Posts Tagged ‘United States Environmental Protection Agency’

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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UPDATE: Happening now in Houston, until 8pm CT.  Go on Facebook to TEJAS’s page to watch.


Date:           Thursday, 11/17/2016
Location:  Hartman Community Center, 9311 East Ave. P. Houston, TX 77012
Time:          2:00 pm – 8:00 pm.

Join HPCC public health advocates at an EPA hearing about toxic air pollution from petroleum refineries!

(En español, mira aquí: http://airalliancehouston.org/wp-content/uploads/Spanish-EPA-Hearing-Flier.pdf)

The Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public hearing on the reconsideration of the Refinery Sector Rule for which EPA did not provide adequate opportunity for notice and comment. This rulemaking is the result of a lawsuit filed by Air Alliance Houston, Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services, Community In-Power and Development Association, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, who are collectively represented by Earthjustice.

This is is our only chance to tell EPA we are concerned about pollution from oil refineries and its impact on our health. This is the only public hearing EPA will hold anywhere in the country, and public comment will be taken for six hours, from 2-8 pm. We’d like EPA to hear from us and our allies in refinery communities throughout the entire hearing, so please sign up to speak today.

Join us in telling EPA:

  • Our health suffers from pollution from oil refineries.
  • Our children are particularly at risk from the health effects of air pollution.
  • Air pollution affects our lives where we live, work, and play.

Together we can demand a stronger rule to protect communities from air pollution. The refining industry must cut pollution by:

  • Reducing emissions from flares and pressure relief devices.
  • Eliminate pollution exemptions for malfunction and force majeure events.
  • Require fenceline monitoring at all times.

Air Alliance Houston will have fact sheets and talking points available at the hearing.
If you would like to present oral testimony at the hearing, please complete this form or notify Ms. Virginia Hunt no later than November 15, 2016, by email: [email protected] (preferred); or by telephone: (919) 541-0832.
Space will also be available that day if time slots are not all filled, on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Basic background on key issues from EPA:
Sign the Earthjustice petition: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2016/community-and-environmental-groups-sue-the-epa-and-call-on-the-agency-to-remove-free-pass-to-pollute-from

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Just before Earth Day, the House of Representatives once again demonstrated its commitment to protecting the fossil fuel industries that fund many of the members campaigns instead of protecting the people of our state from the devastating impacts of climate change by passing HB 788. The bill requires the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to permit greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change, but would remove the agency’s authority to limit such emissions.

You might wonder “what’s the point?”  The point is to take control of greenhouse gas permitting for Texas facilities from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and place it in the hands of our state environmental agency – which has a much cozier relationship with industry.  While EPA may ultimately prefer that states take responsibility for such permitting, we hope they wouldn’t support such a ineffective system as is proposed in HB 788.

Adding insult to injury, the author of the bill, Representative Wayne Smith, took advantage of the opportunity to spread misinformation.  Smith stated, “…the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ are based on an unfounded science,” claiming this language was struck to remove the politics from the bill.  His remarks epitomizes a legislature that continues to threaten the health and safety of the people it should protect through weakened environmental regulations.

In fact, removing language which has been in Texas’ Health and Safety Code for 22 years which gives TCEQ the authority to limit greenhouse gases put the politics in the bill and took the science out of it.  Governor Rick Perry is an avid climate change denier and may have influenced the drafting of HB 788.

This type of misinformation does a disservice to Texas citizens who must endure the harmful impacts of climate change, such as drought, wildfires, sea-level rise and more volatile weather patterns. These changes have already cost our state billions of dollars and numerous lives.  Climate change is happening now and given the big jump in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions last year, we’re probably in for more harmful impacts than many predicted just a few years ago.


This graph compares increasing CO2 levels (dark line) to increasing average global temperature over the last century (blue and red bars).

Although our efforts to stop or amend HB 788 in the Texas House were unsuccessful and it was disheartening to hear Representative Smith’s comments, Earth Day brought a refocusing on facts.

The Committee on International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs held a hearing on Global Climate Change and Trade.  Attendance was sparse in the audience, but a stellar line-up of scientists, delegates, and business representatives took the witness stand to testify on the fact of climate change.

HB788 was mentioned in anonymous fashion as a bad greenhouse gas bill on several occasions.  But, the most glaring comments were directed at Texas’ lack of policy to address climate change.  Cynthia Connor, the Resource Security Policy Adviser for the British Consulate General in Houston spoke in serious tones.  Her message was that Texas has a responsibility to adopt climate change policies to protect $20 billion in Texas investments by UK-owned business, which are responsible for  70,000 jobs.

Almost all of the witnesses addressed Texas’ policy of climate change denial.  To their credit, most of the Representatives on the committee asked questions to confirm the scientific findings, how climate change affects Texas, and how our climate change policies compare to the rest of the modernized world.  The general consensus is that Texas lags far behind the rest of the world.  Texas fails to acknowledge the potential harms of climate change and ignores its responsibility to lead the nation in ethical energy policies as the top producer of oil and natural gas.

While these weren’t messages of hope, at least they were based in scientific facts and observations.  At least for a brief time, science was recognized in our state capitol.

We must each do what we can to reduce our personal impact and we must convince our elected officials that the time for climate change denial is over.

HB 788 is now being considered in the Texas Senate.

Email your Texas state senator to oppose HB 788 and protect Texas’ climate, economy and people.

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Guest post by the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards

Texas Plant Disaster Shows Fragmented System of Oversight

The specific cause of the West, Texas, fertilizer plant disaster is still being investigated, but one thing is clear: Tragedies like this shouldn’t happen in America. Our country can and should do more to prevent these kinds of tragedies from occurring, and businesses must be required to develop safety and emergency plans, said the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS), an alliance of groups working to protect and strengthen public protections. The victims of the tragedy at the West, Texas, fertilizer facility will be honored today in a memorial service in Waco, which President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend.

The fire and explosion last Wednesday at the West Fertilizer Company killed at least 15 people and injured more than 200. It demolished up to 80 homes and damaged other buildings nearby, including an apartment complex, a middle school and a nursing home.

“You’d like to think something like this could never happen, that there’d be tight oversight by some agency, but that’s not how it looks,” said Peg Seminario, director of Safety and Health for the AFL-CIO. “In reality, the regulation and oversight systems are often fragmented, so a small but potentially hazardous facility like this one in Texas can get what appears to be little scrutiny. There’s a lot we don’t know yet about what happened, but we do know there are gaps in the regulation and oversight systems. The president should provide leadership in coordinating the investigation and response from federal and state agencies.”

West Fertilizer filed an emergency response plan update in 2011 with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) listing anhydrous ammonia on site, but did not indicate there was a risk of fire or explosion at the plant. And no one can explain the enormous quantity of ammonium nitrate (the substance used in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995) that was on site but unreported to the Department of Homeland Security.

Local firemen and volunteers who rushed toward the facility represented the majority of the deaths from the incident, indicating that first responders may have been unprepared for the dangers of explosion. But the company was supposed to have a risk management plan developed and shared with local first responders. The law requiring such a plan – the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 – was passed in response to earlier tragedies.

Almost 10,000 facilities across the United States are storing or handling anhydrous ammonia, according to the Center for Effective Government’s RTK NET (www.rtknet.org). There is currently no way to determine whether these facilities have up-to-date risk management plans, and whether these plans have been shared with plant employees, residents of the surrounding community and local emergency personnel. The EPA does not require facilities to include ammonium nitrate in their risk management plans.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) last inspected the West facility in 1985. But OSHA is generally only able to inspect facilities with fewer than 10 employees in response to a complaint or incident, and in 2011, the West plant reported only seven employees. Small facilities like this one scattered throughout the nation are “regulated” by a system rife with gaps in oversight, limited enforcement and unclear rules.

Loopholes that allow lapses in health and safety standards must be closed if we’re going to avoid future tragedies. Companies have to be required to create and register emergency plans and share this information with emergency personnel and the communities in which they operate.  And oversight agencies must have staff and resources to ensure this happens.

“As we mourn the human losses West has had to endure and grieve for the courageous people who rushed in to help, let’s commit ourselves to creating a system that prevents other communities from having to experience similar events,” said Katherine McFate, president and CEO of the Center for Effective Government and a CSS co-chair. “That would be a most fitting tribute to those who lost their lives in West, Texas, and other industrial accidents across the country.”

diamond line

The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards is an alliance of consumer, small business, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups, as well as concerned individuals, joined in the belief that our country’s system of regulatory safeguards provides a stable framework that secures our quality of life and paves the way for a sound economy that benefits us all. For more information about the coalition, see: http://www.sensiblesafeguards.org/about_us

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Finally a positive ruling for those adversely affected by coal power plants.  Today a federal judge ruled that the Tennessee Valley Authority is liable for a huge spill of toxin-laden sludge in 2008 in Tennessee when containment dike at TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant burst. About 5 million cubic yards of ash spilled out of a storage pond, into a river and spoiled hundreds of acres in a riverside community 35 miles west of Knoxville.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan found TVA was negligent in its conduct and will be liable for damages to be determined later. Ratepayers have had to pay for the spill in the form of higher power costs as the $1.2 billion cleanup of the spill, the Environmental Protection Agency described as one of the worst environmental disasters of its kind, continues.  After damages are awarded it is likely that TVA will pass those costs along to their customers.

And rest assured, the nearly $11 million TVA paid for outside legal help plus the work done by in-house lawyers, for which TVA is saying they can’t provide a total, will also be passed along to ratepayers.

Lesson learned here, if your energy generator messes up, you get to pay for it.

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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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The New York University School of Law’s Institute for Policy Integrity has released a new reportThe Regulatory Red Herring: The Role of Job Impact Analysis in Environmental Policy Debates. The study finds that claims of jobs that stand to be gained or lost due to environmental regulations require much closer scrutiny than they’re given. Very often these claims are made dramatically out of context, based on economic analyses that may not have been meant to support them.

The report goes on to say there are ways that cost-benefit analysis can more accurately evaluate the effect of environmental regulation on layoffs and hiring. But frequently, the tendency is for jobs impact models to be used in ways that are not helpful in debates over environmental protections. Results are sometimes cited without calling adequate attention to their limitations and assumptions even though different modeling choices can lead to drastically different conclusions.

EPA’s recent regulations, which have come under attack for “killing jobs,” have all gone through economic analysis and have been vetted by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. For example, the Boiler MACT Rule is estimated to deliver between $22.2 billion and $54.5 billion in benefits per year, including the avoidance of thousands of premature deaths and cardiopulmonary illnesses annually (as well as significant, non-monetized ecosystem and mercury reduction benefits); by comparison, only about $1.9 billion in costs are expected.

Below is a table that shows the analysis for several EPA regulations.

Annual costs and benefits of sample EPA regs

In each instance, the benefits outweigh the costs.  Click here to get the full report.

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Today, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

“Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement announcing the limits. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow.”

This rule has been years in the making and was approved by the White House after months of review.  The rule will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt which could essentially end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.

The rule provides an exception for coal plants that are already permitted and beginning construction within a year. There are about 20 coal plants pursuing permits; two of them would meet the new standard with advanced pollution controls.  The proposal does not cover existing plants.

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Reprinted with permission from Christopher Searles blog – http://chrissearles.blogspot.com/

In January of 2011 U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addressed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Civil Rights Affirmative Employment and Diversity at an event honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I am old to enough to have witnessed and experienced the remarkable progress that’s been made since the 1960s when Dr. King, in addition to his many other achievements, helped to plant the seeds for what would become our nation’s now-thriving environmental justice movement.”
Holder, “I want you to know that – at every level of the Justice Department, just like here at the EPA, (Environmental Justice) is a top priority — and, for me, it is also a personal calling.”
‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
According to the EPA, Environmental Justice will be achieved when “everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.” The movement against Environmental Racism began in the 1980s and was formally established as the Environmental Justice movement in 1991 when the First National People of Color delegation drafted and adopted “Principles of Environmental Justice” in Washington, D.C.  Read Principles here.
In recent years the movement has expanded its definition beyond color lines. “We are just as much concerned with inequities in Appalachia, for example, where the whites are basically dumped on because of lack of economic and political clout,” says Dr. Robert Bullard, movement ‘grandfather.’ Likewise, the movement has grown beyond radical environmentalism to include Christian, Jewish and other communities of faith and the academic sector. In the religious domain, Environmental Justice is often referred to as “Social Justice.”
Attorney Gen. Holder, “Dr. King did not have the chance to witness the impact of the movement that he began. But he left with us the creed that continues to guide our work. His enduring words, which he penned from a Birmingham jail cell, still remind us that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Attorney General Eric Holder, “Environmental Justice is a Civil Rights issue.”
At the EPA’s 2011 event Holder cited a 2005 report showing that African Americans were nearly 80 percent more likely than white Americans to live near hazardous industrial pollution sites at that time. Holder said these issues persist, “In 2011, the burden of environmental degradation still falls disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color, and most often on their youngest residents: our children, my children.”
“This is unacceptable.  And it is unconscionable.  But through the aggressive enforcement of federal environmental laws in every community, I believe that we can – and I know that we must – change the status quo.”
After Holder’s speech the event’s program closed with the EPA’s general counsel and EPA’s associate director of the Water Protection performing “Free at Last” for the audience at the Ronald Reagan Building.

Read more via CNSnews.com.
Learn about the EPA’s Environmental Justice Achievement Awards.
Other sources: EcoHearth, The National Council of Churches, TaintedGreen, Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History.

Hope everyone had a thoughtful MLK Day yesterday.

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The EPA has published a federal register notice to solicit public comments on their ozone designation recommendations to the states.  This comment period closes on January 19th and we have included the notice for information on where and how to submit your comments.

Public Citizen and Sierra Club believe the inclusion of Freestone, Limestone, McClennan, Navarro and Wise Counties in the designation of the new Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) ozone nonattaiment area for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) will be essential to this area being able to effectively develop an implementation plan that will move the area out of nonattainment for federal air quality standards.  We would encourage those in these counties and in the DFW area to submit comments to this effect.

FEDERAL REGISTER NOTICE OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD – SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given that the EPA has posted its responses to state and tribal designation recommendations for the 2008 Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) on the Agency’s Internet Web site. The EPA invites public comments on its responses during the comment period specified in the DATES section. The EPA sent responses directly to the states and tribes on or about December 9, 2011, and intends to make final designation determinations for the 2008 Ozone NAAQS in spring 2012.
DATES: Comments must be received on or before January 19, 2012. Please refer to SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION for additional information on the comment period.

ADDRESSES: Submit your comments, identified by Docket ID No. EPA-OAR- HQ-2008-0476, by one of the following methods:     http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments:

  • Email: [email protected]. Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0476.
  • Fax: (202) 566-9744. Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR- 2008-0476.
  • Mail: Air Docket, Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008- 0476, Environmental Protection Agency, Mail Code: 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460.
  • Hand Delivery: EPA Docket Center, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Room 3334, Washington, DC.
    (Such deliveries are only accepted during the Docket’s normal hours of operation, and special arrangements should be made for deliveries of boxed information.

Instructions: Direct your comments to Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR- 2008-0476. The EPA’s policy is that all comments received will be included in the public docket without change and may be made available online at www.regulations.gov, including any personal information provided, unless the comment includes information claimed to be confidential business information or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Do not submit information that you consider to be confidential business information or otherwise protected through www.regulations.gov or email. The www.regulations.gov web site is an “anonymous access” system, which means the EPA will not know your identity or contact information unless you provide it in the body of your comment. If you send an email comment directly to the EPA without going through www.regulations.gov, your email address will be automatically captured and included as part of the comment that is placed in the public docket and made available on the Internet. If you submit an electronic comment, the EPA recommends that you include your name and other contact information in the body of your comment and with any disk or CD-ROM you submit. If the EPA is unable to read your comment and cannot contact you for clarification due to technical difficulties, the EPA may not be able to consider your comment. Electronic files should avoid the use of special characters, any form of encryption, and be free of any defects or viruses. For additional information about the EPA’s public docket, visit the EPA Docket Center homepage at http://www.epa.gov/epahome/dockets.htm. For additional instructions on submitting comments, go to Section II of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document.     Docket: All documents in the docket are listed in the www.regulations.gov index. Although listed in the index, some information is not publicly available, i.e., confidential business information or other information whose disclosure is restricted by statute. Certain other material, such as copyrighted material, is not placed on the Internet and will be publicly available only in hard copy form. Publicly available docket materials are available either electronically in www.regulations.gov or in hard copy at the EPA Docket Center, EPA West, Room 3334, 1301 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC. The Public Reading Room is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays. The telephone number for the Public Reading Room is (202) 566-1744, and the telephone number for the Air Docket is (202) 566-1742.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For general questions concerning this action, please contact Carla Oldham, U.S. EPA, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Air Quality Planning Division, C539-04, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, telephone (919) 541-3347, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 1, please contact Richard Burkhart, U.S. EPA, telephone (617) 918-1664, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 2, please contact Bob Kelly, U.S. EPA, telephone (212) 637-3709, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 3, please contact Maria Pino, U.S. EPA, telephone (215) 814- 2181, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 4, please contact Jane Spann, U.S. EPA, telephone (404) 562- 9029, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 5, please contact Edward Doty, U.S. EPA, telephone (312) 886- 6057, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 6, please contact Guy Donaldson, U.S. EPA, telephone (214) 665-7242, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 7, please contact Lachala Kemp, U.S. EPA, telephone (913) 551-7214, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 8, please contact Scott Jackson, U.S. EPA, telephone (303) 312-6107, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in the EPA Region 9, please contact John J. Kelly, U.S. EPA, telephone (415) 947-4151, email at [email protected]. For questions about areas in EPA Region 10, please contact Claudia Vaupel, U.S. EPA, telephone (206) 553-6121, email at [email protected].

I. Background and Purpose
On March 12, 2008, the EPA revised the NAAQS for ozone to provide increased protection of public health and welfare from ozone pollution (73 FR 16436; March 27, 2008). The process for designating areas following promulgation of a new or revised NAAQS is contained in Clean Air Act (CAA) section 107(d) (42 U.S.C. 7407). Following the promulgation of a new or revised standard, each governor or tribal leader has an opportunity to recommend air quality designations, including the appropriate boundaries for nonattainment areas, to the EPA. The EPA considers these recommendations as part of its duty to promulgate the formal area designations and boundaries for the new or revised standards. By no later than 120 days prior to promulgating designations, the EPA is required to notify states and tribes of any intended modification to an area designation or boundary recommendation that the EPA deems necessary. On or around December 9, 2011, the EPA notified states and tribes of its intended area designations for the 2008 Ozone NAAQS. States and tribes now have an opportunity to demonstrate why they believe an intended modification by the EPA may be inappropriate. The EPA encouraged states and tribes to provide comments and additional information for consideration by the EPA in finalizing designations. The EPA plans to make final designation decisions for the 2008 Ozone NAAQS in spring 2012.     The purpose of this notice is to solicit public comments from interested parties other than states and tribes on the EPA’s recent responses to the state and tribal designation recommendations for the 2008 Ozone NAAQS. These responses can be found on the EPA’s Internet Web site at http://www.epa.gov/ozonedesignations and also in the public docket for ozone designations at Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0476. The CAA section 107(d) provides a process for designations that involves recommendations by states and tribes to the EPA and responses from the EPA to those parties, prior to the EPA promulgating final designations and boundaries. The EPA is not required under the CAA section 107(d) to seek public comment during the designation process, but is electing to do so for the 2008 Ozone NAAQS in order to gather additional information for the EPA to consider before making final designations. The EPA invites public comment on its responses to states and tribes during the 30-day comment period provided by this notice. Due to the statutory timeframe for promulgating designations set out in the CAA section 107(d), the EPA will not be able to consider any public comments submitted after January 19, 2012. This notice and opportunity for public comment does not affect any rights or obligations of any state, tribe or the EPA which might otherwise exist pursuant to the CAA section 107(d).     Please refer to the ADDRESSES section above in this document for specific instructions on submitting comments and locating relevant public documents.     In establishing nonattainment area boundaries, the EPA is required to identify the area that does not meet the 2008 Ozone NAAQS and any nearby area that is contributing to the area that does not meet that standard. We are particularly interested in receiving comments, supported by relevant information, if you believe that a specific geographic area that the EPA is proposing to identify as a nonattainment area should not be categorized by the CAA section 107(d) criteria as nonattainment, or if you believe that a specific area not proposed by the EPA to be identified as a nonattainment area should in fact be categorized as nonattainment using the CAA section 107(d) criteria. Please be as specific as possible in supporting your views.     Describe any assumptions and provide any technical information and/or data that you used.     Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns, and suggest alternatives.     Explain your views as clearly as possible.     Make sure to submit your comments by the comment period deadline identified in the DATES section above.

II. Instructions for Submitting Public Comments
What should I consider as I prepare my comments for the EPA?
1. Submitting Confidential Business Information. Do not submit this information to the EPA through www.regulations.gov or email. Clearly mark the part or all of the information that you claim to be confidential business information. For confidential business information in a disk or CD-ROM that you mail to the EPA, mark the outside of the disk or CD-ROM as confidential business information and then identify electronically within the disk or CD-ROM the specific information that is claimed as confidential business information. In addition to one complete version of the comment that includes information claimed as confidential business information, a copy of the comment that does not contain the information claimed as confidential business information must be submitted for inclusion in the public docket. Information so marked will not be disclosed except in accordance with procedures set forth in 40 CFR part 2. Send or deliver information identified as confidential business information only to the following address: Roberto Morales, U.S. EPA, Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards, Mail Code C404-02, Research Triangle Park, NC 27711, telephone (919) 541-0880, email at [email protected], Attention Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2008-0476.     2. Tips for Preparing Your Comments. When submitting comments, remember to:     Identify the rulemaking by docket number and other identifying information (subject heading, Federal Register date and page number).     Follow directions–The agency may ask you to respond to specific questions or organize comments by referencing a Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) part or section number.     Explain why you agree or disagree; suggest alternatives and substitute language for your requested changes.     Describe any assumptions and provide any technical information and/or data that you used.     If you estimate potential costs or burdens, explain how you arrived at your estimate in sufficient detail to allow for it to be reproduced.     Provide specific examples to illustrate your concerns, and suggest alternatives.     Explain your views as clearly as possible, avoiding the use of profanity or personal threats.     Make sure to submit your comments by the comment period deadline identified.
III. Internet Web Site for Rulemaking Information
The EPA has also established a Web site for this rulemaking at www.epa.gov/ozonedesignations. The Web site includes the state and tribal designation recommendations, information supporting the EPA’s preliminary designation decisions, as well as the rulemaking actions and other related information that the public may find useful.

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A draft finding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could have a chilling effect on states trying to determine how to regulate the process.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping pressurised water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas to the surface.

The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath the Wyoming community of Pavillion where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals.

Health officials advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found hydrocarbons in their wells.

The EPA announcement has major implications for the vast increase in gas drilling in the US in recent years. Fracking has played a large role in opening up many reserves.

The industry has long contended that fracking is safe, but environmentalists and some residents who live near drilling sites say it has poisoned groundwater.

The EPA said its announcement is the first step in a process of opening up its findings for review by the public and other scientists.

“EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion residents have access to safe drinking water,” said Jim Martin, EPA regional administrator in Denver. “We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process.”

At this time, the EPA is emphasising that the findings are specific to the Pavillion area. The agency said the fracking that occurred in Pavillion differed from fracking methods used elsewhere in regions with different geological characteristics.  Further studies need to be done in specific areas and the finding of this report should not be extrapolated to other areas of high activity.

This feels a bit like the EPA is hedging their bets and is scant consolation to those folks in other parts of the country who have the sideshow ability to light their water taps on fire.  Nevertheless, this finding may make it easier for other communities to have their voices heard when they express concerns about pollution of their water supplies.  This will be particularly important in Texas which is looking at a multi-year, record breaking drought in their future.

The fracking occurred below the level of the drinking water aquifer and close to water wells, the EPA said. Elsewhere, drilling is more remote and fracking occurs much deeper than the level of groundwater that anybody would use.

In Colorado, regulators are considering requiring oil and gas companies to publicly disclose the chemicals used in fracking

The public and industry representatives packed an 11-hour hearing on the issue on Monday. They all generally supported the proposal but the sticking point is whether trade secrets would have to be disclosed and how quickly the information would have be turned over.

Industry representatives say Colorado and Texas are the only states to have moved to consider disclosing all fracking chemicals, not just those considered hazardous by workplace regulators.

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According to the Associated Press, across the land, large and small polluters have regaled Republican-led congressional committees with dire predictions of plant closings and layoffs if the EPA succeeds with plans to further curb air and water pollution.

But their message to financial regulators and investors conveys less gloom and uncertainty.

The Associated Press compared the companies’ congressional testimony to company reports submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The reports to the SEC consistently said the impact of environmental proposals is unknown or would not cause serious financial harm to a firm’s finances.

Companies argue that their less gloomy SEC filings are correct, since most of the tougher anti-pollution proposals have not been finalized. And their officials’ testimony before congressional committees was sometimes on behalf of — and written by — trade associations, a perspective that can differ from an individual company’s view.

The disparity in the messages shows that in a politically divided environment, business has no misgivings about describing potential economic horror stories to lawmakers.

California Rep. Henry Waxman, the senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said the SEC filings “show that the anti-regulation rhetoric in Washington is political hot air with little or no connection to reality.”

The lesson here, is – every time a company threatens gloom and doom consequences from regulation, we should also take a look at what they are saying to the SEC and their stockholders.

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According to the Texas Energy Report, the EPA has issued its first greenhouse gas permit in Texas with the TCEQ refusing to issue permits to LCRA or others

The Lower Colorado River Authority received the first Texas Greenhouse Gas permit as it upgrades a 37-year-old generating unit in Llano County to a more efficient natural gas-powered unit, federal environmental regulators announced Thursday.

LCRA, which is making improvements to its Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant, is the first company in Texas to complete a greenhouse gas permit application and obtain the final permit, a process that took about eight months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“The LCRA plant will use improved environmental controls and install modern high efficiency equipment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz. “LCRA is leading the way by providing Texans an efficient and reliable source of clean power.”

EPA granted the first Texas greenhouse gas permit and is reviewing 10 others for Texas companies. Under EPA’s final national regulations, projects beginning on Jan. 2, 2011 that “increase greenhouse gas emissions substantially” require the air permits.

While the EPA said it thinks states are “best equipped” to oversee the permitting process, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has refused to do so.

In an Aug. 2, 2010 letter to the EPA, the Texas Attorney General and TCEQ explained, “The State of Texas does not believe that EPA’s suggested approach comports with the rule of law” and that would “preclude TCEQ from declaring itself ready to require permits for greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources as you request.”

Under the LCRA permit, the electric cooperative plans to replace an old 440-megawatt electric generating boiler with a new, 590-megwatt combined cycle gas-fired plant.

“We appreciate EPA’s work on our project,” said LCRA General Manager Becky Motal. “The region will benefit from the latest environmental controls and our customers will benefit from our ability to better manage costs with a plant that will use about 35 to 40 percent less fuel than traditional gas-fired plants.”

The TCEQ released a statement saying it is pleased LCRA’s project is morning forward, but “we see no need for – or any environmental benefit from – EPA’s greenhouse gas permit. The TCEQ authorized the project on Sept. 1, 2011 after careful review that determined the permit was protective of the environment and fully compliant with all state environmental regulations.”

TCEQ’s greenhouse gas letter to the EPA is here.

EPA’s letter to permit holders and the public is here.

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The U.S. Senate killed Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Kentucky) effort last week to strike down the EPA’s Cross State Air Pollution Rule regulating emissions that blow across state lines, thanks in part to your calls and emails.

The measure died on a 41-56 vote with Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison voting for the failed measure. The air pollution rule requires certain states, including Texas, to cut harmful emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

President Obama had promised to veto the bill if it arrived at his desk. Still, that didn’t stop attacks from foes of the controversial rule, which has prompted lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by the State of Texas and the state’s largest power generator (Dallas-based Luminant, which relies heavily on coal-fired generation).  Both declaring that the rule would harm the reliability of Texas’ electric grid and kill jobs.

Senators from small eastern states, however, said they had done all they could to clean up their own air already but were now contending with 95 percent of pollution that arrives from other states.

Backers of the rule say cleaning up the air is job friendly because it creates green jobs and reduces employee sick days and absenteeism in public schools. Opponents of the rule said installing expensive emissions-cutting retrofits would hurt jobs at a time when creating jobs should be the top priority. They also said it would hurt senior citizens and the poor who would see their power bills increase.

Again, to those of you who made calls and sent in emails, thank you.

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In the 2011 ozone season, North Texas pushed ahead of Houston in the battle for the worst air quality in the state. Both metro areas have significant pollution problems, and both continue to exceed federal ozone limits.

Dallas-Fort Worth now has the distinction of beating the Bayou City as the former longtime state champ, and one that has been contending for years for the worst smog problem in the country.

The release of the 2011 ozone season stats has been met with little concern by those in positions of power.

The Texas leadership keeps telling Texans that the feds are out to get us with their onerous and unnecessary environmental rules and regulations. But as the ozone readings reveal, the state isn’t troubling itself with meeting even basic standards.

North Texas and Houston are still exceeding the now-outdated ozone limit of 85 parts per billion and are nowhere near complying with the new standard of 75 ppb.  We all pay for failing to meet this bar with public health consequences — more respiratory illnesses, hospital visits, lost work days and premature deaths.

Texas is under federal mandate to reduce ozone levels. The state is required to submit and to abide by plans to improve air quality — but too many deadlines have been missed, and too many plans have been little more than Band-Aids.

The story the numbers tell is, not enough has been done to bring North Texas into compliance. The metropolitan area needs a more aggressive clean-air plan, but it also needs state environmental officials to lead the way to reduce pollution from sources outside the cities’ purview – like coal-fired power plants – that blow into these urban areas making it even more difficult to meet air quality standards.

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