EPA Rejects Texas Air Pollution Rules for Third Time

by | Sep 2, 2010

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rejected some aspects of Texas’ rules for air pollution for the third time in five months because they violate the Clean Air Act, reports Houston Chronicle.

The EPA said the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s New Source Review — which mandates when industrial plants must implement additional pollution controls — did not meet Clean Air Act requirements. The New Source Review is required by the federal Clean Air Act and is typically administered by states, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Under federal guidelines, expanding industrial plants calculate their emissions to determine whether they need new pollution controls but the Texas rules allow new plants, which aren’t included in the federal rules, to use estimates to set emissions limits, according to the Houston Chronicle.

EPA says the problem is that if the caps are set too high, it will make it easier for the plants to expand later.

Al Armendariz, regional administrator for the EPA, told the Houston Chronicle that the Texas program also falls short of federal standards for monitoring emissions, and the state’s rules don’t require plants to include all pollution sources when setting limits.

Armendariz added that the ruling will not require companies to seek new permits or shut down, though there may be additional restrictions on emissions.

The EPA said in the Dallas Morning News article that Texas’ New Source Review system also did not guarantee that emissions remained below acceptable levels, and that the state does not allow enough public scrutiny of pending permits.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which issues permits on the EPA’s behalf, said the program meets the federal requirements and that the state’s air quality improved under the program.

The EPA previously struck down a Texas program that let industrial plants avoid some permitting procedures and the state’s use of “flexible permits,” which the federal agency says establish emissions caps that aren’t enforeceable at refineries and other plants, reports Houston Chronicle.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in separate petitions to block the EPA from rejecting the two permitting programs.

Texas recently joined 16 other court challenges to EPA’s tailoring rule, which is intended to limit greenhouse gas limits to larger facilities.

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