Parts of Texas' Air Permitting Program Not Up to Code, EPA Says
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Aug. 31 disapproved aspects of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) clean-air permitting program that do not meet federal Clean Air Act requirements.
EPA sought public comment on its proposed disapproval of New Source Review (NSR) program which was published in the Federal Register in September 2009 and considered comments in reaching its final decision.
EPA has been working with the state and interested parties to better align the air permitting program with federal requirements and existing state programs, so that air permitting in the state will better protect air quality for all Texans. TCEQ continues to have the authority to issue permits under prior EPA approval of its 1992 NSR program.
The NSR program is one of the core elements of the federal Clean Air Act, and it is implemented in the state by TCEQ. The NSR program:
- requires the best type of pollution control technology and permits in order to emit air pollutants,
- looks at how reducing one form of air pollution can sometimes cause another form of pollution to increase, and
- provides the state, federal government, and the public the means to know what pollutants are being emitted.
Importantly, the NSR program requires that state-of-the art emission control technology is installed at new plants or existing plants that are undergoing a major modification.
EPA determined the revisions proposed by TCEQ’s New Source Review program did not meet federal Clean Air Act requirements. One example is the Pollution Control Project Standard Permit revision offered by TCEQ. The permit is designed to streamline permitting of changes within a plant but lacked adequate review of impacts on total air pollution levels should the changes be approved.
Since EPA approved Texas’ major clean-air permitting plan in 1992, the state has submitted over 30 regulatory changes to the EPA approved plan. Over the last several months, EPA has worked directly with refiners, utilities, and other businesses seeking to obtain state-issued permits that are consistent with federal requirements. EPA will continue this productive relationship with permit holders. In addition, the federal agency is continuing productive discussions with TCEQ about several elements of its air permitting program, and it is hopeful that those discussions will result in changes so that the state can operate a permitting program that conforms to legal requirements.
In July 2009, the EPA and the Business Coalition for Clean Air (BCCA) Appeal Group, the Texas Association of Business, and the Texas Oil and Gas Association reached an agreement regarding the timing of federal review of regulatory changes to Texas’ air permitting program.