It has been about half a year since the battles started between the EPA and TCEQ over the Texas’s flexible air-permitting program. Unfortunately, the Governor has taken advantage of this issue to use to attack the Federal Government in his bid for the Governor post. Many have us have forgotten that the EPA started questioning the state’s permitting program during the Bush administration, long before Obama took office, but since this is an election year, Perry will do anything within his reach to cling on that chair.
The EPA finds the 16 year permitting program incompliant with the Clean Air Act. The program makes it difficult to monitor the pollution and reduce emission from Texas facilities because, rather than having to disclose pollution for each individual smokestack at a facility, they aggregate them all together. The Governor and the Attorney general have already sued the EPA protesting the latter’s “overstepping its authority.” The TCEQ says the program is just fine and gives permits to Texas at a cheaper cost.
But we and most other environmental groups, find flex permits severely lacking. All we (and the feds) are asking for is some basic transparency. If flex permits do work, simply tell us what your emissions are, and let’s have a debate about the efficacy of the program. Buit we can’t do that while industry and TCEQ hide the data from the public.
After the many twists and turns this battle has taken, the EPA has set in place a new rule to start a voluntary Audit Program under which refineries and other facilities in Texas can hire a third party auditor. If businesses fail to meet the standards after being audited, the EPA promises not to penalize them but to work with them to acquire a federal air permit.
TX facilities should find this program reasonable. According to the EPA’s website, “The Audit Program is available for 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Participants who sign up in the first 45 days can take advantage of a reduced penalty incentive for potential violations.”
The TCEQ has protested the new rule, “he state of Texas vigorously defends its flexible permits program and expects to prevail in court. Flexible permits are legal and effective,” said Terry Clawson, the Spokesman for the TCEQ.
Well, if that’s so– show us the data. They won’t, because they know that it won’t stand up to scrutiny.
Finally, Texas facilities will follow the Clean Air Act, just like facilities in every other state.
Meanwhile, tax dollars Texans pay are being wasted on a state agency that refuses to do its job of protecting the state’s environment, and are being wasted by our governor and attorney general on meaningless lawsuits. The EPA is not out to get Texas and just like Al Armedariz said, “Our objective is to get good permits.”
That’s our goal, too. TCEQ is undergoing Sunset Review by the Texas Legislature. Let’s hope we get an agency that follows the law.
By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.