Jen Powis, Sierra Club, Senior Regional Representative, 832-453-4404
Neil Carman, Sierra Club, Clean Air Program Director, 512-288-5772 or 512-663-9594
David Baron, Earthjustice, Attorney, 202-667-4500
Club and Earthjustice Legal Action
to Enforce Clean Air Act in Texas
Sierra Club, Earthjustice Call on EPA to Help Clean the Air,
Cite Repeated Failures of Governor Perry’s Administration
To Comply With Clean Air Laws
(Austin) -- The Sierra Club and Earthjustice today called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take stronger steps against air pollution in Texas due to repeated failures of Governor Perry’s Administration to enforce the Clean Air Act in Texas. The groups filed a notice of intent to sue (the Notice) the EPA if EPA fails to implement more protective clean air measures.
While the EPA took important first steps to protect Texas residents from dangerous levesl of air pollution last week, the environmental groups today said that the Agency needs to speed up and expand its go further in upholding the Clean Air Act, a federal law designed to protect public health in Texas and downwind states. Major sources of industrial pollution that the State is charged with regulating in Texas include: coal plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, cement kilns, and gas drilling.
“For the past decade, Governor Perry has allowed the state’s
largest polluters to emit massive amounts of contaminants
into the Texas air. These pollutants continue to cause significant
health costs to Texas citizens.” said Jen Powis, JD, Senior Regional Representative for Sierra Club. “At greatest risk are children and elderly residents. EPA’s
intervention last week was a good first step but it can and
should go much further to enforce the Clean Air Act in this
state and really protect our health.”
Today’s Notice addresses the failure of EPA to step in and enforce portions of the ‘State Implementation Plan’ (SIP) that would help Texas meet clean air requirements through:
Permitting new major sources; monitoring permitted operations and emissions; enforcing the law to control and limit pollution from those sources;
Limiting ozone-forming and fine particle pollution, commonly known as smog and soot, from large coal plants and other industries;
Limiting ‘interstate transport’ -- in other words air pollution from large factories, coal plants, and other sources that floats acrossTexas’s borders into other states.
letter says that EPA is legally required to step in to correct these failures.
“The state has failed to protect the citizens of
Texas and other downwind states as required by the Clean
Air Act,” said David Baron, Attorney with Earthjustice. “The law unequivocally requires EPA to step in when states don’t
adopt the legally required safeguards.”
For over 20 years, three areas of Texas—Dallas-Fort Worth, Beaumont-Port Arthur, and Houston-Galveston—have consistently been in violation of national ozone standards. Four additional areas of the state—Austin, San Antonio, Longview-Tyler-Marshall, and El Paso—are expected to exceed health-based pollution limits when EPA releases its new ozone standard in August.
The Oklahoma Attorney General also recently sent a letter to the TCEQ complaining about TCEQ’s failure to notify Oklahoma about major new sources of pollution that would affect its air quality.
Sierra Club and Earthjustice contend that the EPA has the ultimate responsibility to uphold the Clean Air Act because the TCEQ has not done so and does not appear willing to do so despite these facts.
“Texas is at an energy crossroads. Texas is number
one in wind energy production and has massive solar potential,” said Powis with Sierra Club. “But unfortunately it’s also number one for many air pollutants and has more new proposed coal plants than any other state in the nation. Governor Perry has failed to protect Texas residents. And now it’s time to stand up to these industrial polluters and demonstrate that a green economy through new forms of generation is good for Texas business, good for our citizen’s
health and good for the environment.”
The TCEQ is currently under review by the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission. Sierra Club is working with environmental and other civic organizations as well as concerned citizens across the state to utilize the Sunset Review process as an important moment for improving environmental regulation in Texas.