Environmental Groups Say EPA Should Not Have Allowed Texas CAA Permits

Environmental organizations filed a complaint in the District Court for the District of Columbia on Monday against Andrew Wheeler as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking the court to rule that the defendant must respond to eight petitions the plaintiffs filed. The petitions asked the EPA to object to Clean Air Act permits issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which the plaintiffs claimed would cause significant harm to the environment. 

The plaintiffs purported that these eight permits authorize the “operation of a major source of air pollution” in Texas. They asked the district court for an order requiring Wheeler to perform his duty to grant or deny the petitions before the end of March 2021. The eight permits are used by various companies for the Waha Gas Plant, Port Arthur Refinery, Sandy Creek Energy Station, Borger Refinery, Galena Park Facility, Oak Grove Steam Electric Station, Texas City Chemical Plant, and Galveston Bay Refinery. 

The plaintiffs, including the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club, Port Arthur Community Action Network, Environment Texas, and Neta Rhyne are seeking injunctive relief, as well as costs and fees under the Clean Air Act. They claimed that the EPA Administrator’s inaction on their petitions has caused and will continue to cause “concrete injuries” to the plaintiffs. 

The complaint explained that the eight plants are subject to Title V permitting requirements, and the EPA administrator had previously approved the TCEQ for issuing Title V permits, however, the TCEQ must forward proposed permits to the EPA for review and give Wheeler 45 days to review the permit and, if he does not object, allow 60 days for other parties to petition the administrator to object. The plaintiffs claimed that since they filed petitions, Wheeler has a “non-discretionary duty to grant or deny it within 60 days.” 

The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys with the Environmental Integrity Project, gave details about each permit and their petitions. They said that it has been more than 60 days since their petitions were received by Wheeler and asked the court to rule that this was a breach of the EPA Administrator’s duties and to require him to grant or deny each of the eight petitions.