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EPA Can’t Disapprove Texas Air-Quality Rules, Court Says

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had “no legal basis” to disapprove a Texas plan for implementing federal air-quality standards, a court said.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans ordered the agency to reconsider the Texas regulations and “limit its review” to ensuring that they meet the “minimal” Clean Air Act requirements that govern state implementation plans.

“If Texas’s regulations satisfy those basic requirements, the EPA must approve them,” the court said in its 22-page March 26 ruling.

The EPA rejected Texas’s rules on minor new-source review permits in September 2010, contending they didn’t meet Clean Air Act requirements. The Texas attorney general, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and businesses sued the EPA, challenging the ruling.

The EPA failed to identify any provisions of the law that the Texas program violated, the appeals court said. The agency also missed a deadline to rule on the Texas permit plan, the court said.

“The EPA unlawfully disapproved a commonsense Texas air permitting program that fully complied with the federal Clean Air Act and reduced harmful emissions,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement today.

‘Limited Authority’

“The EPA disregarded the limited authority it was granted under federal law and incorrectly alleged that Texas would not act sensibly and in accordance with its own laws,” Abbott said. “This victory marks the second time in the last three months that Texas has successfully obtained relief from the courts after an unlawful overreach by the EPA.”

The decision could be relevant to a case brought by states including Texas against EPA regulations to cut interstate pollution from power plants, according to Christine Tezak, senior policy analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. in McLean, Virginia.

“The industry and states are likely to prevail in their appeal” against the cross-state rule, Tezak said in a report on the New Orleans court’s ruling today. The cross-state case is pending in the federal appeals court in Washington.

The Texas case is Luminant Generation Co. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 10-60891, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit (New Orleans).

To contact the reporter on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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