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EPA Takeover of GHG Permitting in Texas Put On Hold

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to take over greenhouse gas permitting and oversee climate rules in Texas has been temporarily blocked by a federal court, making the Lone Star State the only place where businesses cannot apply for greenhouse gas permits that the Obama administration now requires, The New York Times reports.

The first federal regulations on carbon dioxide took effect yesterday after more than a year of political wrangling, ordering emissions cuts from cars, light trucks and the largest new industrial plants.

Last month, when Texas did not implement the new rules, EPA released a plan to seize control of greenhouse permitting in the state. But the agency must wait at least a week so judges can make a decision on Texas’ legal bid to stave off federal intervention, the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia ruled Thursday.

The temporary delay “should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits” of the state’s lawsuit, the order (pdf) said.

It is a small setback for EPA, which has promised a smooth transition as Texas and more than a dozen other states challenge the new climate regulations in court. But while the other challengers are going along with the new rules while their lawsuits move through the courts, Texas has refused, saying that EPA has shut the state out of the process by ignoring the usual procedural steps.

The Clean Air Act gives states a year to make changes before the federal government can take control, Texas argues. EPA also never gave Texas the chance to comment on the federal plan, which was released the day before Christmas Eve, the state said in a recent court filing (pdf).

“Transparency and openness in government — which is the very purpose of the public notice and comment period ignored by the EPA — are vital to our democratic system of government and, like the legal rights guaranteed to the state of Texas, cannot be simply overlooked because the administration wants to impose unilaterally its agenda on the American people,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) said in a statement last week.

“EPA is both unlawfully commandeering Texas’ environmental enforcement program and violating federal laws that give the State and its residents the opportunity to fully participate in the regulatory process,” Abbott wrote in Texas’ motion for an emergency stay.

The temporary delay will last until the court makes a decision on Texas’ request for a permanent stay. EPA must respond to Texas’ lawsuit by Thursday morning, and a reply from the state is due by Friday afternoon.

Click here (pdf) to read the court order.

Click here (pdf) to read Texas’ stay request.

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