Monthly Archives: March 2011

Texas Flex Permitting Lies and Myths

In 1867 Mark Twain wrote, "The most outrageous lies that can be invented will find believers, if a man only tells them with all his might."

Sadly, Texans have been getting fed some real whoppers when it comes to greenhouse gas regulations, and that’s exactly what I said today at a field hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

The topic of today’s Houston hearing was “EPA’s Greenhouse Gas and Clean Air Act Regulations: A Focus on Texas’ Economy, Energy Prices and Jobs.”

Already, this Committee has passed legislation that would strip EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases. Unfortunately, this legislation provides no alternatives for reducing harmful climate-disrupting pollution and is based entirely on misconceptions about EPA's role in regulating these deleterious pollutants.

Bottom line? When it comes to the flexible permitting system and the regulation of greenhouse gases the problem isn't EPA – it's Texas.

It would be a real shame if Congress guts clean air protections based on the myths and lies coming out of Texas. Speaking of myths and lies, here are highlights of my testimony today, attempting to set the record straight [Stay tuned to this blog for a recap of today’s hearing with specific responses to Committee questioning.] . . .

Myth No. 1: The only reason why EPA has objected to the Texas “flexible permits” is because President Obama is “punitive” against “big, red” Texas.

The Facts: EPA has raised concerns about the illegality of the Texas flexible permitting programs since 1994. The Bush Administration in 2006 and 2008 wrote letters saying that the Texas program did not meet the legal standard of the Clean Air Act. This is not a new complaint by EPA and it is not political.  The only people playing politics are Texas officials who are misrepresenting the facts. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , , , | Comments closed

Texas Officials Spreading Cow Pies

Today Texas Congressmen Joe Barton and John Carter along with a number of members of the Texas Legislature, Chairman Bryan Shaw (TCEQ) and others stood up for pollution. They announced their intent to prevent actions by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from enforcing the Clean Air Act to protect public health.  They relied on tired arguments and misrepresented statistics to paint a picture of doom for Texas industry.

Congressmen John Carter went as far to say that those who question the quality of Texas air “don’t think much of Texas.”  Well I resent that remark, I was born and baptized in Ft. Worth, attended Texas Christian University and have lived in Texas for 33 consecutive years.  Real Texans care about our state’s future and wouldn’t try to gut protections that save lives and create jobs in clean energy.

We have a multi-billion dollar state budget shortfall and have yet to pass a federal budget for a fiscal year we are already in, yet two Congressmen, multiple members of the Texas Legislature as well as two state agency commissioners feel it necessary to waste time debating the merits of a regulation that most Texas companies are already willing to follow.

The EPA warned the State of Texas that the Flexible Permit Program implemented by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) did not meet federal standards for almost a decade.  After a lot of grandstanding and political posturing last year, 71 of the 74 companies holding flexible permits in the State of Texas have agreed to meet EPA regulations. It seems that industry is ahead of the politicians.  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments closed

Texans to Benefit Even More From New Toxics Rule

Today the Environmental Protection Agency announced a new Mercury and Air Toxics rule that will help clean up mercury pollution from our nation’s power plants. A new Environmental Defense Fund report shows that Texas citizens will especially benefit from this rule with seven of the nation’s top 25 mercury-emitting coal plants here in our state, and four of those among the top 10 (see map).

Seven of the Top 25 Mercury-Emitting U.S. Coal Plants in 2009 are in Texas (Four of which are in the Top 10) Source: Proprietary Analysis, EIA 860 2009, EIA 923 2009, Ventyx Velocity

Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of toxic mercury air emissions in the U.S. and Texas coal plants have lagged far behind other states in reducing emissions. Top Texas coal plant emissions in 2009 by pounds of mercury released include the following (among the nation’s top 25 emitters):

  • Martin Lake 1,566 lbs.
  • Big Brown 1,362 lbs.
  • Limestone 1,077 lbs.
  • Monticello 1,063 lbs.
  • W A Parish 845 lbs.
  • Sandow (No. 4) 809 lbs.
  • Pirkey 791 lbs.

Such figures should concern us all given the serious human health impacts. While we have yet to learn all of the implications from harmful exposures to mercury, we do know that some of these effects are most severe in infants and young children, and include brain damage, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and impaired vision and hearing. Read More »

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New Rule Expected to Dramatically Reduce Hazardous Power Plant Emissions

Perhaps next week we’ll all be able to breathe just a little bit easier with the much- anticipated Wednesday, March 16 announcement of a new Air Toxics Rule.

The Environmental Protection Agency will announce a rule that will, for the first time, limit hazardous emissions from our nation’s power plants. These pollutants threaten the health of every American with annual emissions of more than 386,000 tons of dangerous air pollution like mercury, acid gases, heavy metals and even radioactive materials.

Unlike criteria air pollutants – like ozone and particulate matter – there are no current national ambient air quality standards for air toxics. This means that there’s no regulation on the amount of harmful air toxics that can collect in our air, water, or wildlife. Once in the environment, many of these toxic compounds are there forever.

While we have yet to learn all of the implications from harmful exposures to air toxics, we do know that some of the most serious health effects are most severe in infants and young children and include brain damage, learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, and impaired vision and hearing. We also know that reducing exposures can reduce risk, and that reducing risk is the best and most immediate way to protect human health. Read More »

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“Loser Pays” in Texas vs. EPA

Governor Perry has been promoting tort reform for quite some time.  In fact, it has surfaced that legislation may be introduced to the Texas Legislature that would establish a “loser pays” system for lawsuits.  In his state of the state address this year Perry said that Texas needs a system "in which those who sue and lose are required to pay the court costs and legal expenses of those they sued."

Is Governor Perry ready to follow his own rule?

Over the last year, the Governor, his appointees at the TCEQ and Attorney General Abbott have spent tremendous resources fighting the Environmental Protection Agency on Flex Permitting and greenhouse gas rule implementation and to no avail.  In fact, the various suits and maneuvers by Perry and Abbott to block enforcement of the EPA’s GHG rule were rejected not once, but four times by more than one court.  Their actions are the legal equivalent to doctor-shopping.

Despite rhetoric from Perry and Abbott, there can be no confusion about the EPA’s actions on the greenhouse gas rule.  They are acting on the authority of a 40 year-old law and a directive from the Supreme Court.  

While the Governor and Attorney General have the luxury of some free help from Exxon’s Lawyers, Texas taxpayers make up the difference and pay the full bill as the EPA and Federal Courts spend their limited resources wading through politically motivated lawsuits from Perry and Abbott in the name of polluters.

While I do not wish to wade into the debate on the merits of tort reform, I cannot help but wonder if Governor Perry would so readily support “loser pays” if his political whims were held to the same standard.  Maybe we should be asking him if he will guarantee to pay the taxpayers back for the costs of these lawsuits he has lost thus far and will likely lose again going forward.

Posted in Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting| Tagged , , , | Comments closed

Rep. John Carter and Others Sided With Corporate Lobbyist To Threaten The Safety of Children

Seeing a sonogram can be a powerful experience.  Witnessing the early, fragile stages of life can have a tremendous effect on a person. 

No, we’re not talking about the debate in the Texas Legislature; we’re talking about mercury, Congress and the health and safety of you and your family. 

Congressmen and women are sent to Washington on a promise that they will serve in the best interest of their district.  It is an ideal as old as the institution itself.  On February 16, 2011 Rep. John Carter and other Texas Congressmen broke that promise. 

Mercury is a compound that most of us know to stay away from, it’s dangerous.  Rep. John Carter wants to pump more of it into the air.  He authored an amendment that would eliminate emissions reductions on mercury from cement plants in the United States.  He seems to believe that the interest of polluters far outweigh that of the public he was elected to serve. 

If ingested by a pregnant woman, mercury can cause a mother’s worst nightmare: brain damage leading to learning disabilities and attention disorders, as well as delays in walking and talking.  It is estimated that every year 400,000 newborns are exposed to harmful levels of mercury. 

This is the health and safety of our children both living and unborn. 

The majority of the United States House voted in favor of Carter’s amendment, compromising the health of unborn children.   

Rep. John Carter and these Representatives lead the way.

Here is a list of the Texas co-sponsors:

Rep. Joe Barton
Rep. Kevin Brady
Rep. John Carter
Rep. K. Michael Conaway
Rep. John Culberson
Rep. Blake Farenthold
Rep. Bill Flores
Rep. Kay Granger
Rep. Sam Johnson
Rep. Kenny Marchant
Rep. Randy Neugbauer
Rep. Pete Olson
Rep. Ted Poe
Rep. Pete Sessions
Rep. William M. Thornberry

We thought it might help them to see an actual sonogram to better understand the effect of their decisions on unborn children. 

EDF is currently working to get this ad running in Texas. Please visit edf.org/cleartheair to find out how you can help to ensure these actions don’t go unnoticed.

Posted in Air Pollution| Comments closed
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