Houston Chronicle to Rick Perry: “Stop Blowing Smoke”

This post was written by Colin Meehan, Clean Energy Analyst for EDF’s Energy Program

Houston (and the Rest of Texas) Benefit From the EPA’s Efforts

In an editorial today, the Houston Chronicle lauded the EPA for developing sensible rules that protect human health while keeping impacts to industry as minimal as possible. Specifically the Chronicle pointed out that EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) will save lives and improve Texans’ health with benefits that far outweigh the impacts to industry in the state.  Pushing back against Governor Perry and TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw’s unfounded claims of massive job losses, the Chronicle’s editorial board had this to say about Perry’s political posturing:

“We’re well aware that Perry is contemplating a presidential run, and that “federal overreach” plays well to some Texas voters, but clean air doesn’t stop or start at the state line. Texas emissions pollute the air of other states, including Louisiana, Illinois and Michigan, but our Texas air is in turn polluted by emissions from at least 12 other states.”

TCEQ: Fighting the EPA While the EPA Works with Texas Businesses

These issues were raised at a conference earlier this week, where I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with Chairman Shaw as well as former TCEQ Chair and current Texas Public Policy Foundation Fellow (a conservative Texas think tank funded in part by fossil fuel interests) Kathleen Hartnett White.   Both Shaw and White have long been critics of what they see as ‘federal government overreach,’ although noticeably neither were vocal on this issue when in 2007 the Bush administration declared TCEQ’s flexible permitting program was “in violation of the Clean Air Act.”  (See Appendix 5-6 of the link). Still, Shaw continued to use the EPA’s actions on flexible permitting as an example of federal overreach that in his opinion threatens jobs more than it helps the environment. 

It’s too bad the panel was so early in the morning; later that day the EPA announced that “all ‘flexible permit’ companies in Texas have agreed to apply for approved air permits.”  While TCEQ dug in its heels, refusing to develop a program for Texas businesses that doesn’t violate federal law, the EPA worked with businesses to comply with the law.  The EPA’s action will help achieve clean air in Texas and provide those companies with the regulatory certainty they’ve been lacking for so many years under the TCEQ.  Governor Perry and Chairman Shaw have followed a similar game plan with the CSAPR, playing politics with Texas businesses and Texans’ health.

Seeking Special treatment for Texas

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule is intended to resolve an issue that’s been known about for years, namely that air pollution doesn’t stop at state lines.  Pollution in Texas makes it that much harder for states nearby to meet their clean air goals, meanwhile pollution in other states can have a similar impact on Texas, so the rule also protects our state.  It’s unfortunate that Governor Perry and Chairman Shaw aren’t interested in working with the 26 other states to help us all achieve cleaner air, but their actions have made it clear that they believe Texas should be treated differently than the other 49 states.  

This rule has been in development since the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule was struck down by the Supreme Court – it will save lives and improve health.  In a state with the highest level of uninsured residents this rule is an opportunity to help our citizens and our economy.  As the Houston Chronicle said today: “We’re all in this together. So maybe it’s time to start looking at ourselves as beneficiaries, not victims, of the EPA’s efforts, and to cooperate instead of blowing smoke.”

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