VENABLE: Texas fights global-warming power grab

Lone Star state won’t participate in Obama’s lawless policy

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The state’s slogan is “Don’t mess with Texas.” But the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is doing just that, and at stake is whether the Obama administration can impose its global-warming agenda without a vote of Congress.

President Obama’s EPA is already well down the path to regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, something the act was not designed to do. It has a problem, however, because shoehorning greenhouse gases into that 40-year-old law would force churches, schools, warehouses, commercial kitchens and other sources to obtain costly and time-consuming permits. It would grind the economy to a halt, and the likely backlash would doom the whole scheme.

The EPA, determined to move forward anyway, is attempting to rewrite the Clean Air Act administratively via a “tailoring rule,” which would reduce the number of regulated sources. The problem with that approach? It’s illegal. The EPA has no authority to rewrite the law. To pull it off, the EPA needs every state with a State Implementation Plan to rewrite all of its statutory thresholds as well.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality Chairman Bryan W. Shaw saw the tailoring rule for what it really is: a massive power grab and centralization of authority. They are fighting back, writing to the EPA:

“In order to deter challenges to your plan for centralized control of industrial development through the issuance of permits for greenhouse gases, you have called upon each state to declare its allegiance to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recently enacted greenhouse gas regulations - regulations that are plainly contrary to U.S. laws. … To encourage acquiescence with your unsupported findings you threaten to usurp state enforcement authority and to federalize the permitting program of any state that fails to pledge their fealty to the Environmental Protection Agency. On behalf of the State of Texas, we write to inform you that Texas has neither the authority nor the intention of interpreting, ignoring or amending its laws in order to compel the permitting of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Texas leaders are doing what Congress so far has been unable to do (a Senate vote to stop the EPA’s global-warming power grab got just 47 votes on June 10): take on the EPA. Good thing, because Texas would be hit especially hard by these regulations.

Federalist principles have allowed Texas to become the strongest state in the union. The Lone Star State leads the nation in job creation, is the top state for business relocation and has more Fortune 500 companies than any other state and is the top state for wind generation. President Obama said he wants to double U.S. exports in five years; he could look to Texas, as we are the top exporting state in the country. The Obama administration could learn a lot from Texas.

Instead, it is attempting to ride roughshod over Texas, and it goes beyond the greenhouse-gas issue.

For 16 years, the EPA allowed Texas to run its own permitting program to meet federal air-quality standards. But in May, the agency announced- out of nowhere - that the state is not in compliance with federal regulations. Even though Texas had met its clean-air obligations, the EPA announced it was taking over permitting.

Texas is the nation’s energy-production capital, but the air we breathe is cleaner today than it was in 2000, even though the state’s population has grown by nearly 3.5 million people. Between 2000 and 2008, Texas’ nitrogen oxide levels decreased by 46 percent and ozone levels dropped by 22 percent, compared with national reductions of 27 percent and 8 percent, respectively. All major Texas metropolitan areas meet the 1997 federal eight-hour ozone standard, with the exception of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which is within 1 part per billion of meeting the standard.

According to Department of Energy and EPA data, since 2000, Texas’ carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel usage have fallen more than those of almost any other state and every country except Germany as a result of our policies to foster renewable energy, make the electricity market more competitive and efficient, and improve our environment.

When the EPA issued rules to reduce nitrogen oxide and ozone, we complied, but we did it the Texas way.

Now Washington is trying to federalize the air-permitting process and force Texas to ignore our state laws and the plain language of the Clean Air Act in order to allow an illegal rewriting of the federal statute. But Texas has neither “the authority nor the intention” of doing so. The Lone Star State is strong, and so are our leaders - and the law is on our side.

Peggy Venable is Texas state director of Americans for Prosperity.

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