A ‘Tex-extremist’ approach to the Clean Air Act

Court signs off on EPA takeover of Texas permitting

A federal court has denied Texas’ request to stop U.S. EPA from issuing greenhouse gas permits in the Lone Star State, where Gov. Rick Perry (R) and other state officials have refused to follow the Obama administration’s orders on climate change.

The ruling today by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will allow EPA to impose its rules in the state, clearing a legal obstacle for the regulations that kicked in on Jan. 2.

So E&E News (subs. req’d) reported last night.  Below, The National Wildlife Federations’s Joe Mendelson debunks some myths about the state’s extremist’ approach to the Clean Air Act.

Texans enjoy better air quality like the rest of Americans thanks to a strong Clean Air Act. Unfortunately, some Texas politicians are making a play for their polluter friends at the expense of the people who sent them to office.

On Friday, Dallas will be the scene of a public hearing to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) role in making sure Texas remains part of the United States when it comes to controlling carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act.

As part of its reasonable and staggered rollout to control carbon pollution under the Act, EPA asked each state to develop implementation plans on how it will assess carbon pollution within construction permits for new and modified power plants and industrial facilities that increase carbon pollution by 75,000 tons per year.  Without a state plan to issue permits businesses could not move forward with building these facilities or would do so in direct violation of the Clean Air Act.

As the National Association of Clean Air Agency reports, forty-nine states are on track with meeting this request and only one, Texas, has out and out refused to cooperate with EPA.

In isolating his state, Texas Governor Rick Perry has put forward three big myths for its refusal to cooperate.

Myth 1. The unlimited carbon pollution that causes climate change is not subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. In actuality, Governor Perry is saying Texas is not subject to the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2007, the Supreme Court confirmed in Massachusetts v. EPA that Congress made carbon dioxide an air pollutant subject to control under the Clean Air Act.  And last year, EPA started to limit carbon pollution under the Act as part of its updated standards for automobiles.

Myth 2. EPA’s requirements will create a construction moratorium in Texas. This myth flips the situation on its head. If EPA did not step into the void left by Texas’ non-action construction of major new facilities and upgrades of existing major facilities would be halted. EPA’s actions will actually ensure that construction can go forward.

Myth 3. EPA actions infringe on Texas ability to manage its own air. Even if we ignore that carbon pollution does not respect state boundaries, this one is still a hoot. EPA has repeatedly asked Texas to develop its own state implantation plan describing how the state wants to tackle the carbon pollution permitting issue. Instead of flexing its state prerogatives under the Clean Air Act, Texas has willfully abandoned this option. Texas’ actions follow on the heels of Governor Rick Perry’s recent secessionist rhetoric and are more an attempt to secede from the Clean Air Act than support for state rights. The losers in this fight may well be children, the elderly and other Texans whose lives are saved by cleaner air.

The perpetuation of these myths – sure to be repeated in Dallas – is nothing more than a smog screen denser than the one the often envelops Houston.  Instead of acting in the best interest of his state Governor Perry is doing the dirty work of big polluters who want to throw up every hurdle up to gut and filet the EPA’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis. And the Governor has some willing “patrons.” The Sunlight Foundation has tracked that the Governor has received over $1.3M in political contributions from oil and gas interests during 2009-10.  And the Foundation’s review of state-level campaign contributions lists a sampling of the Governor’s contributors including Exxon-Mobil ($ 49,560), Conoco Phillips ($ 18,250), Chevron ($ 11,000) and Shell ($ 7000).  Hopefully, the citizens of Texas will rally this week against these polluters, pull their state back from the brink, and send a vote of no confidence to Governor Perry and his extremist actions on carbon pollution and the Clean Air Act.

9 Responses to A ‘Tex-extremist’ approach to the Clean Air Act

  1. toby says:

    This court verdict comes as good news.

    Will it be appealed to the Supreme Court? Rather, will the Supreme Court revisit the issue, given that it already issued a ruling?

    What about others states that filed similar cases to Texas?

  2. Mike says:

    Reminds me of the time when Kennedy had to send in the National Guard to enforce desegregation in Alabama.

  3. Sime says:

    Gov. Rick Perry (R)… does this individual actually breath air and live on the planet Earth like the rest of us?… unreal!

    While on the subject of individuals who should change their first name to “Richard AKA Dick” I found this, although not new it may be of interest to some…


  4. Mike Roddy says:

    Besides all of the obvious absurdities- city dwellers in cowboy hats, going to get groceries in giant trucks, gun fetishes, macabre celebrations of death in battle, etc- Texans think they’re different. They fondly recall the 9 year period when they were a country, and think they deserve some kind of special dispensation.

    “Fascist” is not quite accurate, but it’s close enough. And if someone is raised that way- including non Texans like Rush Limbaugh and Marc Morano- persuasion won’t work. They need to be kicked, defeated, and kicked again. Only then will they respect you. I’m glad that the courts and EPA figured that one out.

  5. dhogaza says:

    Toby asks:

    Will it be appealed to the Supreme Court? Rather, will the Supreme Court revisit the issue, given that it already issued a ruling?

    Well, given the conservative majority on the Court, they didn’t rule the first time out of some desire to impose unlegislated regulation on the states.

    Rather, the Clean Air Act explicitly mentions regulation of GHG emissions as being within the scope of the legislation. About the only way the Supreme Court could reverse that would be to declare that the Interstate Commerce Clause doesn’t allow for the regulation of air or water pollution *at all*.

    Or build some fiction declaring CO2 to be different than other gaseous emissions like SO2 etc.

  6. Chris Winter says:

    Uh-oh, here comes a snark attack.

    Myth 3. EPA actions infringe on Texas ability to manage its own air.

    Sime, you must never have traveled through the Great State. You could not have missed the force field at the border that keeps fresh Texas air in and librul radio waves out.


  7. Andy says:

    It’s not just greenhouse gases. Governor good hair has also declared that the EPA has overreached in its regulation of all air pollutants. The EPA had to declare Texas’ air permit program to be invalid and unenforceable and recently took over the air pollution permitting program from the state agency. Of course the Texas AG is taking this to court where so far they’ve been slapped down.

    Perry and the other Texas republicans are like that neighbor who is always asking you for help but never returns the favor. When you point this out they complain that you’re trying to ruin their lives.

  8. Jim says:

    This is all politics. Texas voters have always been fiercely independent and value states’ rights far more than people in other states. Politicians in Texas simply file pointless lawsuits against the federal government in order to gain favor among voters.

  9. A face in the clouds says:

    Governor Perry sits at the card table with the kids when the big polluters eat. It’s not just a bunch of good ol’ boys with ten gallon hats either. We have the United Nations of outlaw polluters here. And if push comes to shove, they’ll move across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Or try anyway. After the Rio Grande epidemic of newborns without brain stems in the 1990’s, Mexico began to stiffen its environmental laws. Border jumping is not as easy as it once was. As a result, we may be on the verge of cornering the bad guys if the EPA, Mexico and American citizens (including those who normally throw spit wads from safe distances) are ready to put ’em up.

    Ironically, many of these companies already dangle perilously close to Mother Nature’s reach, and are pulling themselves closer by emitting pollutants that cause rising sea levels and worsening hurricanes. I don’t have a Who’s Who of greenhouse polluters at hand, but one statistic is particularly telling: By 2000, half of the nation’s petrochemical industry and over a fourth of its refining capacity was located within 100 miles of the Texas coast.