Naked City

A Federal Case Against EPA

Several state public interest groups filed suit Monday against the Environmental Protection Agency, challenging the EPA's December approval of the Texas air pollution permitting program despite the agency's own admission that the program does not meet federal standards. The groups include Public Citizen, the Sierra Club, and the Galveston-Houston Area Association for Smog Prevention. Similar lawsuits have been filed against EPA approvals in California and New York.

"We're suing because the EPA approved a Texas program that is full of loopholes and fails to protect public health," said Kelly Haragan, staff attorney for the Texas office of Public Citizen. "The program allows polluters to continue to violate the law and emit excess pollution without requiring the monitoring and reporting necessary for neighbors to know what they are breathing."

Under the "Title V" section of the federal Clean Air Act, passed in 1990, states are required to create permitting programs mandating consistent monitoring of emissions by industrial facilities and certificates of compliance with the act. Because of deficiencies in its programs, Texas has operated with the EPA's "interim approval" since 1996. But on Dec. 6, the EPA granted full approval to the Texas program. A month later, on Jan. 7, the EPA issued a "Notice of Deficiency" to the state, citing numerous provisions of the state program that do not meet minimum federal requirements -- but gave the state another 18 months to fix the deficiencies.

The public interest lawsuit asks that, as the Clean Air Act requires, Texas operate under more stringent federal rules until the state program is revised to meet minimum federal standards.

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