Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): TCEQ

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 , , , , | Read 2 Responses

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 , , , | Read 1 Response

Snow Day for Emissions? Rolling Blackouts Lead to Free Emissions Pass

This week Texas experienced rolling blackouts after extremely frigid temperatures blanketed the state, catching power generators off guard. While the details of the blackouts have not been disclosed fully, and there is discussion that some companies may have profited greatly from the event, at the very least, the outages angered some and created a hardship for others. There’s also another negative impact to consider: higher emissions from industrial facilities.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a statement reminding citizens that power generating facilities have “authorized maximum emission limits” during these high demand periods. The agency states that it will “exercise enforcement discretion for exceedances of these limits.”

Enforcement discretion can be loosely interpreted to mean that power generating facilities get a “free pass” during these times. It also means facilities that go down during these blackouts are not likely to be held accountable for any emissions that occur as a result of the outages.

This post is in no way intended to minimize the need for increased power during below-freezing weather, and is not meant to suggest that facilities should be held liable for emission events that they can’t control, but it is one more reason for all of us to be conscious of our energy consumption, and one more thing to be aware of as we continue our efforts to improve air quality in Texas.

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, Texas Permitting / Also tagged , | Read 4 Responses

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 »

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On the Record: Our Comments Submitted to TCEQ

By Matthew Tejada, PhD Executive Director Air Alliance Houston and Elena Craft, PhD Health Scientist

It’s time to wait and see.

If the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality earnestly considers comments we co-submitted this month in response to its draft “Protocol for Notification and Work Group Functions for Evaluating Potential and Active Air Pollution Watch List (APWL) Areas,” it will signal a new era in the agency’s commitment to reducing levels of air toxics around the state. We especially welcome the appointment of a dedicated staff position to manage the APWL program. [See Dec. 2 blog post for more background on the APWL and “toxic hotspots.”]

However, we wanted to go on record here expressing our concern that the program’s ultimate effectiveness could be fundamentally undermined if the agency does not adopt the APWL protocol as rule. Clean air advocates have long maintained that a program as critical as this, designed to protect the health of Texans, calls for a rulemaking. We believe that putting the APWL program in rule will provide the best possible “middle ground” for such a program – short of the rigidity of statute, yet firmer than mere agency program or directive. Read More »

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New Video Helps Drive Message to Port Truckers

Last May I wrote about efforts to clean up air pollution at our nation’s ports, starting with trucks doing business in and around the Port of Houston. Given that the Houston truck program offers the best incentives of any clean truck program around the country, we wanted to highlight the program and share some of the success stories with the help of a video.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FP6ZKR2bjQs

This program, administered by the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC), leverages state grant money from the Texas Emission Reduction Program with federal money to offer incentives for truckers to get into newer, cleaner trucks. While the program is targeted to truckers who operate at the port, any driver who operates the majority of time within the Houston area may be eligible. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ / Also tagged , , , , , , | Comments are closed