that sign ordinance to fair thee well. Same thing happened
with wetland ordinances here. A mayor came in—a developer—gutted it.
That’s a local level—it’s a local level.
DT: Or are the lobbyists just more clever or do they wield
a lot of power?
00:33:51 – 2111
AH: Well, they sat at the country club, smoking cigars...
DT: Could you finish what you were saying about the
lobbyists you dealt with?
00:34:13 – 2111
AH: Yeah, the lobbyists are friends of these good old
boys, you know? They may have a drink together. They may play gin
rummy together, whatever—whatever. And it’s hard to beat that
because who’s going to turn down a friend?
DT: Well, as a woman did you feel somehow invulnerable or
outside the old boy network?
00:34:39 – 2111
AH: Oh, I was never with the good old boy network and they
made certain that I wasn’t. I guess if I sweet-talked them and caved
into everything they wanted, I still wouldn’t be accepted, because
look, I came on very early. When I was on a Plan Commission, I was
the only woman on it. I stayed there eight years. By the time I got
off, there were a couple more. That—that didn’t really bother me. I
mean, they didn’t intimidate me. One wonderful architect, who became
my friend, was on a Plan Commission with me and he had never served
under a woman chairman, and I chaired a certain section of the Plan
Commission and what—and we had lots of disagreements. Well one day
he says, "You know, I really like you. You think just like a man."
And I said, "Is that a compliment?" you know. It’s—you know, how can
you help but—after—now, young men today—for awhile I thought young
men were just as chauvinistic because women were a threat to some of
their jobs, because the job market was lean in the ‘80’s but women
were coming on and, you know, some people hired the woman that had
good background, experience, and they could hire the woman cheaper.
And, so, young men start fearing for their jobs. I think now that’s
over with mostly. I think young men understand that both can cook,
that both can take care of a kid, you know, and it’s sort of a 50-50
deal. This guy I’ve got here, that just came through the door, my
husband, is wonderfully supportive of me—wonderfully. But, he still
would like dinner on the table, see? Because, as a volunteer—maybe
if I were out earning money, he would then not expect it. Now he
won’t say anything to me about going out to dinner, he’ll go but I
know he’d rather not. But he’s from way back there and I think
younger women have it easier today. Now, y’all can correct me if I’m
wrong, I don’t know.
DT: This leads into something I’m curious about. It seems
that many of the environmentalists, in Texas at least—I think of
Mary Vogelson, you’ve mentioned Catherine Perrine, Terry Hershey
down in Houston...
00:37:23 – 2111
AH: Sharon Stewart.
DT: ...Sharon Stewart. Many, many people were women, and I
was curious why that was. Was it because they had the option to
volunteer? What was it?
00:37:33 – 2111
AH: Well, I’ll tell you several reasons. Most of those you
mentioned didn’t work—some of them did—so they had time. But I don’t
want this to sound the opposite of being a male chauvinist but I
think women, by and large, have more courage. They don’t mind taking
on a fight. They don’t mind muddying the waters. And men just don’t
because maybe it’s going to hurt them in their job, maybe when they
go play golf, somebody’s going to think they’re terrible if they
take a side with something that’s controversial. I don’t know what
it is. Women are like bulldogs, they really are. They get a hold of
something and they won’t let go. I had a city attorney tell me—a
Dallas city attorney—we went to Ft. Worth to sort of have a
communication pow-wow with the Ft. Worth City Council over some
disagreements between Ft. Worth and Dallas. Why he took me I don’t
know, because he knew I’d stand up, I guess. He had plenty of men to
choose from. So coming home in the car he said to me, "You know,
women are just like unions." I said, "What do you mean?" And he
says, "They never let go." And I think they don’t. I’m never going
to let go of that Trinity, I’m never ever going to let go of that
Trinity. I never let go of anything at EPA. I mean, I didn’t care
who pushed me to do what, I didn’t. But, you don’t win friends that
way, I can tell you that. I think all of us would rather be liked
than disliked. But, somewhere down the line, I made up my mind that
if I had to sacrifice like for something that I thought was
important, I’d just have to sacrifice it. And, therefore, a lot of
people felt intimidated by me and some of them would even tell me
that. And when I would hear them say that, I’d say, "I didn’t
intimidate you, just go back to Eleanor Roosevelt’s book. There’s a
quote in there, ‘The only one that can intimidate you is yourself,’
and that’s the truth." I mean, they don’t have to pay any attention
to what I say or do. They don’t have to be intimidated but if they
are they are. And people don’t like you when they feel intimidated.
DT: Let me ask you about another chapter of your life
where you’ve been in a position of power, and that’s at DART, the
Dallas Area Rapid Transit Agency.
00:40:41 – 2111
DT: Authority, I’m sorry. What was your experience there
in trying to introduce the idea of mass transit to Dallas?
00:40:53 – 2111
AH: Well, first of all you’ve got to understand how I
became chair. I had no intention of being chair. In fact, when the
City Council asked me to represent them on the interim DART Board,
before it became a permanent authority, each one of those Council
people had a choi—you know, an appointment—and I said, "I don’t want
to. I don’t want to do it because nobody’s interested in mass
transit here. I’ve had my battles at EPA. I’ve had my battles at the
City Council. I’ve had all kinds of battles and I don’t want to."
"Oh, no, you’ve got to do it," I said, "Okay." So I come to the
first meeting and it’s like an organizational meeting, all these
different people from twenty-one communities—I think it was at that
time—had a representative. Dallas had more than anyone because of
population. The first thing they did was elect an acting chair, you
know, just to run meetings until it got organized. And they put the
Mayor of Plano, I think it was, Edwards was his name—last name—as an
acting chair that wouldn’t stay permanent. And he, in turn,
appointed a nominating committee for the permanent chair and vice
chair. I had nothing to do with it. I wasn’t on a committee. And I
got a call and—from two people. One was a guy I had worked with in
the community a long time and one was a Councilman from Dallas. And
they said, "You know, I know when you came up to that meeting today,
a lot of those suburban or smaller city reps that you knew came up
to you and said, ‘We don’t want—we know Dallas is going to get the
chair because they’ll have the votes. We know and it’s probably
appropriate that they do the first time around.’ And we saw people
come up to you and say, ‘We don’t want so and so to be chair. We’re
telling you that we’ll fight it tooth and nail.’ And we’d just as
soon you take the chairmanship if you would because we’ll trust you.
We’ll trust you to do the right thing." I said, "I don’t want it. I
don’t care anything about being chair." That night I get a call that
nominating committee was meeting and they said, "We’d like you to be
00:43:48 - 111
and I said, "Boy, so and so is really going to be disappointed
and I don’t want to get into the politics of that." He said, "Well,
he’ll just have to be disappointed." And I said, "Well, the Mayor’s
going to be disappointed too—Mayor of Dallas—because that’s his
pick." Well, I come to the next meeting and they announce the slate,
there I am, as simple as that. I never lifted a finger to get that
chairmanship and, of course, I don’t think the other guy believed
that but it’s true. And I said, "I’m sorry you wanted it so bad and
you would have been good. But I said, "they didn’t want you, I can’t
help it." In the meantime, I was the interim chair for a couple of
years as we went through putting a plan together for all those
cities. You talk about a zoo, trying to keep all those people
together, and we finally got a good plan and it came up to the
election to make us a permanent authority and about, I think, five
of them dropped out. I’m trying to think. About five. They were
little tiny incorporated little towns, not cities. I guess Mesquite
and Duncanville were the most major ones that dropped out. Mesquite
because of a racial issue and Duncanville probably the same.
DT: The racial issue being that they didn’t want blacks
having easy access to their suburbs?
00:45:34 – 2111
AH: Yeah—yeah—yeah. And that’s a shame.
DT: Well, can you tell me just briefly if the goal of the
Authority was air quality or was it traffic improvement?
00:45:48 – 2111
AH: Well, the—with most of them, the goal as traffic
congestion. With some of us it was traffic and pollution. And, no
matter what the motive was, the motive was to have a transit
authority and to ultimately have a rail system.
DT: So that was an element of the plans. Something else
that I was curious about, were they just pushing buses or were they
thinking of light rail or fixed rail?
00:46:18 – 2111
AH: No, they were thinking our plan had buses and light
rail from the very beginning. And that’s how it was presented to the
public, and we’ve now got about twenty-three miles of light rail and
it’ll be about fifty some odd in another, I don’t know, four or five
DT: And what was the public’s initial reaction to…
00:46:44 – 2111
AH: You had to—
DT: …the idea of light rail?
00:46:46 - 111
AH: …you had to work like crazy because you were talking
about a sales tax. So, it didn’t make any difference what their
reaction was. You tell somebody some more sales tax, they’re not too
happy about it. And we worked like dogs. I mean, we went to public
meetings every night, we listened, we changed plans, you know,
everything we could possibly do to—to win, we did. And the—the
people on the Authority could not run the campaign. And Walt
Euman(?) did that, he raised the money, picked the chairman but we
could go out to all the public meetings, and talk about the plan and
show them the maps, and—and do all of that. And it was a big
struggle and we won. That was the most joyous night. It was just
great. And then the trouble started more because now we’re a
permanent Authority and everybody wants to get into the act, you
know? About where the development is and where this is and we don’t
want a tunnel and—it was hard. I mean, I had five years of scars on
my back but just the other—what was it? August 11, I think, Dallas
passed with - what - seventy-seven point something percent to allow
DART to have long term financing. So, you see, the people have
DT: Is ridership pretty good?
00:48:38 – 2111
AH: Ridership is beyond expectations so far. It’s never
going to take enough cars off the street because, first of all, you
know, a—a light rail line only runs certain places. Now, we have
parking but not nearly enough. If you go by our Park Lane station,
that lot is full. Now, if they can’t get their car in there, they’re
not going to town on the light rail. All the lots are full. And
after I left DART, some wonderful engineer at DART who wanted more
money out of the budget for something he wanted, went and sold some
of the lots—parking lots.
DT: What do you think the biggest accomplishment of DART
was while you were there?
00:49:31 – 2111
AH: Well, the biggest accomplishment is that you can get
that many people to sit down in a room and put a plan together. The
second big accomplishment is you could sell all the citizens a sales
tax, okay? The third accomplishment was almost overnight. We put
tons of new buses on the street. I mean, it was a metamorphosis
compared to what the City of Dallas owned in that bus system. It was
absolutely decaying, service was terrible, not enough buses and,
boy, we didn’t waste any time buying those buses, getting them on a
street and also starting express buses out of Richardson and Plano,
which were these big comfortable buses that you see on the roads,
you know. So we got those in force pretty fast and people knew we
meant business. The light rail slower. I mean, you can’t have
arguments and all that like some of the big cheeses downtown didn’t
want a subway, and we said, "Look, if you give us six miles plus of
subway into north central coming into downtown, we’re going to move
faster and we’re not going to get caught up in the state
construction of Highway 75, because they’re redoing north central.
We’ll be underneath them. We’re not in their way and they’re not in
ours." Well, PS: we couldn’t get all the tunnel downtown. They
fought us tooth and nail but we got three miles of tunnel under
north central. And we were open for business long before north
central was. So I felt good about that. I thought that was a great
DT: Speaking of being open for business, what do you think
we’re all going to be open for business, or what sort of challenges
do you think we’re going to face environmentally in the years to
00:51:40 – 2111
AH: Well, first of all, as you know, population increase
is a challenge in itself. What are we going to do? I mean, I don’t
want to get into planned parenthood and all of that but more people
ought to understand that because we can’t take care of the
burgeoning numbers in population. How are we going to get
infrastructure for that many people? More people, more industry,
more pollution. If—if we don’t wake up to the fact that we sell the
people on environmental controls, birth control, which I didn’t mean
to get into in this but it’s all part of it—God knows what my
daughter’s going to live in. It’s already bad. I mean, you look at
statistics of how many people are ill because of the pollution. And
doesn’t that matter to the people that have the vote? I mean, I
don’t see it. We better find good candidates that have guts and let
them stand up and start taking care of this country and also the
world because it’s not just here, it’s all over. And you can say,
"Are you optimistic?" Not—not really but I’m not pessimistic enough
to quit trying. In fact, Doug Costle when we had a little game the
first we all met the administrators and you drew numbers and he was
my guy that was going to talk to me. I thought that’s my luck, the
first day at EPA, I got to draw the National Administrator. And then
you talk to each other and that EPA person would get up and say what
they found out about the new person. And he said, "Adlene’s the
first person I’ve ever talked to that is a pragmatist and an
optimist at the same time." And I never thought about it that way.
I’m not really too sure what’s going to happen. I’m pretty realistic
but I’m not going to stop trying and neither should anybody else who
DT: What is your advice for people who care?
00:54:26 – 2111
AH: Get involved with—either run for office where their
vote can count or their voice can count or join groups that care
about it and swell the ranks. I mean, I’m going to give you a group
I think that’s made more progress, I’m talk—not talking necessarily
about the environment, they care about that too, is the Texas
Freedom Network. Do you know about that?
00:55:00 - 111
AH: The Texas Freedom Network was started by Ann Richards’
daughter. She was transferred with her husband out of state. A young
woman whose last name is Smoot(?) runs it now out of Austin. They
have increased their membership tremendously and they send out a
newsletter with facts in it. There’s no bull in it and they make you
aware of what’s going on in this state, okay? That kind of group is
worthwhile to give to and to join. They care about public issues.
They care about health issues and health issues are environment.
They fought like crazy for that Children’s Health Insurance Program.
So you got to find groups like that that are very vibrant, that are
very courageous, and be part of them. Because, as an individual,
that’s how you find your voice. You c—you can’t just find it by
yourself. I mean, I had a voice but how did I have it? I was, you
know, I worked on bond issues first. I worked with senior citizen
organizations, with homeowners. I helped start the full first
homeowner’s association so they’d have a voice. I got elected so
your name gets out there. You’re on television, people recognize
you, they hear you so you got to make your choice of where you’re
going to do that. If you can’t run for office or you don’t want to,
then help these organizations that are good. Research them. Get
involved. When you go back to Austin—is that where you live?
DT: Uh huh.
00:56:58 – 2111
AH: You ought to talk to that woman at the Texas Freedom
Network. I mean, you know, you can give her issues that the state
should be doing or whatever and, if it fits in, I mean, she’s a
voice. And Republicans and Democrats alike belong to that. It’s not
a partisan group. So that’s the only thing I can say on what you do.
I’ve never given up but, by gosh, I know how to open doors and—and I
started way back there, I didn’t know how to open them. It takes a
lot of hard work if you’re willing to work.
DT: When you’re tired of working and want to relax and put
your feet up, or go some place you enjoy, where do you go? Is there
a place in the outdoors of Texas that gives you special pleasure?
00:57:59 – 2111
AH: Well, I can’t…
(Talking at same time)
00:58:01 - 111
AH: …well, I went to Big Bend and—and want to go back but
that certainly just did something for me. It was like you saw
canyons and you saw streams and you saw cactus and desert and you
got a little bit of everything out there. It was peaceful, totally
peaceful. Sometimes we take drives down the road to see the
wildflowers, for example. We used to go East Texas more than we do
but I love to see all the pine trees. Anything that takes me out of
the big city. And, as far as big vacations are concerned, we’ve gone
to almost every national park in the country. And this summer we
went to Glacier National Park. It was totally glorious. I never saw
anything like it. When I went to the Tetons in Yellowstone, I adored
it, I still do, I’d go back. But Glacier is even more so, if that’s
possible. Course, my husband and daughter’ll say every time we take
a trip in the mountains I would say as we drove, "Look at that
mountain, look at that," well, we just saw one, you know? It’s like
I never get tired of drinking that stuff in. Fortunately, they don’t
either, even if they kid me.
DT: Would you like to add anything?
00:59:33 – 2111
AH: Well, I would like to say that—that I’m grateful for
what y’all are doing. As a volunteer, it’s—I don’t know how easy
that is to troop around the country and, you know, and work hard and
I’m grateful to anyone that puts the environment out there in front
of people. I hope the University of Texas at the Barker Center—gets
everyone involved and I hope your video is successful.
DT: Well, thank you. We appreciate the encouragement.
01:00:08 – 2111
AH: Yeah, because, you know, I really respect y’all, I do.
DT: Thank you.
End of reel 2111.
End of interview with Adlene Harrison.