City delays vote on $2 billion EPA pollution deal

In a city that's waited more than a decade to address chronic sewer spills into Houston waterways, Mayor Sylvester Turner today conceded additional time so that citizens could better examine a $2 billion commitment he and members of city council will make on their behalf.

"So that people can see it and read it and feel like they don't have to be rushed about it," said Turner.

The proposed settlement with the EPA, known as a consent decree, will initiate a range of specific remedies aimed at ending the rash of so called "sanitary sewer overflows," which have contaminated local waterways.

Under pressure from stakeholders, on Tuesday Turner granted the public access to the 150th page, which was previously confidential proposal, but is now insisting on pushing the measure through council next week.

Kristen Schlemmer of the environmental watchdog group Bayou City Waterkeeper believes this deal is too complex and far too consequential to rapidly sanction without extensive taxpayer scrutiny.

"A week is a good start, but it is not enough. I don't think it would hurt to give the public enough time, whether that's 30 days, 60 days to understand this decree before the city council puts this to a vote," said Schlemmer.

The mayor is unlikely to agree. He calls this deal a "cost efficient" solution which attacks pollution at its "root cause" without "significantly raising anybody's water rates."