Once Again, Texas Cries Wolf Over the Issuing of Permits

Just last year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Bryan Shaw accused EPA's finding on the illegality of Texas’ flexible permitting process as an example of federal overreach that would kill jobs more than it helps the environment. However, in July 2011, the EPA reported that all ‘flexible permit’ companies in Texas agreed to apply for approved air permits and not one job was lost.  Now, we hear another similar tale. When the EPA attempted to enforce the Clean Air Act and regulate Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, Texas filed several lawsuits against the EPA and Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter where he called on Obama “to end job-killing regulations and rescind the EPA rules that Texas has challenged.”

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first Texas GHG permit for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant in Llano County, Texas. LCRA is modernizing and expanding its plant by replacing its 37 year old unit with a new more efficient and reliable natural gas powered unit.

Credit- www.horseshoe-bay-tx.gov

LCRA is the first company in Texas to complete the GHG permit process and obtained a final permit in about 8 months. Without the EPA stepping in, this process wouldn’t have happened and the facility wouldn’t be able to operate, given that Texas flat out refused to issue GHG permits. Therefore, by stepping in on permits related only to greenhouse gas emissions, EPA provided authority for certain large Texas emitters of greenhouse gases to obtain permits that are legally required by the Clean Air Act.  EPA had offered to allow Texas to administer the program, but Texas refused.   For a state that barks loudly about state’s rights, it is shocking that Texas is unwilling to issue these permits.

What was TCEQ’s response to the LCRA permit? Andy Saenz, a spokesman for TCEQ said, "we see no need for — or any environmental benefit from — EPA's greenhouse gas permit.” Not one word about job killing or it being impossible to get greenhouse gas permits.

It’s important to note that Texas, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and industrial pollution in the nation, is the only state that refused to work with EPA to ensure that large greenhouse gas emitters could get the permits the law requires.  

“We appreciated EPA’s work on our project,” said LCRA General Manager Becky Motal. “We believe that replacing our aging Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant with this new combined-cycle natural gas plant benefits everyone. The region will benefit from the latest environmental controls and our customers will benefit from our ability to better manage costs with a plant that will use about 35 to 40 percent less fuel than traditional gas-fired plants.”

The EPA is currently reviewing ten additional GHG permit applications for Texas companies.

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One Comment

  1. Susan S.
    Posted November 18, 2011 at 9:12 AM | Permalink

    Of great interest would be whether any additional changes in equipment or operating requirements were required by the EPA GHG permit, or did it end up as simply a paper pursuit. This is the crux of the matter. What purpose does a GHG permit serve if the construction permit already reviewed and required all pertinent aspects of the plants operation pertaining to potential GHG-related emissions? One can say "pertaining" because "control" of GHG emissions is primarily through good combustion practices – which a facility needs to do just as a normal part of operations. The actual permitting and emission benefits of the GHG rules is an underscored message and must be addressed. This question remains regardless of what side of the GHG fence you are on.

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