Texas sues EPA over cross-state pollution rules

Texas has sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to block the implementation of new rules aimed at curbing air pollution.

State Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office filed a petition for review of the regulation — the Cross State Air Pollution Rule — at the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington. A request to bar its enforcement will be filed later today, said spokeswoman Lauren Bean. See the document below.

Abbott “is deeply concerned about these new federal regulations’ impact on the State of Texas, its electric grid and the Texans whose access to something as basic as electricity is threatened,” Bean said in an e-mailed statement.

“Although we won’t comment on the particulars of our legal strategy, Texans can rest assured that the Attorney General’s Office will pursue every available legal remedy to prevent the EPA from imposing this legally flawed rule, and the electricity disruptions and blackouts that state utility officials have said EPA’s rule will cause,” Bean said

The Attorney General’s Office has received referrals from the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Railroad Commission about the EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule, while Dallas-based power plant operator, Luminant, filed suit last week and Kansas filed suit today.

The EPA standards, issued in July, say 27 states must reduce power-plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, which forms the tiny particles known as soot, and nitrogen oxides, a component of ground-level ozone. The initial plan only required Texas to cut nitrogen oxide emissions during the smog season, but in July the final rules included sulfur dioxide cuts for Texas as well.

The suit says Texas’ inclusion for sulfur-dioxide reductions was based on changes in the EPA modeling that the state was not given the opportunity to comment on, including readings from just a single air quality monitoring station in Madison County, Ill.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is seeking the Republican Party nomination for president in the 2012 election, has criticized the rule as “heavy-handed and misguided.”

Wyn Hornbuckle, a spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department, declined to comment on today’s filing.

The EPA said in a statement that in Texas each year alone the rule will save 1,700 lives and bring $5.8 billion to $14 billion in health benefits.

Gina McCarthy, EPA’s top air-quality official, said last week utilities such as Luminant had plenty of notice and opportunity to comment on the rule and they have until March 2013, not this January, to fully comply. McCarthy also defended the agency’s inclusion of Texas in the rule as based on sound science.

The filing comes as the Obama administration on Wednesday threatened to veto a House Republican bill that would delay the cross-state rule and a mercury-pollution rule and require a new interagency committee to analyze the business and consumer impacts of those and other EPA rules.

The administration said Wednesday the bill would impede efforts to “reduce harmful air pollution that threatens public health, especially the health of the most vulnerable populations, including children and seniors.”

Both rules’ implementation would have to be delayed at least an additional six months after the Aug. 1, 2012, deadline for completing the analyses the bill requires.

The House will likely pass the bill, when it comes to a vote on Friday, but it faces a difficult future in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

2011 Texas Petition to EPA on CSAPR