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Groups Tell EPA Texas Oversight Too Weak to Be Trusted

Two environmental groups are petitioning the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to strip Texas regulators of some oversight responsibilities that were delegated under the U.S. Clean Air and Clean Water acts.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) cannot fulfill its duties following recent actions by the Texas legislature that limit its powers, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Caddo Lake Institute.

The groups' petition asks EPA to revoke the state's authority for permitting under the Clean Air Act's new source review program and under the Clean Water Act's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.

During the last state legislative session, Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law new legislation that the groups contend weaken TCEQ authority.

"They passed and signed laws...that resulted in Texas's clean air and clean water programs no longer meeting minimum legal safeguards, which puts the health of Texas families at risk," said EDF’s Jim Marston, regional director of the Austin office. "The Texas laws create fundamentally unfair legal processes that deprive all Texans of basic rights and will result in more pollution in our state. The legislature also has repeatedly underfunded the state environmental agency to the point that the TCEQ cannot adequately do its job."

An Abbott spokesman said the governor's office did not have a comment on the petition.

The petition says the recently enacted amendments to Texas law "restrict and limit the public's ability to obtain judicial review of TCEQ's permitting decisions…reduce opportunities for public participation by increasing the burden on permit opponents in a contested case hearing…[and] provide inadequate resources for implementation and enforcement" of clean air and clean water laws.

"These amendments prevent TCEQ from adequately implementing and enforcing delegated programs under the [Clean Air Act] and [Clean Water Act] contrary to the commitments the State of Texas made when it sought and received delegation and approval of these programs from EPA [see Daily GPIOct. 31, 2014]," the petition says.

The groups also cited "ongoing noncompliance with federal standards" in their petition.

Meanwhile, Texas is among states fighting EPA's Clean Power Plan (see Daily GPIAug. 21, 2015).

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