By John DeFore
Environmentalists in Texas aren’t pleased with the way the state handles pollution regulation, and they’re lobbying for change — not in the Austin statehouse, but with those tasked with regulating it at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Local branches of two established organizations, Environmental Defense and the Sierra Club, have filed a petition with the EPA claiming that “the state of Texas violates the Clean Air Act and its own State Implementation Plan through repeated weak permitting decisions concerning new coal plants and other large polluting facilities.”
The groups have asked the EPA to withhold highway funds, reduce pollution offsets, and/or prohibit construction of large new power plants in order to nudge the state toward compliance. Environmental Defense’s Jim Marston uses the state’s rugged mythos as rhetoric, saying “federal law doesn’t allow Texas to be the lone ranger and ignore the law.”
Sierra Club officials assert that state programs have “been acting illegally by issuing permits for new coal plants that allow unsafe levels of pollution” and that the state is “renowned for lax environmental enforcement, issuing weak permits, and basically thumbing its nose at federal law.”
This should be a case to watch because the outcome will ripple beyond Texas, which has a large carbon footprint to match its outsize image and alleged nose thumbing. With its petroleum refineries, oil production, vast highway system and large cities, the populous state is the single biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States.
The petition was filed Jan. 17. EPA spokesperson Dave Bary politely declined to comment, saying that the “EPA will reserve comment until it formally responds to the petitioners within our regulatory time limits.”
Those who want to know more about how climate change will affect Texas can read the Environmental Defense report “Fair Warning, Global Warming and the Lone Star State.”