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Government/Politics

After Years Of Contention, EPA Backs Down On Texas Clean Air Permitting

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Officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency have reached an agreement as it pertains to Texas’ clean air plan. The resolution allows major polluters like oil refineries some flexibility on clean air permits.

Before there was an agreement, the EPA was hoping to put a stop to weak permitting with the TCEQ’s flex program that allowed for the agency to issue one permit for multiple sources of pollution at a cheaper price. So the EPA designed single source permits under the Clean Air Act for these types of businesses, but the State of Texas protested.

"The TCEQ claimed that this would result in a loss of jobs in Texas and maybe even plant closures," said Neil Carmen with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Anyway, none of that happened at all."

This week the EPA resolved the issue by allowing Texas’ flex permitting for major polluters to continue.   Luke Metzer, executive director of Environment Texas, said they are thoroughly disappointed with the direction the EPA is heading.

"We think the EPA was right from the beginning and so we’re disappointed they basically backed off by largely allowing the TCEQ to continue what we see is a pretty illegal program that is going hurt people’s health eventually," Metzger said.

Metzger said they are also concerned with the EPA’s plan of Austin that was announced in December of 2013 where the federal agency announced they were reducing the inspections and civil penalties by 30 percent in 2014.