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Environmental Enforcement: EPA Asks TCEQ to Postpone Las Brisas Permit

On Monday, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) received a letter (pdf) from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, requesting that the TCEQ not approve an air permit for the Las Brisas Energy Center, near Corpus Christi.

The letter from the EPA’s Deputy Regional Administrator, Lawrence Starfield, says the EPA continues to have “strong concerns about the public health and environmental impacts of this project.”

However, the letter does not go as far as asking the TCEQ to deny the permit.

Starfield instead requested that the TCEQ consult with the EPA further, to ensure that the proposed facility is in compliance with national standards for ozone and meets new federal standards for nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

The letter goes on to say that, “neither the EPA nor the public have had the opportunity to exercise their rights under the Clean Air Act to review the proposed source’s demonstrations of compliance for these new standards and applicability requirements.”

At a hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning in Austin, TCEQ commissioners have the option to approve, deny, or request that the Las Brisas application be amended.

The letter encourages the commissioners to not issue the permit until the two agencies can resolve the issues with the permit.  It also asks that TCEQ consult with EPA in the event of an amended permit.

For the past several months the EPA and TCEQ have been battling over control of air pollution permitting under the Clean Air Act.

Recently, Texas filed suit twice in federal court to block the EPA’s disapproval of flex permits, asserting that there is no legal or technical justification for the federal agency’s action—only to have their claims rebuffed both times.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in late December turned down the state’s motion to prevent the federal takeover of TCEQ permitting for greenhouse gases, and a Washington, D.C., appellate court denied the state’s request for a stay of the new EPA rules.

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