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Saturday, December 9, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, December 9, 2023 | Back issues
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Texas Challenges Haze Regulations for Parks

AUSTIN (CN) - Texas sued the Environmental Protection Agency on Monday for rejecting its plan to clear haze at two national parks in the Lone Star State.

The Regional Haze Rule requires state and federal agencies to work together to improve visibility in 156 national parks and wilderness areas, according to the EPA.

Texas' beef with the EPA goes back to 2009 when the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality submitted a state plan.

The EPA rejected the state's plan in January in favor of a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) that would force electricity producers to make expensive changes, and could cause the Texas grid to become less reliable, according to a press release from the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

"Texas already has a plan that meets the standards of the Clean Air Act, however, once again, the Obama Administration is misinterpreting and misusing federal agencies to force through a radical agenda based more on the beliefs of his environmentalist base than on common sense," Paxton said in a statement. "The steps Washington is demanding we take are extraordinarily expensive, will result in a less-reliable electric grid and ultimately have no significant effect on visibility in Texas."

The federal plan requires eight Texas power plants to install expensive "scrubbers" within three to five years. Scrubbers filter sulfur dioxide from exhaust emitted by coal-processing units.

In Texas, the regulation is meant to improve visibility in Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The parks are in southwest Texas, hundreds of miles from the targeted power plants, seven of which are in central and east Texas. One power plant is in the panhandle near Lubbock.

Texas filed the lawsuit in the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit, which can hear appeals of federal agency rules.

The Sierra Club characterized the lawsuit as political grandstanding by Paxton that puts the interests of power plant operators ahead of the health of Texans.

"The federal haze plan was necessary to end the state's nearly decade-long failure to comply with the Clean Air Act and will reduce Texas sulfur dioxide pollution by approximately 60 percent and save more than 300 lives each year," the nonprofit said in a statement.

The Sierra Club's contention that cleaning up power plants will save 300 lives a year a year is based on a study by NYU School of Medicine professor Dr. George Thurston. Thurston's research has shown that exposure to fossil-fuel emissions increases the risk of heart attacks.

Monday's lawsuit is yet another skirmish in Texas' perpetual battle against the EPA's air regulations.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the EPA from implementing its Clean Power Plan, which called for state-tailored goals to reduce power plant emissions, in response to a lawsuit brought by 29 states, led by Texas and West Virginia.

The D.C. Circuit has scheduled a June 2 hearing for that case.

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