EPA Rejects Texas' Flexible Permits for Big Polluters

Slime beneath me, slime up above

By Holly LaFon
|  Wednesday, Sep 9, 2009  |  Updated 11:45 AM CDT
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EPA Rejects Texas' Flexible Permits for Big Polluters

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5. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas. Smog covers this cityscape in the South, where heat year-round adds to the problem of air quality.

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Texas already knew it was on thin ice when it continued to issue "flexible permits" to heavily polluting plants and refineries. In yet another case of Texas vs. that pesky Federal government, the EPA has decided to reject those and other aspects of the Texas clear-air permitting program that do not meet federal Clean Air Act requirements.

Flexible permits "allow an operator more flexibility in managing his operations by staying under an overall emissions cap or individual emission limitation." Meaning older, less efficient facilities can smog things up sometimes, as long as they pollute less at other times. And the EPA doesn't like it.

Texas is currently the state with the highest production of greenhouse gases, and the DFW region is dotted with notoriously noxious cement plants, which produce over half of the air pollution in North Texas.

Under the Clean Air Act, all states must develop plans for approval by the EPA outlining clear-cut plans to meet federal requirements. The EPA approved Texas' major clean-air permitting plan in 1992, but the state has since submitted over 30 regulatory changes to that plan.

The move will no doubt cause considerable consternation among facilities that have until now gotten a pass by the state government.

"Plans are already underway to bring together state and regulatory officials, industry representatives and community leaders to find ways to address concerns with the air permitting program. Texas' air permitting program should be transparent and understandable to the communities we serve, protective of air quality and establish clear and consistent requirements," said Acting Regional Administrator Lawrence Starfield.

However, if Texas secedes, it can pollute all it wants.

Holly LaFon has written for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.

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