Corrected: Texas chems defend contested air emissions permits

09 September 2009 21:47  [Source: ICIS news]

Producers want flexible permits for chem plants

Correction: In the ICIS news story headlined “Texas chems defend contested air emissions permits” dated 9 September 2009, please read in the eighth paragraph …includes Lyondell, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical and Texas Petrochemicals… instead of …includes Lyondell, ExxonMobil, Shell, Dow Chemical and Texas Petrochemicals… A corrected story follows.

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--A major Texas chemical producer and leading industry association spoke out on Wednesday in support of flexible permits a day after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said parts of of Texas’ clean-air permitting programme were illegal under the US Clean Air Act.

Such permits from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) allow companies to exceed emission limits in particular units, as long as they are under an overall emissions average for the facility.

But according to David Harpole, spokesman with LyondellBasell, the variability in reported year-to-year emissions by unit comes from the configuration and rates in which companies operate their refineries.

Changes to operating rates and capacities would not be taken into account under rules that set limits for each unit, Harpole said.

“The flex permit enables us to responsibly operate this refinery and reduce emissions and maintain compliance with the regulatory process,” Harpole said.

Harpole said LyondellBasell has cut air emissions under the current rules.

“We have demonstrated that we can manage our business effectively and continue our focus on reducing emissions,” he said.

The Business Coalition of Clean Air (BCCA) Appeal Group, which represents industry producers including Lyondell, ExxonMobil, Dow Chemical and Texas Petrochemicals, said it would not comment specifically on the EPA’s proposed rejection.

However, spokeswoman Liz Hendler reiterated the group’s support of the current air permitting programme.

“The Texas air quality permitting programme is one of the most comprehensive and protective programmes in the country,” she said. “It meets all federal benchmarks and contains extensive public participation requirements.”

A day earlier, an executive with the environmental group Sierra Club cited ExxonMobil’s oil and chemical complex in Baytown, Texas, and Shell’s complex in Deer Park, Texas, as examples of major plants currently using flexible permits.

According to the Sierra Club, most chemical plants and power plants in the Houston area - the hub of the US petrochemical industry - use such permits.

In addition, current TCEQ rules allow companies to make minor changes to plants or refineries under a flexible permit without being required to report them to the state, the Sierra Club said.

But that, too, is illegal under the Clean Air Act, the group said while praising the EPA announcement.

The EPA’s proposed rejections are subject to a 60-day period for public comment. The rejections would become final in 2010.

“These notices make clear our view that significant changes are necessary for compliance with the Clean Air Act,” said EPA regional administrator Lawrence Starfield.

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By: Ben DuBose
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