Sierra Club Tells EPA to Make Texas Clean Up Air or Face Lawsuit

The Sierra Club gave the EPA official notice Wednesday that the federal agency has 60 days to make Texas comply with the Clean Air Act or it will be sued in federal court.

The conservation group wants the Environmental Protection Agency to step in and enforce the Clean Air Act in Texas. The Sierra Club says Gov. Rick Perry’s administration has not protected Texans from dangerous air pollution and has allowed many of the state’s industries to emit contaminants.

Diane Taheri, deputy director of the EPA’s office of external and government affairs, confirmed that the agency received the Sierra Club’s notification Wednesday and that it is under review.

“The EPA agrees that Texas air is extremely important, and we are doing everything we can to ensure that Texas air quality meets federal standards,” Taheri said.

The Sierra Club also said Texas has not enforced portions of the implementation plan being developed by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to help the state meet clean-air requirements.

“The state has missed deadline after deadline to submit a clean-air plan,” said Neil Carman, clean-air program director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We plan to go ahead and file the lawsuit in 60 days unless the TCEQ and the EPA adopt an aggressive clean-air plan and comply with the Clean Air Act,” he said.
The Clean Air Act, signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, is designed to protect public health nationwide. It requires state-issued permits to set limits on production units inside plants.

The Sierra Club said Texas’ industrial polluters includes coal plants, oil refineries, chemical plants, cement kilns and gas drilling.

Carman says the state environmental agency hasn’t done enough to reduce industrial air pollution in Texas.

Mark Vickery, executive director of the commission, said Wednesday that he is proud of the state’s “tremendous strides … in cleaning up the air in Texas” and that it is working on new rules to address concerns, according to The Associated Press.
Also Wednesday, Perry, at a news conference during a visit to a Houston-area petrochemical complex, told the AP that Texas shouldn’t be threatened with a takeover of its air quality program but should be lauded for its pollution regulation.

Perry said that all of Texas’ major cities except Dallas-Fort Worth are in compliance with the EPA’s 1997 eight-hour ground-level ozone standards and that Houston met the standard for the first time last year.

“I don’t understand the federal response of coming into the state that should be the poster child, should be the model for this country,” Perry told reporters.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.