Perry Blocking Climate Justice in Texas

The EPA announced two items within the first week of 2011- let’s get them straight.

1) The New Source Performance Standards that the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to issue for Electric Generating Units and refineries.

2) The tailoring rule for greenhouse gases, which applies to all industrial sites, such as coal plants, cement kilns, natural gas units, refineries, etc. (Hint: this is the big one!)

These elements were announced on the same day, but are implementing completely different parts of the Clean Air Act.

Item number 1: This won’t be in effect for a while. EPA will issue the proposed Electric Generating Unit New Source Performance Standard in July 2011, and the final in May 2012. It will propose the Refinery New Source Performance Standard in December 2011, and the final in November 2012.

New sources usually have to meet more stringent NSPS rules and emissions controls than older existing sources. However, there are NSPS rules for certain harmful pollutants that apply equally across the board to all plants in an industrial sector and the older plants have to meet the same stringent emission limits as new or major modified plants.

Item number 2: The tailoring rule for greenhouse gases means that, according to Lone Star Chapter Air expert Dr. Neil Carman, most large new projects emitting carbon dioxide will need to get greenhouse gas emission permits, and upward of 900 industrial sources of pollution in Texas will be affected.

Just consider this: carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, accounts for 99% – 99.5% of the air emissions from a coal-fired power plant, so we are only regulating about 0.5% of air pollution from coal plants. The biggest chunk of toxic emissions are unregulated!

In theory, all of these industrial sources would be going to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to get their greenhouse gas emission permits, but since Governor Rick Perry decided that Texas doesn’t have to comply with federal law, his Commissioners will not be regulating greenhouse gas emissions- but the EPA will.

Now, whenever there is a new large industrial project that will be emitting carbon dioxide, or when existing industrial sources of emission need to get modifications or upgrades of a certain size, they will trigger the tailoring rule, and will have to apply for a permit relating to greenhouse gas emissions.

Normally, that source would go to the TCEQ for a permit, but since Governor Perry won’t have his commissioners do it, they must go to the EPA. The only thing this accomplishes is a standstill. Apparently, we’re not open for business.

Perry claims that regulating greenhouse gases is not within the power of the state of Texas…but he needs to do a little research.

Yet since 1995, the Texas Clean Air Act (Subchapter A, Section 382.0205) has stated, “…the commission by rule may control air contaminants as necessary to protect against adverse effects related to: 3) climatic changes, including global warming.”

Over a decade and a half ago, before Al Gore, before canvas bags, before going green was sexy, Texas had it figured out. We know carbon dioxide is an air contaminant, we know it’s a toxic gas, and we know it causes climate change. And Texans want to do something about it.

So what’s the holdup? Just Perry and his obstructionist tactics. Basically, there’s been a quick series of lawsuits filed by our illustrious public officials, specifically, Attorney General Greg Abbott, and there has been an administrative stay (which is exactly what it sounds like- a total holdup).

Everything is locked up in the courts (welcome to America!). 49 states are moving forward with greenhouse gas regulation- except Texas. Governor Rick Perry is desperately flying in the face of federal law in a transparent attempt to make traction with a presidential bid. Governors who do so don’t fare well, historically, and don’t win.

Forty years ago, Governor Wallace in Alabama blocked a schoolhouse door, in a symbolic attempt to defy desegregation. He ran for president four times, and there’s obviously no President Wallace on the history books.

Today, Governor Perry is blocking our schools, our homes, our rivers, our land, and our heritage, in a symbolic attempt to defy the regulation of a toxic agent. If we don’t stand up to him, we can’t be sure who will. Our right to a healthy environment is ours only if we demand it- so join us.

On Friday, January 14th, in Dallas, the EPA will hold a hearing from 10AM to 7PM to hear from the public.

To register to speak, contact Pamela Long at EPA long.pam@epa.gov; 919-541-0641 to request a time slot.

If your organizations have a Texas presence and members are able
to attend, please contact Peter Wilson at peter.wilson@sierraclub.org.

If your organization has any phonebanking capability, please
contact Flavia de la Fuente at flavia.delafuente@sierraclub.org

-Flavia de la Fuente, Conservation Organizer, Beyond Coal

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