EPA, Businesses Agree on Timing of Texas Air Review

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Business Coalition for Clean Air (BCCA) Appeal Group, Texas Association of Business, and Texas Oil and Gas Association have reached an agreement regarding the timing of federal review of aspects of Texas' air permitting program.

The proposed agreement, filed in federal court July 1, will also be published in the Federal Register. After that, the public will have 30 days to comment. The review will take effect once the comment period ends and the agency makes a final decision to finalize the agreement.

Since 1992 when the EPA approved Texas' major clean-air permitting plan, Texas has submitted more than 30 regulatory changes. EPA has not yet taken formal action to approve or disapprove many of those changes due to lingering disagreements with Texas because of potential inconsistencies with federal air permitting regulations. In August 2008, Texas businesses brought a lawsuit against EPA seeking deadlines for EPA to act on the state's proposed changes to its previously approved clean air program. This agreement settles that lawsuit and establishes a timeline to approve or disapprove these changes.

"This settlement is a good resolution for EPA and for the people of Texas," said Suzanne Murray, regional counsel for EPA Region 6 in Dallas. "It is an important step towards giving Texas businesses regulatory certainty, and ensuring that Texans enjoy the same clean air as people living in other states."

Texas has about 1,500 facilities classified as major sources of air pollution under the federal Clean Air Act. Others, including City of Houston and citizen groups, have echoed concerns over the Texas Air permitting program. The actions taken by EPA under this agreement will help to address their concerns by making Texas' permit process more transparent and ensuring the Texas' program has all the environmental protections required by federal law.

Four of the state's proposed revisions to its clean-air plan are particularly significant. They are:

  • public participation,
  • qualified facilities,
  • flexible permits, and
  • new source review reform.
These four proposals represent the 'cornerstones' to the state's air permitting program.In November 2008, EPA issued a Federal Register notice proposing to disapprove some of the state's public participation program. EPA concluded that the state's proposed program provided inadequate opportunities for the public to review permit decisions in Texas, as compared with those in other states. The agency will issue its final decision on this matter later this fall.

EPA plans to issue Federal Register notices identifying concerns and seek public comment on the three remaining key proposals in the next few months. The agency has less than one year to issue its final decisions on these key proposals.EPA is required to complete action on all 30 of the state's proposed changes by December 31, 2013.

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