SE Texas Record

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Paxton files petition on EPA's sulfur dioxide standards

By Laura Halleman | Feb 16, 2017


AUSTIN – A petition has been filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the 5th Circuit and the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court requesting that the air quality standards for sulfur dioxide, as issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, be reviewed.

What spurred the petition, according to Paxton, was that the EPA ignored the state’s sulfur dioxide air quality designations and instead used third-party modeling information.

Sulfur dioxide is a gas emitted into the air by the burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities, according to the EPA. Short-term exposure can harm the respiratory system and cause difficulty in breathing. Children, elderly and those with asthma are particularly susceptible to problems with sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide can also harm plants and trees by damaging foliage.

According to one EPA rule mentioned in the petition, four areas of initial air quality designations in Texas for sulfur dioxide are the counties of Freestone, Anderson, Milam, Rusk, Panola and Titus. The EPA has designated three of these areas as nonattainment due to the fact that they do not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).

“One area is designated as unclassifiable because there is no information to classify it as meeting the NAAQS. Designations are based on weight of evidence for each area, including available air quality monitoring data and air quality modeling,” the rule states.

Paxton and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality contends that the EPA failed to recognize the state’s role in designation of areas of concern regarding sulfur dioxide in accordance with the federal Clean Air Act.

According to the EPA, the Clean Air Act, “requires EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (40 CFR part 50) for pollutants considered harmful to public health and the environment.”

“This rule requires expensive and excessive restrictions that will damage not only our economy, but the livelihood of citizens across the state with little to no effect on the environment,” Paxton said in a statement. “It is clear that the EPA has disregarded state-specific plans and successful environmental action in favor of continuing to expand their regulatory power over states. My office will continue to defend our state from the EPA’s harmful, overreaching regulations.”

Paxton also said in a statement that the EPA has passed a new regulation that requires any challenges to any nationwide EPA rules to be made in the Washington, D.C. Circuit Court. The sulfur dioxide rule is only locally applicable. The petition will also challenge this rule.

“The Final Rule establishes air quality designations for four areas in the State of Texas for the SO2 NAAQS. Therefore, the Final Rule is a locally or regionally applicable final action of the EPA Administrator and is not 'nationally applicable' or 'of nationwide scope or effect,'” the petition states.

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Organizations in this Story

Texas Office of the Attorney GeneralU.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)