Texas has sued the federal Environmental Protection Agency for the second time in six weeks, escalating a feud over the state’s rules for air pollution from refiners and other large industries.
State Attorney General Greg Abbott said Monday he filed a petition with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, seeking to block the EPA from disapproving the state’s so-called flexible permits.
State officials argue the federal agency had no legal or technical justification for rejecting the 16-year-old permitting program, which covers 122 refiners, chemical plants and plastics makers.
[Al Armendariz, the EPA's regional administrator based in Dallas,] said the EPA rejected flexible permitting because the rules fall short of the federal Clean Air Act’s requirements. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issues the permits on behalf of the EPA, but the EPA decides whether they are in compliance with the law.
Although Texas created the permitting rules in 1994, the EPA did not rule on them until after industry groups sued to force the agency to act.
That’s the irony of all this. Had industry groups not sued the EPA earlier, they might not be in this pickle now. So much for that. Given where we are now, I’m sure the faster and cheaper resolution, not to mention the one that allows for actual progress in cleaning up the air we all breathe, would be for the EPA to work with affected manufacturers to get them into compliance, which is what they’re already doing with many of them. But if you want to drag things out and make everybody spend a bunch of money on legal fees and you don’t really care about air quality, then litigating is totally the way to go. More background is here, here, here, and here