EPA Messes with Texas, Congress Likely to Mess with EPA


Two days before Christmas the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency handed the state of Texas the regulatory equivalent of a lump of coal for its stocking. The agency announced that, effective January 2, 2011, it will follow through on the threat to take over issuance of air permits to industries in Texas. This is a first for EPA and was prompted by the refusal of Texas to include greenhouse gas emissions in its air permit decisions. The EPA's action, however, is sure to raise the heat to long-simmering efforts by Congressional Republicans to halt the agency's climate change regulations in its tracks.

State Permits

For many years states such as Texas have been implementing aspects of the federal Clean Air Act, including issuing permits under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) program, which regulates air pollution from new major industrial sources or major modifications to industrial facilities. Up to now greenhouse gases have not been part of the PSD permit considerations. But because the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA told the agency to make a decision whether greenhouse gases are "pollutants" under the Clean Air Act, and EPA did so with its December 2009 endangerment finding, the next step was to include greenhouse gases in permit programs.

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