‘Major’ Problem in Texas: Polluters Evade Federal Law and Get Away With It

"Industrial developers describe facilities as “minor” polluters to avoid federal permitting requirements, and environmental lawyers say the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality lets it happen."

"When the Intercontinental Terminals Company sought a permit to expand its tank farm and terminal on the Houston Ship Channel in 2014, a reviewer with Texas’ environmental regulator expressed a long list of concerns.

ITC, the reviewer for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality wrote, appeared to be evading core provisions of federal environmental law by dividing its “major” facility among nominally separate “minor” permits, which have less stringent pollution standards requirements and require far less review.

In Greater Houston, federal authorities had set a threshold at 25 tons per year of volatile organic compound emissions. Any company wanting to release more was required to undergo a tedious, expensive application process, established in the Clean Air Act, as a so-called “major source.”      

ITC had already obtained permits for its first group of chemical tanks in 2012 for 24.9 tons per year of volatile organic compound emissions in 2014. Now it was asking to permit a second group for another 24.9 tons per year. Because both groups fell conveniently just under the EPA’s threshold, neither were subject to a federal program called New Source Review, or NSR.

“We have concerns about NSR circumvention,” wrote the permit reviewer, Jesse Lovegren, in a July 2014 email to other agency staff."

Dylan Baddour and Martha Pskowski report for Inside Climate News, and Alejandra Martinez for the Texas Tribune, December 26, 2023.


"State of Denial" Portal Page to Other Stories in Series (Inside Climate News)

Source: Inside Climate News, 01/03/2024