Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Rick Perry and the Troubles Back Home

Governor Rick Perry will continue campaigning for president despite his fifth-place loss in Iowa. But with his presidential prospects diminished, the governor might start wondering what challenges await him in Texas if he doesn’t end up in the White House.

His underwhelming campaign performance also has political analysts wondering whether the governor will be equipped to face those challenges.

“Perry’s absence doesn’t do him good politically in the state,” University of Texas at Austin professor Bruce Buchanan told StateImpact Texas.”People want the Governor on the scene when there are problems and crisis and he has not been, and his critics will call that to his attention.”

One “crisis” in which Perry’s absence appeared to be felt acutely was the Labor Day wildfires in Bastrop County, when shouts of “Where’s the governor?!” interrupted a speech by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.

Dewhurst, who had been sent in Perry’s place, said he didn’t know where Perry was.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Rick Perry campaigns at a coffee shop in Iowa in December

But the fire was just one of many environmental issues that shaped the last four months of 2011, approximately the same time the Governor has focused on his Presidential bid. While he’s been away, Texans have grappled with the impacts of a historic drought, the profits and pitfalls of a newly invigorated natural gas industry, and seen continued battles between state policymakers and the federal government over environmental regulations.

“Once he decides that his ride is over, he needs to come back and help us deal with these very important issues that are the bread and butter across the state, especially experiencing the drought that we’ve [had],” Congressman Silvestre Reyes (D-El Paso) told StateImpact Texas.

Yesterday Reyes was touring El Paso’s water desalination plant with Ken Salazar, the Head of the US department of the interior. UT’s Buchanan says those are the types of projects like that that the Texas governor might have to play catch up with.

“It would be better for [Perry] politically and for the party politically if he were more front and center on those [water] issues,” said Buchanan.

The state is also locked in legal battles and a seemingly never-ending war of words with the US Environmental Protection Agency. Although some wonder if that animosity might cool should Perry’s presidential ambitions fail.

“Governor Perry’s bashing of the US environmental Protection Agency seemed to ramp up considerably once he made a decision to run for president, and sort of as a prelude to that decision to run for president,” said Ken Kramer, head of the Lone Star Sierra Club.

And if Perry’s presidential bid falls short?

“I would hope that he would set aside some of the personal animosity that seems to have developed between the EPA and the regional administrator,” said Kramer.


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