US EPA formally rejects Texas emissions permitting scheme

30 June 2010 21:54  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said on Wednesday that it completed its disapproval process for the emissions permit rules from Texas regulators.

The EPA said the flexible permit programme from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) did not meet several Clean Air Act requirements.

The TCEQ’s flexible permits allowed companies to provide a general overview of emissions leaving a refinery or a chemical plant. Under the permit, companies could exceed emission limits in particular units as long as they were under an overall emissions average.

The EPA initially proposed its disapproval of the programme in September.

The EPA said that in an effort to limit plant disruptions, it would encourage flexible permit holders in Texas to participate in a voluntary compliance audit programme. That could eventually convert flexible permits into more detailed permits that comply with federal law, according to the EPA.

The public comment period on the proposed audit programme closes on 2 July, the EPA said.

The TCEQ, however, is seeking to retain control of the overall permitting programme.

On 16 June, the TCEQ approved proposed revisions to the flexible permit rules. The public comment period on those changes runs from 2 July until 2 August, after which the state must complete its proposal and submit it to the EPA for review.

The EPA said it would examine the new rules when they were submitted, but added that public health and federal law required it to immediately reject the existing programme.

In the meantime, the EPA has begun assuming permitting responsibilities from the TCEQ as the battle continues over who will regulate the heart of the country’s petroleum industry.

Overall, the EPA had said that 39 companies in Texas may be in violation of the Clean Air Act despite holding TCEQ emissions permits.

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By: Ben DuBose
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