EPA revises Texas' air pollution permitting rules

Professor Al Armendariz of SMU's Lyle School of Engineering talks about the impact of tougher new federal pollution standards on the oil and gas industry.

The Associated Press

DALLAS — For 15 years, environmentalists have complained that state regulations have allowed the powerful oil and chemical industries to skirt Clean Air Act standards in Texas, the nation’s foremost producer of industrial air pollution.

But last month, the Environmental Protection Agency scrapped several aspects of the state’s air pollution permitting program, including "flexible" permits that have allowed about 140 plants and refineries to exceed toxic emissions limits in the short term as long as they complied with overall federal averages in the long term.

Federal regulators say the move, set to take effect next year, is designed to cut toxic emissions and bring Texas in line with the Clean Air Act. And environmental groups say it will help improve the state’s ecology and the health of Texans and those living nearby.

Industry groups, however, warn that getting rid of the state program in favor of tougher standards will hurt industries crucial to the Texas economy, and that the costs of compliance may hit consumers. . .

Al Armendariz, a chemical engineering professor at Southern Methodist University who is an expert on air pollution and an environmental advocate, said smaller and older facilities could face hefty costs, but major companies won’t feel a thing.

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