TCEQ, EPA Air Grievances

Austin could fail air-quality standards; TCEQ could fail EPA standards

The Austin area will soon fail to meet federal air-quality standards for public health, according to projections shared by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at a June 15 public meeting in Austin. The new Environmental Protection Agency limit on ground-level ozone (smog) is expected to be lowered to 70 parts per billion (averaged over eight hours) in August; it has been 75 parts per billion since 2008. TCEQ projected that Texas regions in nonattainment for air quality soon will increase from three to at least eight.

The same day, the Sierra Club again called on TCEQ to stop permitting coal-fired power plants because they are the largest industrial source of ozone-smog pollutants. Said spokeswoman Eva Hernandez: "The TCEQ has failed to enforce the Clean Air Act by ignoring pollution from its 17 existing coal plants, by recently permitting nine new coal plants, and by considering four more proposed coal plants in Texas at a time when our state continues to suffer serious air quality problems. This is a travesty to public health and the environment."

Meanwhile, on June 14, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a legal action against the EPA on behalf of TCEQ (in U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans), contesting the EPA's recent move to disapprove the Texas air permitting program. Abbott claims that the EPA was required to act on the Texas rules (adopted in 1995) within one year, so it has no standing to clean up Texas air now. The EPA's position: Texas' lax air-permitting rules violate the federal Clean Air Act and contribute to unsafe air quality in Texas, so the EPA is obligated to make permitting conform to federal standards in order to protect the health of Texans.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Environmental Protection Agency, coal, Sierra Club, Eva Hernandez, Greg Abbott

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