AUSTIN — The U.S Environmental Protection Agency on June 30 announced its final disapproval of the flexible permit program the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had submitted two weeks earlier for inclusion in its clean-air plan.
The EPA said Texas’ program, which has been in effect for 16 years, does not meet several national Clean Air Act requirements meant to protect public health and the environment. That is because it allows companies to avoid certain federal clean air requirements by lumping emissions from multiple units at a plant under a single “cap” rather than setting specific emission limits for individual pollution sources. Individual pollution sources can be defined as each separate smokestack.
The EPA said its decision will force some 125 refineries and petrochemical plants to invest millions of dollars to get new permits, but the decision did not come as a surprise to Texas or the industries. EPA regional director Al Armendariz for months warned that he would disapprove the permits if Texas did not comply with the Clean Air Act.
Gov. Rick Perry called the EPA’s action “irresponsible and heavy-handed” because it “not only undermines Texas’ successful clean air programs, but threatens thousands of Texas jobs, families, businesses and communities throughout our state. It will also likely curtail energy supplies and increase gasoline prices nationwide.”
Greens may certify candidates
The Texas Supreme Court on July 2 ruled the Green Party of Texas may certify candidates for the November general election ballot.
The Texas Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to stop the certification of Green Party candidates, alleging “secretly-funded petitions gathered for the Green Party by an out of state non-profit corporation constituted an illegal corporate contribution.” Official filings show the Green Party received $532,000 in corporate money. Conventional thinking is that Green Party candidates would draw votes away from Democratic candidates.
To learn more about the Democratic, Green, Libertarian and Republican parties of Texas this election cycle, visit their websites at these addresses:
For a wide range of election information, the Texas Secretary of State’s website, http://www.sos.state.tx.us, is a primary source.
For non-partisan information on candidates, visit Project Vote Smart at http://www.votesmart.org.
Second bomb threat in 2 weeks
A phoned-in bomb threat on the morning of July 2 necessitated the evacuation of the state Capitol. A similar threat, also made via a public pay phone to the 9-1-1 emergency number, was made on June 18.
The Texas Department of Public Safety is conducting an investigation of both threats. The DPS responded by conducting a search using troopers and trained dogs.
Operation Safe Shelter activated
With Hurricane Alex rolling in from the Gulf of Mexico, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on July 1 launched Operation Safe Shelter, a service to protect evacuees by identifying registered sex offenders who might also be seeking refuge.
When evacuation shelters contact the Operation Safe Shelter hotline at (866) 385-0333, law enforcement officials with the office of the attorney general will access and share information from the state’s registered sex offender database.
Shelter managers can use this information as necessary to coordinate specialized housing arrangements or take other action as appropriate, the attorney general’s office said.
Redistricting panel is picked
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on June 30 said redistricting is too important an issue for the Senate to wait until January when the Legislature convenes.
So, he announced appointments to the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting and Committee. Members will be able to travel the state before session begins and hear from Texans on how best to draw political lines for the next decade, Dewhurst said.
Appointees include Sens. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, chair, and Mario Gallegos, D-Galena Park, vice chair; six Republicans, John Carona of Dallas, Kevin Eltife of Tyler, Craig Estes of Wichita Falls, Joan Huffman and Dan Patrick of Houston, and Tommy Williams of The Woodlands; and three Democrats, Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa of McAllen, Royce West of Dallas and Judith Zaffirini of Laredo.