Posts Tagged ‘federal register’

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.

Read Full Post »

Breaking News!  Remember back in December, when I was having a daily conniption due to various midnight memos and parting shots from the outgoing Bush administration?  Particularly troubling was former EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s decision to reverse the landmark Bonanza decision.  Well, now Johnson’s reversal has been reversed.

Last November the EPA’s governance board ruled that its regional office had been too hasty in approving  a new coal-fired power plant in Bonanza, Utah because the plant didn’t include carbon dioxide emissions or control techniques in their permit application.  The Sierra Club helped secure this victory by filing a suit against Utah’s Deseret Power Electric Cooperative for not controlling carbon dioxide. Their argument was based upon the landmark Massachusetts v EPA case, which required the agency to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.  But then at the last minute, outgoing Stephen Johnson issued a memo reversing this decision and saying that the EPA should ignore CO2 emissions when permitting new coal fired power plants.

But REJOICE, for this morning the Sierra Club reports:

Washington, DC: President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today took the first step toward regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA, under the new leadership of Administrator Lisa Jackson, granted a petition from the Sierra Club and other groups calling for reconsideration of an unlawful, midnight memo issued by former EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson which sought to prohibit controls on global warming pollution from coal plants. EPA announced in a letter to the Sierra Club that it will publish a proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register and seek public comments on the decision in the near future.

Today’s decision is consistent with a previous ruling by the EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board (EAB) in the Bonanza case, which found that there was no valid reason for the Bush administration’s refusal to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired power plants. The so-called Johnson Memo sought to unlawfully overturn that decision.

Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Defense Fund filed suit against the Bush administration to overturn the Johnson Memo. That litigation will now be put on hold as a result of today’s announcement.

Okay, so the EPA hasn’t officially nixed the memo, but they are posting a proposed rulemaking (to nix it) and inviting public comment.  Not too shabby for a Tuesday.

The decision to grant the Sierra Club’s petition says a lot about the EPA’s new direction and leadership under Lisa Jackson.

Said David Bookbinder, Chief Climate Counsel for the Sierra Club in a press release this morning,

Today’s victory is yet another indication that change really has come to Washington, and to EPA in particular. This decision stops the Bush Administration’s final, last-minute effort to saddle President Obama with its do-nothing policy on global warming.

Not only does today’s decision signal a good start for our clean energy future, it also signals a return to policy based on sound science and the rule of law, not deep pocketbooks or politics. Lisa Jackson is making good on her promises to bring science and the rule of law back into the center of the decision making process at EPA.

We live in exciting times.

Read Full Post »