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EPA Disapproves Air Permitting Exemption Program in Texas

Release Date: 03/31/2010
Contact Information: Dave Bary at 214-665-2200 or r6press@epa.gov

(Dallas, Texas – March 31, 2010) Today, EPA disapproved the Qualified Facilities exemption rule that TCEQ had submitted for inclusion in its federally approved State Implementation Plan. The rule allows companies that have Texas issued air permits to avoid certain federal clean-air requirements including public review when they modify their plants. EPA has determined that this regulation does not meet several federal Clean Air Act requirements.

“Today’s action improves transparency by requiring companies that modify their operations to notify the public and will assure that all air emitting sources are properly permitted under the Clean Air Act,” said Al Armendariz, Regional Administrator. “Improved public review will better inform our communities about the environmental conditions where they live.”

The Clean Air Act ensures that businesses across the country operate efficiently and cleanly. Under the Act, all states must develop plans for meeting federal requirements to protect public health, including an air permitting program. 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 final agency decision on one of those regulatory changes.

In September 2009, EPA issued a Federal Register Notice proposing to disapprove the TCEQ’s Qualified Facilities Program and invited public comment. EPA has completed its careful review of comments and is now issuing its final decision.

EPA has been meeting with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, industry representatives, and environmental groups to discuss deficiencies with air emission permits issued by the state agency to industry in the state. These discussions have led to Texas proposing new rules used to issue permits.

EPA intends to work with the state and interested parties as air quality permits are transitioned in a gradual and structured manner to be consistent with state and federal law. EPA is committed to a close partnership with industry, environmental organizations, and community leaders as we work with the state to update the state-issued permits.

In July 2009, EPA and Business Coalition for Clean Air (BCCA) Appeal Group, Texas Association of Business, and Texas Oil and Gas Association reached an agreement regarding the timing of federal review of regulatory changes to Texas’ air permitting program. EPA is likely to issue final decisions on two additional changes--the Flexible Permits Program and New Source Review Reform regulations—before the end of the year.

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

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