Court blocks EPA plan to take over Texas pollution permits

A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the EPA’s plan to seize control of greenhouse gas permits from Texas.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must wait until at least Friday so the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia can make a decision on Texas’ bid to prevent the federal takeover.

The first federal rules on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases took effect Sunday. Texas is the only state to refuse to implement the new rules — a position that prompted the EPA’s intervention.

In its petition, the state accuses the EPA of abusing its powers by taking control of the permitting program without proper notice. The agency, in response, criticized Texas officials for filing suit instead of working with it to protect public health.

The delay should not be interpreted as a ruling on the merits of the state’s lawsuit, the court said in its order.

The federal rules require new controls for reducing emissions from power plants, oil refineries and other large industrial facilities. Such rules would have a profound impact on Texas, which pumps more carbon dioxide into the air than any other state.

The EPA has said that 167 facilities in Texas would be subject to the new permitting requirements.

Photo: A cloud of smoke comes out of a smoke stack from a plant in Freeport, Texas. (Carlos Antonio Rios/Houston Chronicle)