At Odds Over Air Quality

Texas Governor Rick Perry wants the federal government to stop what he calls a “power grab” by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA and the state are at odds over the way Texas issues emissions permits which the government claims does not comply with the Federal Clean Air Act.
Pat Hernandez has more.


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Governor Perry accused the federal government of trying to extend control over the state’s authority, an action he said would undermine Texas’ successful clean air programs and cost the state thousands of jobs.

“The EPA is seeking to federalize our state’s 16-year old Clean Air permitting program, which was put in place under Governor Ann Richards and which was approved by the Clinton Administration.”

Speaking inside a warehouse in Deer Park that makes fluid sealing products for the petro-chemical industry, Governor Perry says the state’s air quality program has helped Texas clean the air.

“Texas has been among the nation’s leaders in cleaning the air, slashing ozone levels by 22-percent, reducing knox, gas emissions by 46-percent since 2000. Now to put that in context, ozone levels across the country during the same period dropped just 8-percent.”

Joining Governor Perry was Mark Vickery. He’s the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. He says the EPA has threatened to remove Texas’ regulatory authority.

“We have spent the better part of a year trying to explain our program to EPA, so that we can have constructive discussions on how to address their concerns. But it becomes increasingly clear that EPA’s recent action, their only focus is on additional federal control.”

The EPA could rescind a permit issued by the TCEQ because it does not follow Clean Air Act requirements. Governor Perry claims the federal government is obsessed with regulatory control.

“This administration seems to think that it’s ‘their way or the highway. Their way is the only way’. They’ll punish anyone who believes differently.”

Matthew Tejada heads the advocacy group Air Alliance Houston.

“I think Texas should have shown first off at the very beginning of this whole deal that, ‘okay you have a problem with our flexible permitting program. Let’s sit around the table and figure out how we can come to a solution that both Texas and the EPA can agree on’.”

Tejada thinks that effort has not been successful because of what he calls an upper layer of political might that’s keeping the regulatory system from being fixed once and for all.

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