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Adlene Harrison

INTERVIEWEE: Adlene Harrison (AH)
DATE: October 17, 2000
LOCATION: Dallas, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Lacy Goldsmith and Robin Johnson
REEL: 2110 and 2111

Please note that the recording includes roughly 60 seconds of color bars and sound tone for technical settings at the outset of the recordings. Numbers mark time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” indicates off-camera background conversation or noise unrelated to the interview.

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
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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…
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AH: Okay.
DT: …mass transit, any of those things.
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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
AH: Well…
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?
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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 expensive?
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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.
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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 there.”
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 on
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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 conservation?
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
AH: Yeah—yeah.
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?
DT: Right.
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.
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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…
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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
AH: Okay.
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 you
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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.
(phone ringing)
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 to water.
DT: (?) way to talk about power plants in Texas. Could we start off?
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.
(phone ringing)
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.
DT: Sure.
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?
DT: Sure.
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 air.
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 it deteriorated.
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 the council.
DT: Could you talk about…
00:52:45 – 2110
AH: That…
DT: …how justice might have played out…
00:53:47 – 2110
AH: Yeah—yeah.
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 smelter plant…
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.
(phone ringing)
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…
(phone ringing)
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.
DT: Gibraltar…
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 particular.
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 explain?
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 little bit…
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 fact.
DT: Did you get involved in any of the early stirrings of Superfund?
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
AH: ’81.
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 Reagan/Bush era?
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 boards.
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 bronchitis is
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…
DT: Williamsburg?
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 our vulnerabilities.
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 Port Arthur…
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 them.
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 names…
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.
DT: Sure.
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?
DT: Sure.
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 hard-nosed pressure.
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
AH: Authority.
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 the chair,”
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 years.
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 accepted it.
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 accomplishment.
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 come?
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 cares.
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?
DT: (?)
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.