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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Court Gives EPA Thumbs Down on Pollution Rule
Wednesday, August 29, 2012 • Posted August 31, 2012

AUSTIN — A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on Aug. 21 declared illegal the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

While environmental groups, health activists and “clean air” industries supported the rule — an emissions-trading program adopted by the EPA a year ago — it was contested by the state of Texas, 14 other states, local governments, industry groups and a list of non-governmental plaintiffs.

Following the 2-1 Circuit Court decision, the 60-page majority opinion by Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh said EPA exceeded its authority in using the rule’s “good neighbor” provision “to impose massive emissions reduction requirements on upwind states without regard to the limits imposed by the statutory text.”

Furthermore, Kavanaugh wrote, the EPA “did not allow the States the initial opportunity to implement the required reductions with respect to sources within their borders.”

Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott praised the Circuit Court’s action. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state agency that regulates air pollution permits, said the ruling confirms the state’s contention that the rule was legally and scientifically flawed and reiterates that the EPA must stay within the “boundaries that Congress has set” in the (U.S.) Clean Air Act.

However, Judge Judith Ann Wilson Rogers, in her 43-page dissent, asserted that her colleagues on the bench got it wrong on a number of points. For example, Rogers wrote, the Circuit Court itself “lacks jurisdiction to consider, without formal prompting, an objection to EPA’s statutory authority not raised by petitioners within the 60 day period required under the Clean Air Act.”

Court lifts funding injunction

In a unanimous ruling on Aug. 21, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted an injunction that had temporarily stopped the State of Texas from cutting off funding to Planned Parenthood Inc.

The injunction, granted by an Austin federal district court, put on hold a law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2011 that banned the state Women’s Health Program from funding health care providers that offer abortion services or providers that are affiliated with abortion providers.

Exactly when or if the transfer of funds to Planned Parenthood will stop was not addressed. Planned Parenthood operates 60 clinics in the state that serve the needs of thousands of low-income women by providing family planning services and health screenings, but not abortions.

Gov. Perry said that while the ruling affirms the Women’s Health Program has no obligation to fund organizations that promote abortion, the state would continue to provide “important health services for women.” The Women’s Health Program serves about 130,000 women.

DPS increases surveillance

The Texas Department of Public Safety announced plans to increase DWI patrols from Aug. 19 through Sept. 5, a period that includes the Labor Day holiday weekend.

Troopers will focus DWI patrols in high-risk locations at times when alcohol-related crashes are most frequent, the agency said.

During the Labor Day enforcement effort last year, the DPS reported, troopers made more than 2,000 DWI arrests, more than 25,000 speeding citations, 4,368 seat belt/child safety seat citations and 4,057 no-insurance tickets. In addition, troopers made 1,409 fugitive arrests, 958 felony arrests and 882 drug arrests during routine patrol operations.

Fatality counts to be posted

Texas Department of Transportation announced the year-to-date number of traffic deaths in Texas will be posted on more than 700 message signs one week every month, typically the third week of each month.

According to TxDOT, the idea is “to remind drivers that driving deserves their full attention every time they get behind the wheel.”

Display of the fatality data began on Aug. 20.

West Nile virus hits hard

With aerial spraying under way in Dallas County, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Aug. 21 reported that almost half of the 1,118 known cases of the mosquito-borne West Nile virus in the United States are in Texas.

Cities within Dallas County were allowed to opt in or opt out of aerial spraying.

Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds, then spread the virus to humans and other animals when they bite.

On Aug. 17, the state health department reported the number of deaths attributed to West Nile virus was more than 20.

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