Apparently, we don’t sufficiently enforce clean air standards in Texas. Who ever could have guessed that?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that many of the air pollution rules Texas uses to control the state’s industry do not comply with the federal Clean Air Act.
Tuesday’s announcement was met with applause from politicians and environmental organizations that long have been lobbying to force Texas to regulate industry more stringently.
“We think Texas’ procedures should be improved,” said Houston Mayor Bill White, who has met with senior EPA officials about how the state handles emissions permit requests.
A major problem with TCEQ’s process, the mayor said, is that it approves permits without taking into account the pollution already allowed at neighboring facilities or for various pollutants. Each request is approved in a vacuum, he said.
“Procedures today are tilted towards those putting cancer-causing chemicals in the air in large quantities and against those representing the public interest,” said White, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat from which Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is expected to resign in the coming months. “They require people objecting to the permit to respond to an application within a matter of weeks, even if the polluter took months to prepare the application, and then the polluter can continue putting chemicals in the air under the old permit even after the old permit expired. That’s just not right.”
TCEQ officials said their permitting rules are effective at reducing pollution.
“Texas is a big state, and we have a lot of permitting programs that are significantly larger than other states.” said Richard Hyde, the agency’s deputy director. The EPA, he said, “has a mindset that is a lot different than ours about how we achieve emissions reduction.”
Well, yes. The EPA’s mindset is that reducing emissions is the point. The TCEQ doesn’t like telling anyone they have to do anything they don’t want to do. That would be the crux of the dispute here. I say good for the EPA, and for Mayor White for refusing to accept the status quo. Forrest Wilder has more.