EPA Tells 2 More to Bypass Texas Air Permitting

June 15, 2010 - 4:49 PM
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has told two more companies to bypass Texas and apply directly to the federal government for clean-air permits for refineries.
Houston (AP) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told two more companies Tuesday to bypass Texas regulators and apply directly with the federal government for their clean-air permits.
 
The latest development in the battle between Texas and the federal government over clean-air permits for petrochemical companies involves the Chevron Phillips Cedar Bayou plant and Garland Power & Light, a utility in north Texas.
 
The companies have until Sept. 30 to reapply for the permits directly with the federal agency, according to letters from the EPA to the companies. The EPA has taken over clean-air permitting from Texas regulators, saying it believes the state's process violates the federal Clean Air Act.
 
The EPA has rejected nearly 40 permits issued by Texas late last year. The agency first barred Texas from issuing an operating permit to a refinery last month and said it would take the step for dozens more plants.
 
"The people in Texas deserve the same protections under the Clean Air Act that the citizens of all the other states do," Al Armendariz, the EPA's regional director, told The Associated Press. "We can't allow any state to implement or to operate a federal program like the federal Clean Air Act in a way that doesn't follow federal law."
 
A spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality did not immediately return a Tuesday phone call.
 
The debate between Texas and the EPA centers on the state's so-called flexible permits plan, which sets a general limit on how much pollutants an entire facility can release. The program never was approved by the EPA, and the Clean Air Act requires permits to set limits on each of the dozens of individual protection units inside a plant.
 
Gov. Rick Perry has said Texas should be lauded as the "poster child" for clean air and pollution regulation.
 
On Monday, state officials asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans to review the EPA's decision in March to disapprove the state's permitting process for refineries.
 
Tuesday's announcement comes amid a long-running public and politicized dispute between the state and the EPA over how Texas regulates petrochemical plant emissions. The EPA has offered to work directly with Texas' petrochemical industry to fix permits. Perry has said the Texas permitting program has helped improve air quality.