Advocates Petition EPA to Strip Texas of Some Environmental Responsibilities

  • January 13, 2016
  • News

Petition says Texas programs no longer meet fundamental federal air and water safeguards, can’t protect the public. 

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Caddo Lake Institute (CLI) are asking America’s environmental protection agency to strip Texas of some of the responsibilities that it had previously delegated to the state under the nation’s Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.

The groups filed a petition  with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last night asking the federal agency to “review and withdraw its delegations of permitting authority to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ),” documenting recent actions by the Texas legislature that have made it impossible for TCEQ to fulfill its duties to protect the health of Texas citizens.

During the last Texas legislative session, EPA sent a letter warning – and numerous people testified — that proposed legislation damaged core safeguards for clean air and water guaranteed to the public under our nation’s landmark environmental laws, and that the proposed legislation jeopardized delegation of federal programs.

“The legislature and Governor Abbott thumbed their noses at these warnings. They passed and signed laws, respectively, that resulted in Texas’s clean air and clean water programs no longer meeting minimum legal safeguards, which puts the health of Texas families at risk,” said Jim Marston, EDF Vice President and Regional Director of its Austin, Texas office. “The Texas laws create fundamentally unfair legal processes that deprive all Texans of basic rights and will result in more pollution in our state. The legislature also has repeatedly underfunded the state environmental agency to the point that the TCEQ cannot adequately do its job. Sadly, because our current office holders will not protect Texans from dangerous pollution, we have no choice but to ask EPA to exercise its fundamental duty under the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and to retake responsibility to administer these vital national health programs.”

The petition specifically asks EPA to revoke the state’s authority for permitting under the Clean Air Act’s new source review program and under the Clean Water Act’s National Pollution Discharge Elimination program.

It cites recent “ongoing noncompliance with federal standards” as the reason, along with recently passed amendments to Texas law that would restrict the public’s ability to question or oppose permits. The petition states that the recently enacted amendments to Texas law  “restrict and limit the public’s ability to obtain judicial review of TCEQ’s permitting decisions … reduce opportunities for public participation by increasing the burden on permit opponents in a contested case hearing … [and] provide inadequate resources for implementation and enforcement” of clean air and clean water laws.

“These amendments prevent TCEQ from adequately implementing and enforcing delegated programs under the [Clean Air Act] and [Clean Water Act] contrary to the commitments the State of Texas made when it sought and received delegation and approval of these programs from EPA,” states the petition.