NEW ORLEANS — There are very different reactions to the Fifth Circuit Court
of Appeals' decision regarding the Texas Haze Plan.
The attorney general's
office praises the decision, while the Sierra Club vows to fight with all their
In July, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals
issued a stay on the Environmental Protection Agency's ruling regarding air
quality in Texas. The ruling was designed to improve visibility at national
parks and wilderness areas in Texas.
The agency rejected certain parts of the state's
implementation plan, and instead imposed a federal implementation plan (or
FIP), which laid out standards for visibility improvement. The state asked the
Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to issue block implementation of the FIP, citing
costs of implementation and other factors. With the court's stay the next step
is for the Fifth Circuit to hear the appeal on its merits, Kayleigh Lovvorn, a
media relations representative of the Texas Attorney General's office, told the
Southeast Texas Record.
The FIP requires that Texas retrofit or upgrade generators
at eight different power plants. The state argued that this would mean rate
increases, even closure of some of the power plants, and a loss of stability
for electricity delivery.
"The FIP would mean $2 billion in costs, with no
noticeable air quality gain," Lovvorn said. "We can say that it is
the published decision of the Fifth Circuit that prevents the rule from taking
effect while the challenge is decided on the merits."
Lovvorn notes that the attorney general's office believes
federal regulatory overreach has been averted, with the stay of the EPA rule.
Unlike the state of Texas, the Sierra Club is not pleased
with the decision.
"The rule would have tremendous health benefits for
users of the parks and wilderness areas, and economic benefits," Joshua
Smith, a staff attorney for the Sierra Club, said. "These plants are some of the
dirtiest in the country."
Smith said that the Sierra Club believes the rule would have
resulted in significant savings in public health, approximately $3 billion in
avoided public health costs every year. "The costs of compliance were very
modest in comparison to what these multi-billion dollar corporations are
making," he said. "In terms of costs, this plan was a good deal, even
The Clean Air Act and Regional Haze rule require consideration
of multiple issues in order to set reasonable progress goals: costs of
implementation, the time it would take to get into compliance, and the energy
and environmental impacts of compliance, among others. The state determined that
the EPA's linear rate of improvement in the FIP was unreasonable, and instead
proposed an alternative, which the EPA determined was not good enough. There
are several other issues that the court will now take up in its consideration
of the appeal on its merits.
"The court was wrong in saying that there was a strong likelihood
that Texas would be successful in proving that the EPA exceeded its
authority," Smith said. "As far as litigation, we are still
evaluating our options. We fully intend to advocate our position on the