Selected tags: EPA

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| Also tagged , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now 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| Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments closed

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 »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Particulate Matter| Also tagged , , , , , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

“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| Also tagged , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Environmental Protections are Health, Not Political Issues

Last month I wrote about a series of public teleconferences on additional charge questions from the Environmental Protection Agency, as it continues to reconsider the 2008 ozone standard. The evidence from more than 1,700 peer-reviewed scientific reports is clear (and continues to be reinforced with new science) in demonstrating that our current ozone standard is not protective enough of human health, and we at EDF continue to advocate for a strengthening of the standard. Just this week, during the second public teleconference in this series, I reinforced our position with formal comments.

Here are highlights from my testimony, with a few additions:

The Science is Sound
We appreciate the continued dedication of the CASAC (Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee) during the course of the 2008 ozone review through the present. To this day, as it continues to answer additional charge questions, the committee has not waivered in its opinion regarding the standard. CASAC remains strong, and has issued multiple statements indicating that the current ozone standard is unacceptable with regard to protecting human health. New research, including recent reports demonstrating significant increase in pulmonary inflammation in healthy individuals exposed to 60 ppb ozone, and clear evidence linking respiratory mortality with ozone exposure in a single pollutant model, serve to confirm this opinion and highlights the immediate need for a more health-protective standard. In other words, the science is sound. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Ozone| Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

A New Paradigm for Managing Air Pollution?

For several years, many within the scientific community have discussed a streamlined approach to regulating the multitude of air pollutants poisoning our air. In 2004, the National Research Council suggested that we “Strive to take an integrated multipollutant approach to address the most significant exposures and risks” and “foster control strategies that accomplish comprehensive reductions in the most cost-effective manner for all priority pollutants.”

As a result of these recommendations, as well as the growing interest from regulators and the regulated community to manage air pollutants more effectively, the Environmental Protection Agency and Health Effects Institute co-hosted a three-day panel discussion this week in Chapel Hill, NC titled: EPA’s Multipollutant Science and Risk Analysis: Addressing Multiple Pollutants in the NAAQS Review Process.

Why was this meeting important?
This workshop marked the first official forum convened to address the scientific challenges associated with developing a multipollutant strategy to reduce criteria air pollutants. Read More »

Posted in Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate Matter| Also tagged , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

To Strengthen or Not To Strengthen: There Should Be No Question

Results of a bipartisan poll released just this week showed strong public support for clean air, with 69 percent of voters in support of updating Clean Air Act standards with stricter limits on air pollution. These results are significant given that during a public teleconference tomorrow, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to get an earful from industry, which has rounded up a powerful posse to dissuade the agency from establishing stronger, health-based standards on ozone.

All of the usual suspects are scheduled for comment: American Petroleum Institute, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, American Road and Transportation Builders Association, BP America Production Company, ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences, Inc., National Association of Manufacturers, and even our own state environmental agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Reading through the comments already submitted, it is clear that these groups are NOT supportive of more health-protective standards. Yet, a timely poll shows majority voter support for strong standards. Not only that, the science supports stronger standards as well. Then there are the legal mandates protecting human health, Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, TCEQ| Also tagged , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Mercury Gives New Meaning to March Madness

Much has been written about the hazards of mercury, but with the release of a new report from Environment America, the Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming proposed air toxics standards on mercury, and all of the recent talk about Texas power plants, we felt that the issue warranted more attention.

How Are We Exposed to Mercury?
Nearly all exposure comes from eating fish or shellfish. These days, most of us know that we should limit the consumption of certain species of fish – especially pregnant women and nursing mothers. But how does the mercury get there in the first place?

After being released into the atmosphere, mostly by coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources, mercury eventually falls back to the earth depositing into soil or bodies of water.  There it’s converted to methylmercury, which is even more toxic. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency| Also tagged , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

Texan Health Still Jeopardized While $500 Million of Clean Air Funding Still Sits Unappropriated

It just seems anti-Texan. You wouldn’t expect a state that prides itself on individual rights and fiscal responsibility to collect taxes from citizens for air quality programs that it doesn’t fully fund. But that’s exactly what has been happening year after year in Texas, while some areas of the state suffer from worsening air quality (e.g., the Environmental Protection Agency just downgraded Dallas and Fort Worth air quality from moderate to serious).

In a recent post, “Budget Reductions Could Stymie Efforts for Cleaner Air,” former TCEQ Commissioner Larry Soward writes about the possibility of funds being dramatically cut from the state’s diesel emission reduction program, known as TERP (Texas Emissions Reduction Plan). He worries that the Texas legislature will use clean air funding to cover losses from other programs.

Given that Texas continues to have significant air quality challenges across the state, and that TERP was created as part of a legal, binding agreement with the EPA, it is hard to understand why the state would take actions that increase our legal liability, threaten human health, and send us backward in our efforts toward improving air quality.

Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, TCEQ| Also tagged , , , , , , | 3 Responses, comments now closed

Texas Could Pay Bills, Save Ills

With Texas now facing a $27 billion budget shortfall and the possibility of new taxes, layoffs and service cuts at the state level, we’re long overdue in implementing the long-term savings that will help improve our quality of life, save jobs and even make Texans healthier. It’s time for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to stop wasting taxpayer money fighting the Environmental Protection Agency and for state legislators to adopt common-sense solutions like those outlined in the “No Regrets” bill, which offers reductions strategies for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at no cost to business and consumers.

Reducing air pollutants that are harmful to human health (e.g., particulate matter, ozone-precursors, and even GHGs) saves money. How? Fewer missed days at work. Decreased number of hospital visits. Lower mortality rates. We’re talking about the hidden costs of air pollution. Don’t just take our word for it. Consider that in Texas:

  • Asthma accounted for more than 25,000 hospitalizations and an estimated $446.8 million in hospital charges in 2007.  An estimated 2.3 million (12.9%) adults had self-reported lifetime asthma, and 1.4 million (8.2%) adults had self-reported current asthma.
  • Cancer is the second leading cause of death and will become the number one leading cause of death in the next decade. The total estimated direct medical costs due to cancer in 1998 were $4.9 billion, and indirect costs from lost productivity were $9.1 billion – for a total of about $14.0 billion attributable to Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ| Also tagged , , , , , , | 1 Response, comments now closed
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