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Court Settlement Will Help to Clean Up Dirty Texas Air

EPA commits to deadlines for enforcing Clean Air Act obligations in Texas
September 14, 2011
Washington, D.C.  — 

An agreement negotiated by Earthjustice on behalf of the Sierra Club will require enforceable plans to curb Texas’s dirty emissions and address smog and soot pollution in the state. If approved by the court, the consent decree will require the EPA to take overdue action to ensure adequate implementation of the 1997 clean air health standards for ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5)—pollutants linked to premature deaths, aggravation of asthma, and hospital and emergency room visits—by the end of this year.  The decree also will require the EPA to adopt federal plans to prevent Texas’ pollution from hampering other states’ efforts to clean up haze and protect air quality in pristine areas. These requirements are distinct from those in EPA’s recently-adopted Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

The proposed decree was lodged yesterday in federal court with U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in Washington, D.C. There will be a public comment period and final agency review before the final decree is submitted for approval.

Sierra Club filed the lawsuit leading to this settlement a year ago to ensure that the EPA takes steps to hold Texas accountable for its role in major air pollution throughout the state and region. The suit alleged that Texas had failed to adequately implement clean air standards that were issued nearly fifteen years ago to protect public health. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA was required to step in, yet had failed to do so in time, the suit contended.

“For too long, Governor Perry and his political appointees on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality have allowed Texas industry to run roughshod over Clean Air Act requirements,” said Jen Powis, regional representative for the Sierra Club. “Our state agencies have failed to protect Texas citizens, and this proposed decree demands that EPA do better. The proposed consent decree today will help ensure that Texas cleans up its air.”

“Nearly 18 million people in Texas, including 5 million children, have had to breathe unsafe levels of ozone pollution on too many days this year and more effective steps need to taken to curb smog-forming emissions across Texas,” said Neil Carman, clean air director for Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter. “Texas has already reached 60 bad air days across the state and the ozone season is not over yet.”

“This agreement will help move Texas toward cleaner, healthier air,” said Khushi Desai, attorney with Earthjustice. “Far too many people are forced to breathe air that’s polluted by emissions from Texas’ coal-fired power plants and other industries.”

Read the consent decree.


Contact:
Raviya Ismail, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 221
Donna Hoffman, Sierra Club, (512) 299-5776 (cell) or (512) 477-1729
Neil Carman, Sierra Club, (512) 288-772 or (512) 663-9594