TCEQ & The EPA: Feds Again Slam Texas' Pollution-Control Efforts

The EPA took yet another bite out of the Texas air-pollution regulatory system on Tuesday when it decreed that some of state's rules violate federal clean air law.

At issue is what's called the New Source Review Program. It deals with the permitting of new or expanding facilities and requires, among many things, that the best pollution-control technology is implemented, that total new pollution is considered and that the government and public can tell what pollutants are being emitted.

According to the EPA, parts of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's program are illegal. In one instance, the feds say, a TCEQ permit designed to streamline permitting changes at an industrial plant did not adequately include and consider the impact of the total air pollution should the changes go into effect.

While clean-air advocates claim this is the first time the EPA has ever intervened on a state's New Source Review program, this is hardly the first time the EPA has stomped on TCEQ's toes. Earlier this summer, the EPA disapproved TCEQ's flexible permitting system.

TCEQ stands behind its air-pollution programs, saying they have actually resulted in lower emissions. And Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott certainly have the commission's back. Together, the two elected officials have filed lawsuits claiming the EPA's takeover of the flexible permit program is illegal, and have turned the whole mess into a debate about state rights, calling the EPA's actions a "power grab" and vowing to fight the EPA with "every breath."

The EPA insists that all it is doing is protecting public health and making sure federal laws are followed.

As expected, clean-air advocates are excited by the EPA's latest move.

"With their step," said Dr. Neil Carman, Clean Air Program Director of the Sierra Club in Texas, "the EPA takes an additional and much needed step to protect our health."

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