“The simmering conflict between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas officials over air quality requirements has reached the boiling point with EPA seizing control of a key permit governing the Lone Star State’s fifth-largest refinery.
In what could lead to further escalation of the row, a high-level EPA official has threatened to strip Texas of its power to issue such permits, unless the government in Austin bows to Washington’s regulatory demands.
Attention is currently focused on the Flint Hills Resources East Corpus Christi refinery. EPA says the refinery operates under a permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) that violates the Clean Air Act.
In a May 25 letter to Flint Hills Resources, which is owned by Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries, EPA said the company must submit a permit application to the Washington agency by September 15 or face potential fines. More ominously, the agency threatened to take similar action on more than three dozen other facilities in Texas, most along the Gulf coast where the state’s oil and gas industries are located.
The bone of contention between EPA and TCEQ is Texas’ decade-and-a-half-old practice of issuing “flexible” permits to refineries. Flexible permits place limits on emissions from an entire refinery. EPA claims emissions permits are required for each of the dozens of production units within a refinery. It is not known which of the two systems results in lower emissions, but the route preferred by EPA would undoubtedly lead to more paperwork. …
Texas Governor Rick Perry (R) blasted EPA’s move.
“The Obama administration has taken yet another step in its campaign to harm our economy and impose federal control over Texas,” he said in a press statement. “With their decision to take control of a permitting process that the Clean Air Act allows to be delegated to the states, the EPA is on the verge of killing thousands of Texas jobs and derailing a program that has cleaned Texas’ air.” …
John Dunn, M.D., a Texas-based emergency services consultant, says there is more to the fight over air quality than meets the eye. He points out Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot is one of several state attorneys general suing EPA over the agency’s plan to regulate manmade greenhouse gases. According to Dunn, EPA may be seeking payback in its recent focus on Texas air quality.
EPA, Dunn says, has declared Texas a “rogue state” as part of a strategy to “intimidate states into submission.”” “EPA and, Texas Clash Over Air Quality Permits“