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.

Myth No. 2: The Texas flexible permit program has resulted in large emission reductions.

The Facts: The improvement in air quality is due to factors other than the flex permitting program, mainly national clean air protections and EPA enforcement actions.

Myth No. 3: Flexible Permits are legal and just as good at protecting the public as the permits in other states.

The Facts: The flexible permits are unenforceable, don’t protect public health, and have far higher emission rates of pollution than at facilities in other states with enforceable, transparent, legally compliant permits limiting air pollution discharges.

Myth No. 4: The disapproval of Texas’s unique “flexible" permitting program is costing jobs.

The Facts: This is now much ado about nothing, because almost all of the companies with flex permits have come forward with proposals that will result in them having legal and better permits within the year.

Lie No. 1: EPA is picking on poor little ol’ Texas.

The Truth: Texas is an outlier among all the states. Texas alone decided not to modify its permitting program to comply with the law.

Lie No. 2: EPA is acting unilaterally and without Congressional authorization.

The Truth: EPA is enforcing the Clean Air Act as written, and as interpreted by the Supreme Court. It is not that EPA is engaging in its own discretionary program – it has acted pursuant to mandatory CAA requirements that EPA regulate where, as here, a pollutant endangers the public.

Lie No. 3: Texas has a legitimate lawsuit concerning the endangerment finding that is aimed at protecting Texans.

The Truth: The Texas lawsuit was filed at the behest of industry lawyers, the state is represented by a Yankee lawyer whose firm represents Exxon among other polluters, and the claims are based on faulty legal and factual basis.

Lie No. 4: Texas industries just can’t comply with the greenhouse gas regulations.

The Truth: Many Texas industries are going beyond the minimum requirements of EPA’s rules. Officials are selling Texas' businesses short.

Lie No. 5: The EPA GHG regulations put Texas at a terrible competitive disadvantage.

The Truth: Texas has natural resources that mean it can be a big winner with greenhouse gas regulations, IF we have forward thinking leaders.

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