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EPA Disapproves Components of TCEQ’s Air Permitting Program

Release Date: 08/31/2010
Contact Information: Dave Bary or Joe Hubbard at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

(DALLAS – Aug. 31, 2010) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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 "NSR Reform" components of the 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 TCEQ’s 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, requires 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.

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.

Under the Clean Air Act, all states must develop plans approved by EPA for meeting federal requirements to protect public 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. Today’s action represents EPA’s firm commitment to uphold the law and to work to protect public health, while working with permit holders and applicants to obtain the necessary permits they need to comply with the law.

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, EPA is continuing productive discussions with TCEQ about several elements of its air permitting program, and the Agency 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. Today’s action is the latest in a series of actions under that agreement.

More about activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/region6

EPA audio file is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/podcast/aug2010.html


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