Monday, August 16, 2010

The EPA is messing with Texas...

The New York Times gives the Texas versus EPA battle the full length treatment (link). Excerpt follows...

By Messing With Texas Air Pollution Permits, EPA Unleashes Power Struggle

DALLAS, Texas -- After simmering behind closed doors for more than 15 years, a disagreement between U.S. EPA and Texas environmental officials over air pollution permits has boiled over in a big way.


Perry and Texas officials argue EPA should back off because the state's programs have succeeded in cleaning the air. Airborne ozone levels fell 22 percent over the past decade, while industrial emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) dropped by 46 percent, beating national averages.


Texas argues that EPA officials want permitting done their way because they do not understand how flexible permits work. It is slightly more difficult to calculate emissions reductions than it is under conventional permits, Shaw said, and that confusion is compounded by the fact that some of the state's largest and most complicated facilities use the program.

After TCEQ officials explained how to check emissions reductions, EPA's position went from "'These are perceived deficiencies with your program' to 'We don't want your program,'" Shaw said. "They planted a flag in the ground and seem to be trying to make a point," he added, "but I've had a hard time figuring out what their objection is and why they want to do away with this program."


According to one Texas attorney representing businesses with flexible permits, EPA seemed to believe it could scare business enough to make the companies come in and "de-flex" their permits, as they are calling the process. But while businesses are scared to operate without EPA-approved permits, they are more afraid of being among the first to go through a "rehabilitation" process that could lead to tougher air pollution restrictions and perhaps expose them to lawsuits.

"Companies are saying, 'We don't want to leave this harbor. It's not exactly a safe harbor, but we're not stepping on that rock in the river until we know that's not really an alligator in there,'" said the attorney, who asked not to be identified because speaking openly could harm ongoing negotiations. "'It's going to have to be really bad here before I go there.'"

During a public meeting last week on air pollution regulations for the oil and gas industry, several business leaders raised concerns about EPA's actions, including the decision to revoke the permit for Flint Hills Resources LP's East Corpus Christi refinery. Run by a subsidiary of Koch Industries Inc., the refinery is the second-largest in Texas.

Bill Stevens, executive vice president of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, told the panel he was worried that EPA's actions would close down the refineries that process the state's oil.


Armendariz may be challenging Texas more than his predecessors did, but he has an equally aggressive adversary in Perry. Setting himself apart from former Houston Mayor Bill White, the environment-minded Democrat he will face at the polls in November, Perry has blamed the air permitting feud on a power-hungry and ignorant EPA.

"Instead of worrying about cleaner air," Perry said in a statement last month, "the EPA seems intent upon putting the jobs of tens of thousands of hardworking Texans at risk, mainly so the EPA can impose a system it says will be easier for Washington bureaucrats to understand."

During last week's public meeting in Dallas, the permitting feud was the proverbial elephant in the room. The meeting drew a handful of anti-government protesters, who carried signs bearing slogans such as "Don't mess with Texas."

Addressing a panel of EPA officials, state Rep. Jim Keffer (R) said it would be unreasonable for the federal government to take over what has been a successful program. The state has simply done more to reconcile environmental protection with job creation, he said.

"There are those that say that they want to level the playing field between the states, that the only reason Texas has succeeded economically is cheating on our environmental responsibilities," Keffer said. "As you can see ... we have not. In fact, we've gone farther than tons of states have."

The EPA is doing Obama's big government federal takeover bidding... they don't care about results... just control...

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