Posts Tagged ‘clean air act’

The Texas Senate Committee on Natural Resources held its hearing at Houston’s City Hall.

The Texas Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development held a hearing in Houston Thursday, February 1st on two interim charges, the first being on hotel occupancy taxes and the second on regulatory barriers.

The second interim charge reviewed at the hearing states: Identify options to maintain our state’s competitive advantage and make recommendations to remove or reduce administrative or regulatory barriers hindering economic growth, including permitting or registration requirements and fees.

Public Citizen’s Houston-based organizer, Stephanie Thomas, was one of six people to provide invited testimony. Others included representatives from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the Texas Chemical Council, the National Federation of Independent Business, and the National Energy Association.

Our role at the hearing was to comment on specific aspects of regulation, including the issue of expedited permitting. Public Citizen recommended sufficient funding to the regulatory agencies like TCEQ to thoroughly and effectively review permits. Public Citizen also brought forth issues in reducing public participation that may come from the expedition of permits.

Public Citizen also provided comment on Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s use of exceptional events for determining National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) designation, i.e. whether a location is in attainment or nonattainment for levels criteria pollutants. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, exceptional events “are unusual or naturally occurring events that can affect air quality but are not reasonably controllable using techniques that tribal, state or local air agencies may implement in order to attain and maintain the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Exceptional events include wildfires, stratospheric ozone intrusions and volcanic and seismic activities.”

Public Citizen argued that the TCEQ should not use exceptional events to make it seem as though an area is in attainment of an air quality standard when it is not. This practice of using exceptional events to avoid nonattainment status is particularly dangerous because people still have to breath air pollution regardless of whether it comes from a refinery or it comes from agricultural fires in Mexico.

Many of what seems like regulations to industry are public safeguards, with tangible benefits to human health and quality of life.

To read Public Citizen’s written testimony, click here: Regulatory Barriers hearing comments – Public Citizen.docx.

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A coal plant outside of Buffalo, NY was issued one of the largest fines ever imposed criminally on a company for violating the Clean Air Act.

sign for Tonawanda Coke PlantOn Wednesday, March 19th, Tonawanda Coke Corp. was fined $12.5 million for knowingly and illegally releasing hundreds of tons of the carcinogen benzene into the air for five years and improperly conducting hazardous sludge on the ground. The company will also pay for two separate environmental studies with a price tag of $12.2 million. These two 10-year studies will look at emissions and examine soil samples.

On top of that, the Tonawanda Coke Corp. environmental controls manager faces a year and a day in jail, 100 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine. He was also found guilty of obstruction of justice for covering up the pollution during plant inspections by regulators.

Community Outrage

2013 community meeting on the problems the citizens of Tonawanda are dealing with

2013 community meeting on the problems the citizens of Tonawanda are dealing with.

Residents have complained about the black soot from the coal plant for a decade and many are worried about the health implications to the community.

In 2005, local residents concerned for their health joined together to form the Clean Air Coalition. They began sampling air quality by using buckets and plastic bags. They also petitioned state and federal agencies to investigate the plants operations. After finding elevated levels of benzene in the community, federal agencies raided the plant in 2009 when levels were 75 times higher than state and federal law permit.

A three-year health study completed last year by the State Health Department and Department of Environmental Conservation found elevated rates of lung and bladder cancers in men and women, and elevated esophageal cancer in men and uterine cancer in women.

Jackie James-Creedon, of Citizen Science Community Resources, said she was very pleased that the plant will fund a soil testing project she has been working on for years. - Photo by Don Heupel

Jackie James-Creedon, of Citizen Science Community Resources, said she was very pleased that the plant will fund a soil testing project she has been working on for years.
Photo by Don Heupel

“Back in 2005, we just wanted a clean environment for us to live. We wanted our air to be cleaner. We wanted to know why everyone was sick. We had no clue they were breaking the law,” Jackie James-Creedon said. James-Creedon is a resident fighting this case, suffers from fibromyalgia and is a resident that submitted one of the 10-year studies.
Repeat Offenders

This is not the first time Tonawanda Coke Corp. has been in the hot seat for environmental violations. Last March the company was found guilty of 11 violations of the Clean Air Act and three counts of violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

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Today, the US Appeals Court in Washington, DC struck down an important pollution rule that would have protected up to 240 million Americans who live downwind from power plants that dump life-threatening pollution into our air like dangerous smog and soot.

The divided ruling to block the Cross State Air Pollution Standard is a setback for EPA’s efforts to protect the public health by implementing clean air standards.

EPA should appeal this decision. The Clean Air Act clearly provides the EPA authority to address this dangerous pollution. A higher court would likely overturn this dangerous decision that puts lives at risk.

EPA estimates that the Cross State Air Pollution Standard would have saved thousands of lives, improved air quality for more than 75 percent of Americans in 2014 alone, and provided vital clean air protections for millions of Americans across the Eastern United States, including:

  • Preventing states from allowing dangerous pollutants which are linked to heart and respiratory illnesses, to enter downwind states.
  • Saving up to 34,000 lives each year
  • Preventing 15,000 heart attacks each year
  • Preventing 400,000 asthma attacks each year
  • Providing $120 billion to $280 billion in health benefits for the nation each year

“Pollution from power plants is killing Texans and our climate,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, the director of the Texas office of Public Citizen.  “This decision doesn’t mean that we don’t need to reduce power plant pollution and take action promptly.  In the end, failure to act will mean higher medical costs and continued reliance on out of state coal.”

The Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) was designed to address smog pollution.  The federal court sent the rule back to the agency for revision and in the interim, told the EPA to administer its existing Clean Air Interstate Rule.  Oddly enough, the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule was ruled unlawful in 2008 by the same court that just overturned the new rule.

“Today’s decision only delays for a year at most a new transport rule. Smart utilities will use the temporary delay to develop plans to transition to renewables,” Smith continued. “The days of dirty coal are numbered and today’s ruling does nothing to change that fact.”

More about the Cross State Air Pollution Standard

The Cross-State Air Pollution Standard reduces the sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants across 28 eastern states. That pollution drifts across the borders of those states, contributing to dangerous — and sometimes lethal — levels of particulate (soot) and smog pollution in downwind states.

EPA issued the standard under the “Good Neighbor” protections of the Clean Air Act, which ensure that the emissions from one state’s power plants do not cause harmful pollution levels in neighboring states. While no one is immune to these impacts, children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. The Cross-State Air Pollution Standard would have provided healthier air for 240 million Americans in downwind states.

Nine states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont), five major cities (District of Columbia, Baltimore, Bridgeport, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia), the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Council, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), NRDC, Sierra Club, and major power companies (Calpine, Exelon and Public Service Enterprise Group) have all intervened in support of these vital clean air protections.

The litigation was brought by power companies, including AEP, Southern, DTE, GenOn, and Luminant. The state of Texas, the National Mining Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers supported their effort in parallel cases.

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Big Bend. The Guadalupe Mountains. Everything about them is iconic…everything but the air pollution that obscures the scenic viewscapes. Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Park are increasingly under attack from air pollution known as haze from coal plants and refineries. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to reduce and eliminate this haze. Under EPA’s proposed rule, however, Texas’s oldest and dirtiest power plants would be exempted from installing readily available, modern pollution controls. As a result, air pollution and impaired visibility at our National Parks could persist.

Don’t let big polluters off the hook — if they pollute our parks, they should pay to clean up. EPA has the authority to require the major sources of haze in our National Parks to clean up – let’s demand improved safeguards. EPA needs to hear from you before February 28th.

To submit a comment and see a sample letter, click here.


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US Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu

US Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Chu may play a role in sorting out the entangled mess of misinformation and spin about the environmental impacts of gas drilling.

U.S. gas producers are looking to ramp up industrialization in rural areas outside of some of the nation’s largest cities.  Secretary Chu has indicated that the White House has charged the DOE with helping to develop this industry, but in an environmentally responsible way, but no one knows what that looks like at this point.

The Obama administration enforcement of the Clean Air Act is pushing the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants out of the nation’s electricity fleet. That means tapping and burning trillions of cubic feet of newly booked gas reserves is quickly becoming a de facto energy policy in the absence of federal policies designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and gas producers are hoping that gas will replace the coal burners.

Because of these “game changing” new gas discoveries near population centers in Pennsylvania, Texas and New York  have entered the public consciousness through environmental lenses, and the EPA coming under siege because of their new rulemaking on air quality, the DOE is looking to play a larger role.

U.S. energy debate around this industry is dominated by a fear that extracting this gas through “fracking” is too invasive and fouls air and water.

Impacted States and U.S. EPA have been searching for a balance that allows companies to expand their drilling operations, while government agencies craft policy that addresses public concern about contaminating water aquifers, toxic waste pits and air pollution.

The nation’s massive shale and tight gas reservoirs are spread across the Northeast; in the upper Midwest; under Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas; and north into the Rocky Mountain region.

In May, Chu appointed an Energy Advisory Board subcommittee on natural gas, led by former CIA director John Deutch and which includes Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.

EPA is the other federal agency looking at the environmental impact of drilling for huge volumes of shale gas, but EPA doesn’t plan to release its initial findings until 2012 at the earliest. Chu’s panel plans to have recommendations on the table in the next few weeks.

Where DOE’s report will fit into the broader array of  investigations into the environmental pitfalls of the gas boom is hard to say.  Regardless, DOE’s authority is limited. Land and water management tied to gas production on private and state lands is left to state and local regulators.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that all `flexible permit’ companies in Texas have agreed to apply for approved air permits, helping to achieve clean air in the state and providing for regulatory certainty.

Under the Texas flexible permit rule, certain industries were allowed an exemption from having to disclose pollution for each individual smokestack at a facility which enabled them to aggregate all emissions from the plant together in spite of the fact that the EPA under President George W. Bush had warned the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that the processes did not meet federal standards and should be reformed.

The Clean Air Act ensures that businesses across the country operate efficiently and cleanly to safeguard public health from harmful levels of air pollution.  Under the act, the EPA had authorized the TCEQ as the Clean Air Act permitting authority in Texas.   TCEQ operates the largest air permitting program for major and minor sources in the U.S.  with over 1500 major air permit holders in Texas.  Less than 150 companies had applied for and received non-EPA-approved flexible permits from the TCEQ creating uncertainty about their compliance status with the Clean Air Act.   Starting in 2007, EPA wrote to all flexible permit holders telling them of their need to ensure compliance with federal requirements.

On May 25, 2010, the EPA barred the TCEQ from issuing a permit to a refinery in Corpus Christi. EPA said that the process used to justify that permit violated the Clean Air Act.  EPA’s Region 6 Administrator, Al Armendariz, also stated that the EPA would block future permits and force polluters to comply with EPA standards if the TCEQ did not change its rules.  TCEQ and Texas Attorney General, Greg Abbott, filed lawsuits against the EPA defending Texas’ flexible permit program.  In September 2010,  EPA notified all of the 136 `flexible permit’ companies that they needed to seek Clean Air Act compliant permits from the state.

This move by industry to come into compliance with federal standards flies in the face of Texas’ position that the state’s flexible permitting rules met those standards and probably doesn’t help their lawsuit much either.

More about activities in EPA Region 6 is available at http://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/region6.html

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Oh no . . . we're fracked!

What happens when you let Big Business regulate itself? – You get fracked.

Hydraulic fracturing — also known as fracking — is a controversial method of natural gas extraction that involves injecting a toxic chemical sludge into the surface of the earth until it rips open.

And it’s a case study in the dangers of letting giant corporations sidestep laws that protect our health, our investments and our environment.

Learn more about the risks of fracking, including how it could threaten your drinking water:


In 2005, then-Vice President Dick Cheney got fracking exempted from laws that keep our air and water clean. That exemption — known as the “Halliburton loophole” — allows oil and gas companies to force hazardous chemicals into underground water supplies.

As if that’s not enough, the Halliburton loophole is only one of seven exemptions for the oil and gas industries from major federal environmental laws like the Clean Air Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

The wholesale lack of federal tools to protect the public from fracking has created an inadequate patchwork of state regulations. As a result, companies are assaulting the environment and polluting drinking water supplies all over the country.

In Pennsylvania, a state with some of the most robust fracking regulations, one company — Chesapeake Appalachia LLC — racked up 149 environmental violations in just two and a half years.

While fracking is currently a hot-button issue, it is not a new practice. It was developed by Halliburton in the 1940s and has primarily been the scourge of communities in the Southwest.

The huge bump in fracking has been based on speculation that shale reserves in the Northeast could be the Saudi Arabia of natural gas. But even this is being challenged. The New York Times has recently reported that natural gas companies may be vastly overstating their reserves in what could be a giant Ponzi scheme.

To the credit of activists all over the country, the federal government has been forced to address fracking.

  • A number of lawmakers have sent letters to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking it to investigate whether the industry has provided accurate information about the productivity of natural gas wells, particularly those involved in fracking.
  • As part of President Obama’s “Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future,” the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) is exploring recommendations to better protect public health and the environment from fracking.

Public Citizen will be giving public comment with a list of recommendations at a SEAB meeting later this week. We will be giving you an opportunity to contribute to the dialogue, too, so stay tuned!

But investigations are only the first step toward curbing this unsafe practice. In the near term, legislative action to close loopholes that exempt fracking from federal law is needed. Meanwhile, all fracking activity should be suspended. Moving forward, shifting away from dangerous and dirty fuels is the only solution.

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Election season is imminent and advocates for environmental welfare and public health need not look very far for the hyper-political red tape and drawbacks to pollution legislation. Like many of her colleagues in the Democratic Party, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has been campaigning nationwide for the regulation of toxins such as mercury from coal burners which, in effect, could prevent thousands of related deaths and stimulate the job market. Just two weeks ago, Jackson even made an appearance on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” encouraging viewers to exercise vigilance in the fight against toxic emissions and to demand personal protections for clean air and water.

Her sentiments were met with grand applause due to their pertinence in 2011 where it is estimated that 72% of all toxic mercury air pollution in the United States is attributable to coal plants in violation of the Clean Air Act. Just to add some perspective to this statistic, such a figure indicates that 386,000 tons of hazardous compounds are being emitted into the atmosphere per year at an unprecedented rate.

Jackson’s apparent support for tightened environmental regulations was short-lived however, when just one week following her Comedy Central interview the EPA halted essential protections for controlling exposure to air-borne mercury, arsenic, lead, and a plethora of acid gases. The basis for these laws were established in 1990 when President H.W. Bush signed Clean Air Act amendments into law thus making it the EPA’s responsibility to establish emission standards for industrial facilities. Originally, these plans operated on a permit system designed to pinpoint power plants, factories, and additional sources of ground level ozone that had exceeded allowable limits for what was deemed “requisite to protect the public welfare.”

One of these statutes created under H.W. Bush’s administration, called Boiler MACT, monitored emission caps from boilers that produced power sources specifically like those found in large to small coal plants. As of February 2011, under a court issued order, the EPA was also charged with the task of enforcing this body of legislative action. And now, a mere two years after the Obama administration vowed to protect the interests of public health and respect the law, this regulation is one of many that Jackson’s post at the EPA has indefinitely delayed.

Historically, the EPA has acted as an outspoken critic of the industrial “Powers that be” and their habits of ignoring Clean Air Act restrictions with economic impunity. In fact it was the EPA’s records that first indicated that more than 4,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 1,600 cases of acute bronchitis and an excess of 313,000 missed work and school days could be avoided if these laws were enacted properly- and this doesn’t even account for the upwards of 6,600 toxic related deaths. But the EPA strayed its course due to the fast-approaching 2012 elections. They managed to place re-election aspirations above environmental necessities on the hierarchy of political agendas, caved to industry pressures, and watered down many of their contingencies to begin with.

In lieu of this regressive blow to mandatory emission guidelines, Lisa Jackson and the EPA as a whole have endangered countless vulnerable Americans by casting a blind eye to the Boiler MACT legislation. Not only are these steps in reverse potentially (almost certainly) disastrous, people living near industrial giants and coal-fired power plants are now at serious odds with their own health and well-being.

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Tuesday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule allowing it to take over greenhouse gas (GHG) permitting authority in Texas .

The agency said that EPA’s permitting authority to process Texas’ permit applications for GHGs was effective on May 1.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has indicated that 167 GHG-emitting sources will require PSD permits during 2011.

EPA said its final rulemaking is intended to assure that large GHG-emitting sources in Texas, which became subject to GHG permitting requirements on January 2, will continue to be able to obtain pre-construction permits under the CAA’s New Source Review program after the April 30, 2011, expiration date of the Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) that EPA put in place in December under an interim rule.  The GHG program would apply to large stationary emission sources of CO2, including power plants and refineries.

In December, the EPA told TCEQ that it was planning a temporary takeover of GHG permitting authority from the state after Texas officials made clear that they did not intend to enforce that part of the federal air permitting program.

EPA said its 1992 approval of a State Implementation Plan for the TCEQ was in error because the Texas did not address how its permitting program would apply to any and all pollutants subject to future federal regulation.  EPA said it has changed the approval to a “partial approval and partial disapproval,” with the GHG FIP covering the “gap” in the state’s plan.

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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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Senate Bill 875 by Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horsehoe Bay) would take away a Texan’s right to sue a company for “nuisance” or “trespass” resulting from greenhouse gas emissions if that company is compliant with air emissions permits issued by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality or an agency of the federal government.

The bill would roll back Texas nuisance law that predates the Clean Air Act, protecting businesses that emit greenhouse gases from enforcement actions, civil lawsuits or criminal claims.

The Texas Chemical Council, Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Texas Association of Business, Texas Association of Manufacturers and Texas Pipeline Association and other business groups back the bill, but environmental groups oppose the measure.

The bill is designed to put a halt to a trend of public nuisance claims as a way to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Although the EPA has announced plans to issue rules governing greenhouse gas emissions, air quality permits held by Texas businesses do not currently regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Our ownTom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen’s Texas office, testified against the bill in committee, telling the committee that greenhouse gases are effectively a nuisance because they can cause adverse health effects, change the fertility cycles in plants and animals, and require retrofitting of roads and bridges to withstand greater temperatures. The bill would take away a legal tool citizens have used that predates the Clean Air Act and one that has been used by citizens to sue oil and gas companies.

Smitty further testified that if the standards are unclear, the fallback position you have is nuisance. It interferes with your enjoyment of the environment or causes health effects making the bill far more nefarious than it appears on the surface.

Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) argued, “It’s not right, to say you can do whatever you want with greenhouse gases simply because you are in general compliance with some permit that doesn’t cover greenhouse gases.”

Even the TCEQ has reported that the bill could “hamper the agency’s ability to cite a nuisance violation for greenhouse gases” and allow the “nuisance” to persist and result in lower revenues from penalties, according to the bill’s fiscal note.

Bill by bill, this legislature seems intent upon whittling away protections for individual Texas citizens in favor of the rights of industry.

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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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LCRA’s Fayette Power Project is under legal attack by three anti-pollution groups who filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against the coal-fired power plant located near La Grange, about 100 miles northwest of Houston.

The lawsuit was filed by the Environmental Integrity Project, Environment Texas and Texas Campaign for the Environment.

Claiming LCRA’s Fayette Power Project has violated the federal Clean Air Act thousands of times, the plaintiffs allege LCRA ramped up capacity and increased levels of dangerous particle pollution, which is not always visible to the eye but is linked to asthma and heart and lung disease.

In addition, the groups claim the company under-reported the amount of particulate matter emitted from the plant’s smokestacks, and therefore deprived the State of Texas of more than $500,000 in annual air pollution fees.  Click here to access details of the lawsuit.

In addition to the lawsuit, the Texas Pecan Alliance, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and other community and environmental groups have been calling on Austin City Council to commit to the promises of clean energy in line with the Austin Energy Generation plan and have asked for the closure of this plant.

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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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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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