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Groups Sue EPA to Enforce Texas Regional Haze Plan

The Texas Regional Haze Plan is designed to protect the air quality in Guadalupe Mountains National Park and other areas of Texas from coal-fired power plant emissions. (Button/GettyImages)
The Texas Regional Haze Plan is designed to protect the air quality in Guadalupe Mountains National Park and other areas of Texas from coal-fired power plant emissions. (Button/GettyImages)
December 20, 2017

EL PASO, Texas – A coalition of conservation groups is taking the Environmental Protection Agency to court over changes to the Texas Regional Haze Plan.

The suit maintains that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt violated the agency's own regulations by replacing the plan with a new agreement that allows coal-fired power plants in Texas to emit higher levels of pollutants.

Michael Soules, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, says Pruitt's cap-and-trade program would allow the plants to continue to produce pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, known as SO2, at a high rate.

"We found out that under Mr. Pruitt, EPA did a complete about face and issued a plan that, instead of leading to credible reductions in SO2, would actually permit them to increase SO2 above the levels that they emitted in 2016,"

Soules says Earthjustice sued the EPA on behalf of the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and National Parks Conservation Association, challenging the revised plan.

He says the battle over pollution from more than a dozen coal-fired plants in Texas has been going on since the state missed a 2007 federal deadline for implementing a haze reduction plan.

EPA officials did not comment on the lawsuit.

After a decade-long battle, the EPA issued a final plan requiring Texas coal-fired power plants to install pollution control equipment, called scrubbers, to reduce emissions that affect national parks and other areas across the region.

But Soules says in October, the Trump administration made major changes to the plan without allowing the required period of public comment.

"The benefits of cleaning up literally the oldest and dirtiest coal plants in the country – it's not limited just to people that go and visit national parks like Big Bend or Guadalupe,” he states. “This is something that is impacting people in communities all across Texas and in other states that are downwind."

Soules says pollution from the plants particularly affects people suffering from asthma and other health problems and can cause premature death.

The suit aims to force the EPA to abide by the January 2017 version of the plan and to hold a public comment period before finalizing any rule.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - TX