Posts Tagged ‘United States Environmental Protection Agency’

HB 2694, the sunset bill for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will be heard on the house floor tomorrow and several dozen amendments have be prefiled.  Of concern to any of you who have opposed a permit being granted is Representative Warren Chisum’s (R-Pampa) proposed floor amendment to HB 2694 which would completely undercut the Contested Case Hearing rules for TCEQ.

This session Rep. Chisum introduced House Bill 3037 to try to give polluters advantages in the contested case process, including placing the ‘burden of proof’ on the persons contesting a pollution control permit to prove that the permit should not be issued.

Currently the burden of proof is where it should be – on polluters to demonstrate that their discharges into the water or emissions into the air will be within legal limits and not produce adverse impacts. Our air and our water are shared resources. If a person or a company wants to introduce pollutants into our air and water, than they need to prove that it will not be harmful – the burden should not be on those potentially affected by the pollution.

House Bill 3037 received a hearing in the House Environmental Regulation Committee a couple of weeks ago, and it received overwhelming bipartisan opposition from citizens around Texas – from El Paso to Central Texas to Conroe and many other areas – and from local governments enforcing pollution control laws. The only supporters of the bill were those industries who want to eliminate any meaningful opposition to the pollution control permits they seek. The Committee has not acted on the bill, so Rep. Chisum has taken the HB 3037 language and fashioned it into a proposed amendment to House Bill 2694, the legislation that will continue the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), set for House floor debate tomorrow.

Most of the “affected persons” that participate in contested case hearings are rural farmers and ranchers or families wanting to
protect their quality of life.  They don’t have the resources to “prove” a permit should not be issued.  Most cannot even afford legal representation for the contested case hearing — much less water quality studies or air pollution modeling necessary to prove potential pollution impacts.

Citizens merely want proof that the additional pollution will not harm their children, livestock and property.   Citizens that ask the probing questions that often times reveal problems or even novel solutions that improve the overall outcome. 

Also, contested case hearings often bring to light problems with the proposed permit that TCEQ never considered.  For example, independent State Office of Administrative Hearings Law Judges have decided based on contested case hearing evidence cross-examination of application witnesses that more stringent permit conditions are required to protect the public. 

And, Rep. Chisum’s amendment goes even further in undermining meaningful public participation.  Proposed Sec. 5.316 would actually
violate the federal Clean Air Act, and would jeopardize Texas’ ability to issue federal air permits.  Another proposed section would also require the agency to spend more of our limited tax dollars on defending the issuance of a private company’s profit making permit (i.e., the provision regarding executive director’s participation in the contested case hearing).  That is simply absurd in this economy and state budget constraints!

You can make a difference, call your State Representative and tell them to vote AGAINST Warren Chisum’s proposed floor amendment to HB 2694.  A simple phone call makes a HUGE difference.  If you don’t know who your representative is, go to http://www.house.state.tx.us/members/find-your-representative/

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SB 655 by Hegar, or the Texas Railroad Commission Sunset Bill, suffered a setback in the Senate today. (more…)

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Over the past couple of years, there has been a heated debate involving the potential EPA implementation of allowing a greater percentage of ethanol in gasoline.  The current volume percentage of ethanol allowed is 10% for vehicles made between the years 2001 and 2006. Recently, the EPA has been discussing the approval of what is known as E15 (15 volume percent ethanol blended with gasoline), and in October of 2010, the request was waived for the implementation of E15 to be allowed in vehicles made in 2007 and later.  Taking these two decisions into consideration, this now allows for E15 use in vehicle makes 2001 and newer, lighter-make vehicles into the commerce division.  Studies have shown that E15 is likely to result in somewhat lower evaporative emissions compared to fuel currently sold in much of the country (E10) as a result of the lower volatility of E15 under the partial waiver conditions. There are currently two conditions that must be met.  These conditions take into consideration the concerns of the community.  One condition of the waiver involves the mitigation of the possibility of citizens misfueling E15 in the wrong vehicles.  The other condition addresses the fuel and quality of the ethanol.

Sign indicating ethanol at gas station

On January 21, 2011, the EPA did in fact grant a partial waiver for E15 for use in MY2001-2006 light-duty motor vehicles. These decisions were based on test results provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and other information regarding the potential effect of E15 on vehicle emissions. Taken together, the two actions allow, but do not require, E15 to be introduced into commerce for use in MY2001 and newer light-duty motor vehicles if conditions for mitigating misfueling and ensuring fuel quality are met. The EPA is still in the process of completing work on regulations that would provide a more practical means of meeting the conditions.

These new waivers implemented earlier this year by the EPA have cattle ranchers in an uproar as well.  But what could the Texas livestock industry possibly have to do with the newest ethanol implementations? According to the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA), the new 50% increase in ethanol-gasoline allowance, is detrimental to the costs of their livestock production.  The TSCRA claim that such a dramatic increase in ethanol permittance will have serious negative repercussions for their cattle ranches.  A statement made by TSCRA president and fellow rancher, Dave Scott, indicated that these high levels of corn based ethanol are one of the most influential factors in driving price increases in corn products, including the feed for cattle.  This is a clear indication of the dangers we create once we begin to place our food and fuel in competition against one another.  In 2008, according to the US Department of Agriculture, feed for livestock reached its record high at $45.2 billion.  This was an increase of more than $7 billion from 2007.  With the cost of feed for livestock and newer, higher levels of ethanol being so intertwined with each other, we will only be seeing an even more dramatic rise in the cost of feed for cattle production…and more unhappy ranchers.

Our nation’s food supply and methods of transportation must find a way to compromise and divert their routes of competition elsewhere because both are at serious risk in the future.

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The Energy and Power Subcommittee of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to hold a hearing this Thursday on the clash between Texas officials and the EPA at the South Texas College of Law in Houston.  Click here for more information.

A coalition called the Texas EPA Task Force, made up of federal and state Republican officials, is backing proposed federal legislation that would stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. They also strongly disagree with a December EPA ruling that said Texas’ flexible permitting program for air emissions is not in compliance with the act.  They will be at the hearing in force to push their agenda.

Environmentalists response to the Texas EPA Task Force is that for 40 years the EPA has been working to make sure Texans have cleaner air and better health, and call for the citizens of Texas to not let industry insiders and their friends in Congress get in the way.

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Texas coal-burning power plants – especially those fueled by lignite – could face closures under proposed national standards for coal emissions of mercury and other toxins unveiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The standards, which are far tougher than the electric power industry had anticipated, could lead to the shuttering of several coal units in Texas which are currently out of compliance with the new rules.  Can you say “GRANDFATHERED?”

A key issue centers on the “Mercury and Air Toxics Rule,” which the EPA estimates would reduce mercury from power plants by 91 percent, several existing Texas power plants emit so much mercury that a retrofit would not be economically feasible.

Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen Texas, estimated that at least 11 coal units in Texas would likely close if the ruling stands. Retrofitting lignite plants, in particular, could cost between $800 million to $1.2 billion each.

Specifically we believe that Big Brown, Monticello and Martin Lake plants owned by Luminant in East Texas would be on the target list, along with units at American Electric Power, Texas-New Mexico Power and the San Miguel plant outside San Antonio.

NRG Energy Inc., a Houston-based power company, said it’s engaged in a company-wide program to reduce their environmental impact across their existing fleet, coupled with investments in clean and renewable technologies including solar, wind, and the electric vehicle infrastructure. 

In this instance they did not mention their nuclear program or their current license application to expand the South Texas Plant from two units to four units.  But what PR person would given what is happening in Japan?

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Submit a commentRepower America, wants to share an important piece of news with you.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is planning to limit global warming pollution from big fossil fuel industries like power plants and petroleum refineries. These industries alone account for about 40% of the global warming pollution in the U.S. — making them the two largest sources of emissions.

Here’s where you come in. The EPA is charged with developing rules called New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) that will protect public health, reduce the pollution that causes climate change, and send a signal to polluters that they need to invest in clean energy technologies.

It’s crucial that the EPA sticks to its schedule and develops strong rules. Between now and March 18, the EPA is accepting comments on their plans. They will definitely be receiving comments from the coal, gas and oil industries. Make sure they hear from you, too.

These rules are common sense. The EPA was created to understand our impact on our environment and protect the health of our people. An overwhelming majority of scientists are united in their understanding of the effects of global warming pollution and the EPA is charged with developing rules based on that science. Yet strong special interest groups are working to derail that process.

The EPA needs to hear that you support their efforts to limit global warming pollution from these industries. That’s why you need to encourage the EPA to issue strong New Source Performance Standards without delay.

The science is clear: Climate change is happening. Unfortunately, big polluters will make big profits if they mislead the American public about that fact. RePower America needs you to counteract and counterbalance their money and their voice by sending a comment to the EPA today.

Fill out the form by clicking here, and RePower America will deliver your comment to the EPA before the March 18 deadline:

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After residents report green and yellow-colored well water near an oilfield company’s operation in the spring of 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigated and formally designated an area in Midland as a national Superfund site when the presence of the highly toxic solvent hexavalent chromium was found in groundwater supplies.  The Superfund list is made up of sites so contaminated that they require long-term, complex and expensive cleanups.

These reports from residents led to testing that found that 46 of the more than 230 wells in the area had levels of the toxin in them that were above safety limits. Filtration systems have been provided to the owners of the contaminated wells.

Breathing airborne hexavalent chromium may cause lung cancer, can irritate or damage the nose, throat and lungs, and can also damage eyes or skin. Exposure to hexavalent chromium in drinking water can lead to an increased risk of stomach tumors.

While Texas has been at war with the EPA over the last couple of years, cleaning up sites that pose such a major threat to public health is one of the most vital aspects of the agency’s mission, and I for one, would not like to see the agency hobbled so that they can no longer protect communities from dangers posed by chemical contamination.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality first confirmed hexavalent chromium at more than 50 times the acceptable federal levels in early April 2009 in a well near West County Road 112.

Since then, 234 water wells have been tested by the TCEQ; chromium was found at above safe levels in 34 of them. The plume extends 1.25 miles from the center of the site and it covers about 260 acres, according to the EPA.


Using the EPA document's description, this is about where the superfund site is centered

According to an EPA document, the Site consists of a contaminated ground water plume originating from an unidentified source. The contaminant plume is located along County Road 1290, between Interstate 20 to the south, and Interstate Business 20 to the north. The Trinity and Ogallala aquifer is the only ground water source for drinking water in the site area. The water table has been reported at depths as shallow as 30 feet below the ground surface and the base of the aquifer is approximately 95 – 105 feet below ground surface. The Triassic red beds form the base of the aquifer. Ground water flow in the aquifer is expected to be generally to the south-southeast.

As part of the National Priorities List, the EPA will take the lead at the site and federal funds will be available for identifying the source of contamination and providing a method of cleanup.

Until a source of contamination is identified, EPA officials said in a release sent out Tuesday that the plume of contamination will continue to grow and affect additional water wells.

City of Midland officials have said, at this time, the city is unable to provide water to residents in that area. A group is working to put together a water district that would serve county residents, including those in the contaminated area, but a source of water has yet to be identified.

If a water source were available, EPA staff have said they could consider funding pipelines as part of the remediation process.

Related Articles

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As the administration and Congress get down to brass tacks in slashing the federal budget, one would think that President Barack Obama’s proposal to cut $1.3 billion from EPA’s budget would be well-received by Republicans who have spent a lot of time this year criticizing the agency.  In fact, according to a story by Politico, that is in fact not the case.  Click here to read the Politico story:

For all their talk about the “job-killing” EPA, Republicans have a dirty little secret: They actually like many of the agency’s efforts, particularly bread-and-butter programs aimed at cleaning up drinking water and air pollution in their districts.

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Congressman Joe Barton’s (R-Ennis, TX) office says he might introduce Texas-specific legislation to limit the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, but for now he’s signing on as a co-sponsor to a measure filed yesterday aimed at stopping the federal regulation of greenhouse gases.

Barton is putting together a coalition of government officials at all levels along with business and industry groups to present a united front against EPA policies that he and other Texas Republicans say are strangling the state’s economy.

If Barton does file a Texas-specific measure, it would likely seek to rollback the EPA’s decision last year to halt the state’s flexible permitting program, which Texasrefineries have been relying on for some 15 years to get around federal pollution laws.

The legislation Barton has signed on to is sponsored by Oklahoma Republican James Inhofe, would effectively undo EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gases under the federal Clean Air Act. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the agency has the authority to issue such a regulation.

Texas Republican John Cornyn is a co-sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. Several Democratic congressmen from industrial states are also co-sponsoring the bills, even though many expect President Obama to veto any legislation that might reach his desk.

Texas is challenging the agency’s ruling in court on grounds that the state’s industries and refineries would be disproportionately harmed. At this time all other states have either adopted or put forth a plan to meet the current EPA standards.

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The funding bill the House of Representatives voted in favor of is an attack on climate change solutions and climate change science. The House cuts would:

  • Prohibit the EPA from setting limits on greenhouse gas pollution from power plants, factories and refineries, among the most significant sources of greenhouse gas pollution in the United States.
  • Prohibit the EPA from collecting information about the sources where greenhouse gas pollution is coming from.
  • Eliminate funding for a Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This program would efficiently supply scientific data and information about climate change and its impacts.
  • Slash the EPA’s total budget by about 29%.

Fortunately, both the Senate and the President still need to weigh in on the funding proposal. They must act before March 4.  Your help is needed if you want to make sure they take the climate crisis more seriously than the House of Representatives did.  Read Repower America’s summary here — and then spread the word among your friends and family.


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.

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John Moritz and Patrick Graves covered the joint hearing of the House Energy Resources and Environmental Regulation committees for the Texas Energy Report, which they say continued the long-running theme at the Texas Capitol that the feds are unfairly targeting Texas industries while ignoring progress made over the decades on clean air matters.

But about a half-hour into the familiar thumping of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, two Democratic lawmakers offered a rare counter-veiling view on the on-running battle.

Representative Jessica Farrar (D-Houston)

“It’s not as rosy a picture as you are painting,” state Rep. Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) told Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw, Ph.D.

Shaw had repeated his oft-state concern that the EPA’s action last year effectively outlawing Texas’ flexible permit program will kill jobs in the refining and manufacturing sectors and that the feds were ignoring Texas’ efforts to lower pollution levels.

But Farrar argued that people in her working-class district that is also home to several manufacturing facilities are often frustrated that plants operating under the flexible permit program often make changes that appear to affect emission levels without allowing for public comment.

Shaw argued that any such changes would not increase pollution because flexible permits set caps on overall emissions. Farrar argued that her constituents don’t always know that. Further, she said, coming budget cuts will likely mean less money for programs aimed at providing incentives for polluters to adopt greener policies for their facilities.

Representative Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth)

Those comments were followed by an observation from Fort Worth Democrat Lon Burnam that Republicans on the committee were suggesting that the EPA had acted in bad faith by declining an invitation to attend today’s joint hearing.

Burnam pointed out that the hearing was only called late last week, while Shaw had been given a month’s notice of an EPA hearing last year in Dallas that he decided to pass up.

Shaw acknowledged that he declined to attend, saying that he and his staff have had numerous meetings with EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz but have still been unable to resolve their difference.

“It was not an effort to snub anyone,” Shaw said. “It (the meeting) was just not a good use of our resources.”

While TCEQ decided that this public hearing was not a good use of their resources, they squandered any goodwill they had with the citizens of the DFW area who took time out of their busy schedules to attend the hearing and were probably hoping TCEQ would show up to tell them directly why they have taken the position they have.

Moritz and Graves go on to report:

It was unclear if the two committees are planning any legislative remedy to the EPA/TCEQ standoff over flexible permits and related issues, or whether Republican-controlled Legislature will wait for the outcome of court challenges the state has filed against the federal agency’s policies affecting Texas.

Representative Jim Keffer (R-Eastland)

It was clear, however, that neither Energy Resources Chairman Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) or Baytown Republican Wayne Smith, who chairs Environmental Regulation, intended the hearing to derail the state’s civil action that remains pending in the federal court system.

Representative Wayne Smith (R-Baytown)

“Tell us all you can,” Smith told Shaw as he sat down to testify, “but don’t jeopardize your case.”

Later in the hearing, Deputy Attorney General William Cobb III  gave members a blow-by-blow account of the events leading up to the state’s lawsuit against EPA. He also said the case, which is still pending in a Washington, D.C., court is moving slowly, saying the parties have not even received a briefing schedule yet.

But, added, the state is committed to continuing the battle with the feds.

“It’s a fight worth fighting,” Cobb said, who described the back-and-forth over EPA‘s rule interpretations in detail without the benefit of notes. “We’re taking every measure to oppose these rules.”


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The protests in Wisconsin. The passage of the CR in the House in the dead of night over the weekend. And the continued debate over how to balance the Texas $26 billion budget gap. We kept getting told there are no sacred cows- that all have to share in the burden and pain of budget squeezing.

But realpolitik has shown exactly where the real sacred cows are, while corporate tea party crusaders use the budget crises as a reason to bust unions, raid pensions funds, and slash health services and education budgets, they are leaving intact the tax breaks for oil and gas companies.

Let’s talk Texas first:  a new study out this morning by the Texas Tribune showed that Texans want a balanced approach to fixing the budget.  The single most popular answer was a 50/50 split of revenue enhancements and spending cuts.  However, when you asked people what they wanted to cut spending on, the answer was a resounding NO! to educationTexans say no to budget cuts cuts, NO! to health services cuts, NO! to environmental reg cuts. And when asked where to increase revenue, it was equally sticky.  The single most popular options, the only ones which get over 50% support, was to legalize casino gambling and increase alcohol taxes.  But taxing vice can only get us so far.

One of the things not touched by the poll were the enormous tax breaks we give to the natural gas industry, one which the LBB has suggested eliminating, namely a $7.4 billion tax cut to oil and gas companies using “high cost” wells- which generally means one thing: hydro-fracturing. Fracking is used on areas like the Barnett Shale and has been linked to spoiled water, a cancer cluster located in Flower Mound/Dish, and natural gas turning tap water flammable, and a garden hose into a flamethrower.

At the very least, all of the drilling is producing more air pollution than all of the cars and trucks in the Dallas-Forth Worth area. So to add insult to industry, not only is the drilling on the Barnett Shale ruining families’ homes and making people sick, but we are paying the companies billions of dollars in pork to do it, robbing school children and those who need a hand from social services.

And to kick us even more when we’re down, Chesapeake Energy has the audacity to say if their corporate welfare goes away, they’re going to have to curtail drilling on the Barnett Shale.  From the Star-Telegram’s story:

An executive with Chesapeake Energy told members of the Tarrant County legislative delegation Wednesday that the company would consider curtailing activity in Texas if the exemption is discontinued.

“We’d have to look at it on an individual well basis, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that we would reduce our activity in the state of Texas,” Adam Haynes, senior government affairs director for Chesapeake, said after his appearance before lawmakers. “It certainly affects the Barnett Shale, absolutely.” (more…)

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Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filed Senate Bill 772, which, if passed, would require companies using hydraulic fracturing to mine natural gas in Texas to include a unique tracer compound enabling regulators to determine which party is or is not responsible in the event that the fluids find their way into drinking water supplies.

Sen. Davis compared the tracing compound to “DNA” for gas drilling companies. She said the measure would protect both landowners and the operators in the state’s growing shale plays and resolve questions regarding groundwater contamination allegations.

If an effective tracer compound had been used by Range Resources, it might have gone a long way toward settling a dispute between the Fort Worth company and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over two contaminated wells in Parker County containing methane, benzene and other compounds found in natural gas fracking operations.

To see a copy of Davis’ bill, click here.

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Three Texas Republican Congressmen (Poe, Barton and Carter) successfully attached an amendment targeting the EPA to a continuing resolution on spending that is needed to keep the federal government in business for the seven months remaining in the current fiscal year

The amendment would thwart the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce regulations limiting greenhouse gases.

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Dr. Al Armendariz (EPA Region 6 Director)

Dr. Al Armendariz (EPA Region 6 Director)

The EPA and Texas are in a dispute over whether the EPA can legally regulate greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, and whether it has a right to issue greenhouse-gas permits in Texas when the state refuses to do so.

It become necessary on Jan. 2nd for the nation’s largest new industrial expansions – chiefly power plants, cement kilns and major factories – to have permits showing how they will use “best available control technology” to reduce greenhouse gases.  That action derived from a 2007 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court said the Clean Air Act authorizes limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

In every other state except Texas, state agencies began issuing the permits, or plan to do so after their procedures are in place and provided the EPA with a written plan on how they intended to procede.  Texas has refused to take part, saying the EPA overstepped its authority and usurped the state’s rights by regulating greenhouse gases. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the state agency charged with regulating air pollution in Texas, has joined Abbott and Perry in opposing the EPA, filing a lawsuit and issuing a written statement saying the state’s position has been well-documented.

On January 14, 2011, scores of Texans backed the Environmental Protection Agency and blasted Texas officials at a hearing in Dallas on the federal takeover of greenhouse-gas permitting in the state.  Who didn’t attend the hearing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Nearly every speaker who did attend the hearing, however, expressed little or no confidence in Texas officials’ ability or desire to protect the environment.

If you have the time, we invite you to watch our taping of the hearing. (more…)

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