Good Air Pollution News in Texas? "Flexible Permit" Companies Agree to EPA Guidelines

It's a rarity: Good air-pollution news in Texas that doesn't involve the Obama administration forcing state officials to do their job.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced today that 156 Texas companies who have received the notoriously loose "flexible" permits have agreed to abide by EPA guidelines and standards for air pollution.

"From the beginning we knew this was going to take hard work and time," said EPS regional administrator Al Armendariz. "We asked companies to do the right thing and if they did so, we would assist them to complete the process...Our goal was to provide the citizens of Texas with the same healthy-air protections that are provided for citizens in all other states under the Clean Air Act."

Local environmental groups praised the announcement.

Said David Weinberg, executive director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters:

"Today's news from the EPA that all 'flexible permit' companies in Texas have agreed to apply for approved air permits is proof positive that industry and environmental regulators can work together toward cleaner air for the Lone Star State.

"The notion that somehow these federal clean air permitting requirements would kill jobs and create uncertainty for Texas business is proving to be patently false. Texas businesses, by meeting the requirements and doing so in many cases ahead of schedule, are signaling that they are willing to move beyond flex-permitting to find a better clean-air solution for Texas.

As our Chris Vogel reported in "A Quiet Hell," the flexible permitting process was routinely abused; eventually the feds had to increase pressure on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to enforce the law.

The EPA singled out several companies for what they said was "being far ahead of schedule or reaching an important milestone toward obtaining new permits that satisfies conditions set forth by the agency in 2010."

The companies were:

Alon USA, Big Spring; BP Product North America, Texas City; Conoco Phillips Company, Borger; Exxon Mobil Corporation, Baytown; Flint Hills Resources, Corpus Christi; INEOS Americas LLC, Port Arthur; INEOS Polyethylene North America, La Porte; INEOS Polymers, La Porte; INEOS USA, Chocolate Bayou; and Marathon Petroleum Company LP, Texas City.

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