Environmental Protection

EPA to Disapprove Texas Changes to Air Permitting

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sept. 8 proposed to disapprove key aspects of the Texas clean-air permitting program that do not meet federal Clean Air Act requirements followed by other states. Final decisions about changing the program will be made under an expedited schedule agreed to under a recent settlement with Texas businesses. During that time, EPA intends to work with the state and interested parties to quickly identify and adopt changes that will better protect air quality for all Texans.

"Plans are already under way to bring together state regulatory officials, industry representatives and community leaders to find ways to address concerns with the air permitting program. Texas' air permitting program should be transparent and understandable to the communities we serve, protective of air quality, and establish clear and consistent requirements," said Acting Regional Administrator Lawrence Starfield. "These notices make clear our view that significant changes are necessary for compliance with the Clean Air Act."

The Clean Air Act ensures that businesses across the country operate efficiently and cleanly. States have flexibility in carrying out the Act's requirements, but states must still adhere to standards of public process, transparency, and public health protection. The Act does not allow an undue advantage for one state over another, ensuring a level playing field among industry.

Under the Clean Air Act, all states must develop plans approved by EPA for meeting federal requirements to protect pubic health. Since EPA approved Texas' major clean-air permitting plan in 1992, the state has submitted over 30 regulatory changes to the EPA approved plan. The proposals being made by EPA represent some of the agency's main concerns with the state's air-permitting program and the need to more effectively work toward improved air quality as required by law.

Also, in November 2008, EPA issued a Federal Register Notice proposing to disapprove some of the state's public participation program. The state's proposed program provided inadequate opportunities for the public to review permit decisions in Texas, as compared with public participation opportunities provided by other states. EPA will issue its final decision on this proposal by Nov. 30, 2009.

EPA has less than one year to issue its final decisions on the three remaining proposals outlined above, finalizing the Qualified Facilities revision, Flexible Permit revision, and New Source Reform revision no later than March 2010, June 2010, and August 2010 respectively.

EPA is required to complete action on all 30 of the state's proposed regulatory changes by Dec. 31, 2013.

The public will have 60 days to submit comments on the proposals after they appear in the Federal Register.

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