The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday rejected air-quality permits for refiners and other industrial plants issued by Texas, saying they didn’t meet federal environmental standards.
The federal agency proposed striking down the so-called flexible air permits issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, last September, saying they violate the Clean Air Act. Under the act, all states have to develop a state implementation plan to meet federal requirements to protect public health. The move won’t require oil refiners, chemical and plastics makers, and others to shut their plants immediately, but will force companies to meet stricter regulations in order to earn new, more detailed permits.
"EPA has determined that this program does not meet several national Clean Air Act requirements that help to assure the protection of health and the environment," the agency said in a press release Wednesday. "Those plans must include an air permitting program to set pollution levels for industrial facilities."
Flexible air permits aren’t unique to Texas, but the state has a high concentration of emissions-intensive industries. The EPA is conducting a broad review of the state’s air-permitting regulations on concerns over violations stretching back to the administration of George W. Bush. There are 121 facilities operating under flexible air permits in Texas, including some of the nation’s largest oil refineries, owned by Exxon Mobil Corp., BP PLC and Valero Energy Corp.