Texas Rep. Barton praises state's air quality efforts

The Fort Worth Star-TelegramMarch 29, 2011 

FORT WORTH -- Texas' environmental regulators are "the best in the country," and "Texas air quality is excellent," U.S. Rep. Joe Barton said Friday during an event that highlighted the state's ongoing scrap with federal authorities over air quality.

Barton, an Arlington Republican, and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Tyler Republican, visited the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Fort Worth office to learn about its mobile air monitoring program and speak with local reporters about the Environmental Protection Agency.

Last year, the EPA rejected the state's unique flexible permitting program as too lenient. Texas regulators set a general limit on how much air pollution an entire facility can release rather than individual production limits. EPA officials have said that approach has led to some refineries emitting far more pollutants than should be allowed under federal rules.

"The federal government sets the standard, but then the states implement it," Barton said. "I think Texas has done an excellent job of not only implementing the standards but of proving they're in compliance."

For years, Texas air quality issues have been regulated via a complicated patchwork of rules from the commission and the EPA. Gohmert said the EPA shouldn't take over industrial air pollution oversight that the state is already handling properly.

"If a state does not want to take on the responsibility, then fine, they can give that over to the federal government," Gohmert said.

At a congressional hearing in Houston on Thursday about the regulatory standoff, Gina McCarthy, the EPA's air chief, said the Texas approach allows polluters to report estimates of emissions rather than provide hard evidence.

To read the complete article, visit www.star-telegram.com.

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