Last year, the EPA ruled that the "flexible permit" system used by Texas violates federal law. That began a feud between the state and federal government over who has the right to regulate air pollution in Texas. EPA Regional Administrator Al Almanderez.
"Well, these plants were in a difficult position, because they were operating, but they were getting two different sets of directions. They were getting requirements from the federal government about the Federal Clean Air Act and they were getting different rules from the state about the flexible permit program. And those rules were in conflict, and what we wanted to do was provide some regulatory certainty."
Governor Rick Perry said that the EPA was overstepping its authority. Companies, meanwhile, began submitting applications for federal approval.
"And we offered up a number of pathways for these companies to get good permits, and we're very happy that these companies have chosen to do so, and especially that they've chosen to do so outside of litigation or some kind of aggressive enforcement push."
The EPA says 136 Texas plants and refineries — including a number here in the Houston area — have applied for new EPA-approved operating permits.
"They operate plants all over the world and they're able to operate all over the rest of the United States under the requirements of the Federal Clean Air Act. And there's no reason they couldn't do so in Texas. And I think they are now happy to be in a regulatory structure which is good by the federal government and good by the state."