Texas Wins Court Battle with EPA Over Pollution Permits

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The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has handed Texas a victory over the Environmental Protection Agency over the agency's disapproval of Texas' pollution rules related to power plants.

What did the court rule?

According to Business Week, the court ordered the EPA to vacate its ruling and to revisit its evaluation of Texas' pollution rules. It ordered the EPA to conduct this evaluation in an expeditious manner and to limit it to whether the rules meet minimal requirements under the Clean Air Act.

How did the case start?

According to the EPA, its main problem with the way the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted permits was it allowed companies to lump emissions from different facilities under a preset cap instead of imposing limits for each facility. Luminant, which operates power companies in Texas, filed a lawsuit with Texas and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and businesses to stop the EPA from substituting its own rules for that of the Texas state government.

What did the ruling state?

According to the Wilson County News, the court found the EPA overstepped its bounds as an arbiter of state pollution control regulations. It further stated the EPA missed a deadline by two years when it first proposed disapproving Texas' permitting process in 2009. The EPA could not identify any part of the Clean Air Act that gave it the power to do what it did. The EPA has the sole power to evaluate whether the permitting process adhered to the Clear Air Act's requirements and, if they do, approve them. It cannot substitute its own regulations for those of a state.

What has been the reaction in Texas?

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott declared the EPA had violated the law by seizing powers it did not have in trying to seize control of power plant permitting in Texas. He praised the court for providing relief for what he saw as EPA overreach.

What other court cases has the EPA been involved with recently?

According to the Legal News Line, the Texas case is the third in recent weeks in which the courts have ruled against the EPA. The Supreme Court ruled against the EPA in the case of Sackett v. EPA in favor of an Idaho couple whom the EPA had ordered to stop building on their private property and to transform it into a wetland, according to Ecosystem Marketplace. In Mingo Logan v. EPA, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of a coal company against whom the EPA had withdrawn permission to use two streams as discharge sites, even though the Army Corps of Engineers had granted permission years before, according to the West Virginia Record.

Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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