Engineering News

Texas Officials Stand Firm Against New Federal GHG Policy
November 11, 2010

Texas officials said Wednesday that they would refuse to implement a program that regulates the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions, despite new federal rules that give wide leeway to states to implement the program.

The latest schism between the Environmental Protection Agency and Texas means the federal agency is almost certain to issue the permits for Texas businesses when the rules take effect Jan. 2. The EPA has previously stripped Texas' authority to issue permits under a separate air program, saying the state didn't comply with the Clean Air Act.

The greenhouse gas rule requires permit writers and businesses to consider the "best available control technology" for reducing greenhouse gas emissions when they build a plant or modify an existing one.

The EPA didn't endorse specific technology to achieve the reductions, saying energy-efficiency measures would probably be the most cost-effective way to comply.

"We are disappointed that Texas hasn't engaged in this process," said Gina McCarthy, EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation.

"We're hoping we can identify a process that they concur meets the needs of their industry," she said.

Texas state regulators continue to assert that EPA lacks the legal authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott have filed several lawsuits against the federal agency, saying that EPA unlawfully modified the Clean Air Act to justify regulation of carbon dioxide and other gases.

In an interview, Bryan W. Shaw, the state's top environmental regulator, said the rule would fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and instead simply raise costs for energy companies and manufacturers.

"What was illegal and a bad idea yesterday is illegal and a bad idea today," said Shaw, the chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

"We won't see any environmental benefits from this. We'll just see the additional bureaucracy associated with permitting in this state and across the U.S."

Other states have joined Texas in a lawsuit over climate rules but have nevertheless taken steps to begin the permitting process.

Shaw said Texas held out because "if we agreed to go along and submit ourselves to the EPA's approach, we basically undermine our opportunity ... to get it tossed out."

The state's decision could delay the construction of some projects, because it would take "some time" before the EPA could add greenhouse gas controls to the existing permit programs, Shaw asserted.

"I don't doubt that there are industries looking at the cost of the delays," he said. But "if we don't take a stand and insert some common sense, there is no end in sight to how far EPA will go."

EPA officials say new projects aren't in jeopardy in Texas or elsewhere. Adding greenhouse gases to the pollutants examined by regulators won't significantly add to the burden of writing permits, McCarthy said.

"We will not allow Texas to fall behind in terms of their ability for their businesses to get permits in a timely way," McCarthy said.

Republicans and several business groups said Wednesday that the EPA's guidance was issued too late for a rule that takes effect in less than two months. Most said the regulation would hurt business, particularly oil companies, coal-fired power plants and energy-intensive manufacturers.

"The EPA is railroading job-killing regulations onto states, localities and America's businesses, during a time of uncertain economic recovery, without giving those affected adequate time to review, provide comments, or even implement the new regulations," said Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs for the American Petroleum Institute.

The EPA is moving forward with its climate-change rule after legislation failed to pass in Congress.

Republicans and even some coal-state Democrats may try to advance legislation next year that strips EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said state regulators are ready to begin issuing permits in January. Business criticism of the rule was "such hyperbole and such exaggeration," he said.

Source: The Dallas Morning News

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