Texas feeling Federal boot on neck

This should alarm the thinking person:

Objecting to how Texas regulates air pollution, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it is taking over the issuance of an operating permit for a Corpus Christi refinery and could step in at some 39 other major facilities across the state.

“I think the writing will be on the wall — unless we start seeing better permits that address our objections, we are very likely to begin federalizing others,” EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz said in a telephone interview. “The state is not following federal Clean Air Act requirements.”

Tuesday’s unprecedented action affected a Flint Hills Resources refinery in Corpus Christi. The EPA’s action means the facility must submit an application with detailed information to the federal agency, which could approve or deny a permit.

The company said it was evaluating a letter from the EPA notifying plant officials of the move.

The list of facilities that could come next the include chemical plants, refineries and other facilities, such as the Goodyear Tire & Rubber plants in Bayport and Houston, the Motiva Enterprises Houston terminal, Rhodia Inc.’s Houston plant, the Chevron Phillips Cedar Bayou facility and Valero’s Texas City facility. Other company permits that have drawn scrutiny from the EPA include Exxon Mobil, Dow Chemical Co. and Formosa Plastics.

Business and industry groups called the EPA action wrongheaded.

“EPA has either been told or been convinced by environmental groups that the permitting program that Texas operates is somehow deficient or not completely consistent with federal law. Our position, and the position of both the chemical manufacturers and refineries that are covered by these state permits, is that those allegations are completely false and without any foundation,” said Stephen Minick, of the Texas Association of Business.

Minick called it “a complete waste” and “very expensive” for companies to have to submit applications to the EPA, predicting that at the end of the process, the federal agency would find they met all applicable requirements.

Hector L. Rivero, Texas Chemical Council president and chief executive officer, said, “This is the first time we are aware of EPA demanding a Texas facility apply directly to the federal government for a Title V (operating) permit. . . . We are incredulous that EPA would encroach on a state regulatory program that has a proven track record of success.”

Armendariz said if TCEQ wants to retain authority over the rest of the permits at issue, state officials must “demonstrate to me in very short order … that these permits they are going to issue are going to be consistent with the Clean Air Act.”

“Some agency has to be issuing permits that are complying with the Clean Air Act,” he said. “If the state of Texas won’t do it, then I have the legal obligation to assume that role.”

More hope and change.

Crossposted at Brutally Honest.

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