A federal appeals court has slapped a temporary hold on the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to take over Texas’s regulation of air permitting.
Two judges with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit have agreed to an emergency request by Texas to grant a stay, “pending further order of the court.”
The temporary administrative stay was granted solely “to give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the emergency motion for a stay and should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of that motion,” the court’s order read.
TX v. EPA
The order is the latest salvo in the nasty back-and-forth legal battle between the EPA and Texas over the state’s pollution permitting program.
Texas has had a “flexible permitting” program in place since 1994, but EPA says the program is too lenient and has refused to approve it.
Federal rules require new controls for reducing emissions from power plants, oil refineries and other large industrial facilities. Such rules would have a major impact on Texas, which produces more carbon dioxide emissions than any other state.
Thirteen states are suing the EPA over the rules, but only Texas is refusing to comply with the rules as the case moves through the courts.
On Dec. 23, EPA took the unprecedented step of announcing that it would directly issue Clean Air Act permits for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions “on the state's behalf” starting in January 2011.
EPA’s Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) would allow the agency to issue Prevention of Significant Deterioration permits in Texas to GHG sources until Texas comes up with a plan for GHG permitting that has EPA’s approval.
EPA said it had been forced to act because Texas officials “have no intention of properly implementing the portion of the federal air permitting program that will cover GHG emissions.”
Delays or complications in permitting could result in litigation and interfere with “planned construction and expansion projects that will create jobs and otherwise benefit the state’s and the nation’s economy,” EPA said.
EPA’s regional administrator accused Texas officials of forcing a construction stoppage; the chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, in turn, accused the agency of putting politics ahead of environmental issues.
On Tuesday (Jan. 4), a Wall Street Journal editorial described the dustup as “The EPA's War on Texas,” saying the agency was punishing the state as an act of “pure political revenge.”