EPA taking over permitting of Texas facilities: TCEQ’s permitting process doesn’t follow Clean Air Act

The other shoe has finally dropped.

Back in September 2009, we let you know how the EPA had issued rulings that condemned TCEQ’s air quality permitting practices. And today, the EPA stopped asking nicely and took some action.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Objecting to how Texas regulates air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it is taking over the issuance of an operating permit for a Corpus Christi refinery and could step in at some 39 other major facilities across the state.

“I think the writing will be on the wall — unless we start seeing better permits that address our objections, we are very likely to begin federalizing others,” EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz said in a telephone interview. “The state is not following federal Clean Air Act requirements.”

At issue here is the process TCEQ uses to permit new industries that contribute to air pollution.  Specifically, these are called “flex permits” and have been roundly criticized by environmentalists and others for being insufficient in protecting human health and safety from dirty air.  During the Bush Administration, the EPA turned a blind eye to these practices, but now are finally giving TCEQ and flex permitting the scrutiny they deserve.

Of interest here is the Sunset Review process that TCEQ will undergo this year and next, giving the Legislature the opportunity to reform the state agency. With EPA showing they are not going to allow the loopholes that flex permitting creates, it is time for TCEQ and lawmakers alike to sunset these specific practices and go about permitting new facilities based on things like… oh, the Clean Air Act.  Because if TCEQ won’t, it certainly looks like EPA will.

Now if only EPA will ask TCEQ to regulate or at least measure emissions of greenhouse gases like the Texas legislature asked TCEQ to do and which they have promised to do in the past?


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.