Court Upholds EPA’s Ability to Regulate Texas Emissions
The Lone Star State has been fighting the Obama administration’s plan to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act since it was first announced back in 2009 – making it clear that they did not approve of federal oversight on this particular issue. Yesterday, in a blow for Texas Governor Rick Perry, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA had the right to issue greenhouse gas permits in Texas.
During this appeal, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (a Republican) argued that the EPA does not have the right to take over a state’s own greenhouse gas regulation programs. According to Abbott, the EPA should give Texas time to establish its own permitting structure, before stepping in with federal oversight. Even more fundamentally, Abbott does not believe that the EPA has a right to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Unfortunately for Abbott, it looks like the U.S. Court of Appeals does not agree.
Environmentalists are grumbling at Texas’ series of appeals aimed at blocking the EPA’s regulatory capabilities. In response to the most recent ruling, EENews reported the following reaction from the Environmental Defense Fund:
“The state government in Texas has now filed three cases in the federal courts to block EPA’s greenhouse gas pollution reduction policies, and it has been rejected three times,” said Steve Cochran, vice president of climate and air at the Environmental Defense Fund. “If Texas put half the effort into carrying out greenhouse gas pollution control measures that it put into fighting them, EPA would not need to be involved.”
In a way, I agree.
And Texas might too – there are rumblings that the state might try to implement the EPA’s rules itself, in order to avoid federal oversight of the state’s activities. According to Terry Clawson at Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ):
[TCEQ] has neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring, or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions.
The TCEQ is disappointed in this decision, but confident we will ultimately prevail in our insistence that the EPA must follow its own rules and federal law…Environmental regulations must have some environmental benefit, and not just expand the power of the federal government.
Bottom line – Unless this issue is sorted out during the current legislative session (Texas’s legislature only meets once every two years), it appears that the EPA will soon be issuing new permits in the Lone Star State.
What does this mean for Texas?
Yesterday’s ruling means that, unless Congress takes action to prevent the EPA from issuing rules to limit greenhouse gas emissions, state’s will find themselves subject to a series of new regulations (issued Jan. 2). In Texas, this translates to (approx.) 167 facilities receiving greenhouse gas permits that could, over time, limit their ability to emit these gases during their operations. Included in these facilities are power plants and petroleum refineries, a backbone in the Texas economy.
Combined with earlier rulings in cases of Texas v the EPA, Washington appears to have the ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars, light trucks and stationary pollution sources (like power plants and refineries). As a first step in this process, these facilities would have to certify that they are using the best available technology for limiting emissions if they wish to maintain their operating permit.
(The NY Time Greenwire provided background on this topic last week in a very nice article on January 5, 2011.)