Texas regulators hail clean-air surrender

by
September 3, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas panel in charge of enforcing state environmental regulations cheered President Barack Obama‘s decision Friday to scrap a tougher clean-air regulation aimed at reducing health-threatening smog that had drawn consistent fire from Gov. Rick Perry.

Environmentalists, however, were outraged by the decision.

In a dramatic reversal, Obama on Friday yielded to bitter protests from congressional Republicans and business interests who argued the rule would kill jobs in the nation’s sputtering economy.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, filled with Perry appointees, had argued the tougher regulation was unnecessary. In a Friday statement, the TCEQ said it was “glad the Obama administration finally agrees with this position and has put a halt to this job killing proposal.”

“The decision seems to recognize that current science does not justify further tightening of the ozone standards to protect public health,” the TCEQ statement said. “Indeed, it may even signal a realization that the consequences of a bad economy, such as joblessness and poverty, have negative public health effects.”

Perry, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, frequently uses the EPA as an example of the Obama administration meddling in state affairs. Recently, he slammed the EPA for including Texas in new rules that will require the state’s coal-fired power plants to cut down on smog and acid-rain causing pollution.

The long-running tit-for-tat between Texas and the EPA, which has evolved from one over environmental regulation into a fight over states’ rights, led the federal agency to take an unusual hands-on attitude in the Lone Star State.

The EPA had reached a deal with 136 Texas companies to apply for new permits after ruling that the TCEQ’s so-called “flexible permits” violated the federal Clean Air Act. At the time, Texas blasted the EPA ruling, challenging it in court and saying it could hurt the companies’ bottom-lines, lead to layoffs or even force some older facilities to declare bankruptcy.

 

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