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Why the EPA’s Denied Texas’ Waiver Request – Air Permits

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday that it would take over the process of issuing a permit for a Corpus Christi refinery, taking that responsibility away from Texas regulators. The EPA said the state hadn’t done enough to regulate emissions of pollutants, including cancer-causing compounds. Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that a move by federal environmental officials to regulate pollution from Texas refineries is another step in the Obama administration’s “campaign to harm our economy.” Governor Rick Perry, requested a fifty percent waiver of the national volume requirements for the renewable fuel standard RFS or RFS mandate on April 25, 2008 (Click to read the Letter).

The EPA is denying Texas’ waiver request because the evidence in this case does not support a determination that implementation of the RFS mandate during the time period at issue (September 1, 2008 through August 31, 2009) would severely harm the economy of a State, region, or the United States. This requirement calls for a high tolerance for the nature and degree of harm that justifies a waiver based on “severe harm” to the economy of a State, region, or the United States. The EPA examined a wide variety of evidence, including modeling of the impact that a waiver would have on ethanol use, corn prices, food prices, and fuel prices. EPA also looked at empirical evidence, such as the current price for renewable fuel credits, called RINs, which are used to demonstrate compliance with the RFS mandate. The EPA determined that the weight of all of the evidence indicates that implementation of the RFS would have no significant impact in the relevant time frame (the 2008/2009 corn season), and the most likely result is that a waiver would have no impact on ethanol production volumes in the relevant time frame, and therefore no impact on corn, food, or fuel prices.

Although the EPA released its grip of taking over the state’s entire permitting system, their actions scream a statement that the federal government is demanding accountability from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

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