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. 

The TCEQ has not provided any credible evidence that the Flexible Permit Program had a significant positive impact on air quality in Texas and this "task force" provided no evidence, other than some whispered anonymous innuendos, of the negative economic impact of the EPA’s action on Flexible Permits.

With warnings of coming Greenhouse Gas regulations as early as 2008, in December the EPA asked states to submit implementation plans for large stationary emitters.  The State of Texas stood alone in its defiance to act.   The EPA reluctantly stepped in to ensure that Texas industry did not suffer from an inability to get new permits due to the State’s inaction. The EPA is merely enforcing the Clean Air Act, enacted by Congress 40 years ago and following a mandate from the Supreme Court (Massachusetts v. EPA, 2007).

The Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court decision (issued in 2007, and authored by conservative jurist Anthony Kennedy,) requires the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, unless the federal agency determines that global warming poses no threat to the public welfare.

Overwhelming scientific evidence indicates that global warming is a serious threat to our way of life and that of our children.  The EPA under both the Bush and Obama Administrations reached the same scientific conclusions that Global Warming endangered public health, and thus the agency is required to regulate the pollutants that cause it. See also a review report of the effects of climate change on public health published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), the nation’s premier environmental health organization.

After losing multiple times in Federal Court, the Attorney General and Governor Perry continue to hold the process in limbo in Texas, now they are looking to Congress to gut the Clean Air Act that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions (yes TRILLIONS) of dollars over the last 40 years.

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  • About the author

    Vice President, Clean Energy
    Jim Marston is the founding director of the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), located in Austin, where he has served since its beginning in 1988. He is also a leader of the Pecan Street, Inc., a partnership that includes Austin Energy, the University of Texas, the Chamber of Commerce, and several large high/clean tech companies aimed at making fundamental changes in the nation's electricity grid.

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    Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

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