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January 20, 2011

Everything's Bigger in Texas

Texans are proud of a lot of things, but the state's air quality isn't one of them. That makes it doubly bizarre that Governor Rick Perry is so determined to stop the EPA from requiring big polluters to conform to the Clean Air Act.

Texas industries produce more toxic mercury pollution, more smog, and more greenhouse gases than any other state. And although Texas is a very big state, it's not so big that its air pollution doesn't affect its neighbors. Just ask the folks across the Red River in Oklahoma how they feel about Texas coal plants.

Last week, Rick Perry's administration lost in court for a third time as the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected its request to stop the EPA from issuing Clean Air Act permits for CO2 emissions.

The Supreme Court had already ruled that carbon pollution is covered under Clean Air Act. And, as of this month, big greenhouse gas-emitting sites like coal plants and cement kilns must start accounting for CO2 when they apply for a Clean Air Act permit for new facilities or major renovations. 

Contrary to what Governor Perry and others are saying, that doesn't mean the federal government wants to run roughshod over state governments. The EPA would actually prefer that the individual states handle the permitting programs. But in those few cases where the states aren't ready to do that, the EPA is obliged to step in. Of all the states, only Texas has both refused to take responsibility and also demanded that no one else take responsibility either.

You'd think Lisa Jackson was demanding to install solar panels on the Alamo. You know, almost eight percent of the energy generated in Texas comes from wind power -- a figure that's expected to almost double by 2015. If all this hot air about the "overreaching" EPA keeps blowing, that figure could triple!

Fortunately, now that the way is clear for the EPA to assume responsibility for protecting the air in Texas, businesses can start planning how they will comply with the Clean Air Act rather than being stuck in a legal limbo. And, with luck, millions of Texans (and their neighbors) will be able to breathe a little easier as the worst polluters in the state either clean up or shut down.



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Michael Brune

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