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Thursday, May 6, 2021

Columns

Texas needs to comply with EPA


The state of Texas is at it again – wasting its energy and our tax dollars this past week on suing the Environmental Protection Agency once more, this time on Texas’ flexible permits program.

EPA officials announced in May that Texas was violating several Federal Clean Air Act requirements. The issue heated up after the EPA took authority over two state-issued permits in mid-June, causing the two industrial plants involved to seek new permits from the EPA to continue their operations.

Among Texas’ industrial facilities, 122 have been operating under the flexible permits of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The federal government’s intervention on the TCEQ’s unforced regulations will help Texans breathe cleaner air as well as put our tax dollars to better use.

Texas’ flexible permit program calls for refinery and plant facilities to meet an overall emissions cap but doesn’t specify how to go about this requirement. Federal regulations, however, require that certain pollutant emissions be limited from each specific source of an industrial facility. This flexibility in state-issued permits allows Texas refineries and plants to emit an unaccounted-for amount of additional emissions than are permitted by the federal government.

The EPA has decided earlier this month that Texas’ flexible permit program was a no-go. Instead of letting the decision go unapproved, the state issued a lawsuit for reconsideration this week. Reconsideration on the state’s flexible permits will go up to the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision will impact the industrial refineries and plants significantly. Whether the decision will favor these companies or the EPA, a devastating amount of damage will result.

If the U.S. Court of Appeals favors Texas, our air quality will remain the same, possibly becoming filthier. Polluted air will promote an increase in respiratory health problems for Texans.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, alleges that the EPA’s new air quality findings are questionable. The state’s lawsuit claims that the findings to cut down on pollutant emissions are based on junk science.

When there’s growing evidence that carbon dioxide emissions create these hazardous problems, this is not junk science.

In an interview with KERA, public television and radio for north Texas, EPA’s new regional administrator Al Armendariz shared his views.

“We are home to approximately 35 percent of the industrial carbon dioxide emissions in the country, so we need to be leading the way and not fighting through litigation,” Armendariz said.

Evidence also suggests that Texas has, once again, wasted our tax dollars on filing unnecessary lawsuits. We have a right to breathe clean air and the state has disregarded our health by defending a flexible permit system that will leave our air further polluted. If the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit cares for the health of Texans, they will favor the EPA and disapprove the reconsideration.

Paulina Lam is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]


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