Air Regulation

Learn more about numerous air regulations that may affect the Texas economy.

Potential Impact of Federal Air Regulations

Coal-powered electricity generation is a significant portion of the state’s electricity generation. In 2010, more than one-third of the electricity produced in Texas was from coal.1

Texas coal-fired power plants will be disproportionately impacted by several federal regulations such as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants Rule.

The coal mines that supply these plants could be impacted by how power plants are required to comply with these federal rules.

Environmental Protection Agency Air Regulation: Issues of Interest for Texas

The Comptroller of Public Accounts is following numerous proposals regarding air quality that could have an impact on the state's economy.

Proposed and Final Rules of Interest

2013 Carbon Pollution Standard for Future Power Plants

On Sept. 20, 2013, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new standards for carbon dioxide emissions from new fossil-fuel-fired power plants.This proposal would establish different standards for natural gas-fired and coal-fired plants. In a separate action, EPA withdrew its 2012 proposed standards. Comment on the proposal for new power plants.

Carbon Pollution from Existing Power Plants

EPA held public listening sessions to solicit input about approaches to reducing carbon emissions from existing power plants. Meeting location and registration details are available on the EPA website. The agency expects to issue a proposal by June 2014, and will seek additional public input at that time. Comment on the proposal for existing power plants

EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR)

EPA's Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), adopted July 2011, addresses power plant sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions that EPA says travel across state lines. CSAPR requires a total of 28 states, including Texas, to reduce annual SO2 emissions, annual NOX emissions and/or ozone season NOX emissions and/or ozone season NOX emissions to assist in attaining the 1997 ozone and fine particle and 2006 fine particle National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).2

This rule interferes with the use of coal, especially lignite, in Texas power plants, and could have significant impacts on the Texas economy.

Texas was added to the CSAPR at the last minute and had not been included in the proposed version, despite the fact that Texas emissions do not significantly affect other states.3

Challenging CSAPR

On September 20, 2011, the Attorney General of Texas, along with other states and entities, filed a lawsuit against EPA regarding CSAPR and asked the court to "stay" or postpone implementation of the rule. In August 2012, a U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. struck down the CSAPR but the U.S. Supreme Court on April 29, 2014, upheld the EPA's authority to regulate cross-state air emissions and the CSAPR. See updates regarding all legal action.

Learn more »

Industrial/Commercial/Institutional Boiler and Process Heater Standards

On December 2, 2011, EPA proposed changes to the agency’s March 2011 rules regulating air emissions from existing and new boilers, process heaters and solid waste incinerators. On February 1, 2013, EPA published a final rule on these proposed changes. As part of this action, EPA amended certain compliance dates and made technical corrections in response to issues raised by petitioners and other stakeholders affected by the rule.

EPA estimates that nationwide this rule affects approximately 14,000 boilers at large sources of pollutants and 187,000 boilers at small sources of air pollution, including boilers at:

However, EPA says that the revised rules adopted on December 20, 2012 require 98% of the boilers located at small sources to perform maintenance and routine tune-ups only.10

Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants Rule

On October 13, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011. This bill stays the hazardous air pollutant standards for industrial boilers and requires EPA to develop a new rule package to be adopted no sooner than 15 months from the effective date of the Act.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) for Power Plants rule cuts U.S. power plants' emissions of mercury and other air pollutants.11 The rule was finalized in Dec. 16, 2011.

On March 28, 2013, EPA updated emission limits for new power plants under MATS.

Utilities would be forced to comply within four years, but the American Public Power Association says utilities need at least six years.12

On September 23, 2011, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Transparency in Regulatory Analysis of Impacts on the Nation (TRAIN Act). The TRAIN Act establishes an interagency committee charged with assessing the impact of EPA rules on U.S. economic competitiveness and also delays the implementation of MATS until six months after this analysis is complete.

Oil and Gas Regulation

On April 17, 2012, EPA issued final rules for the oil and gas industry which regulate volatile organic compounds, sulfur dioxide, and hazardous air pollutants from oil and natural gas production.

These are the first federal air standards for sources that have been previously regulated by the states.

The new rules regulate air emissions from “upstream oil and gas operations” such as well drilling and completion, including:

On the Map

Click here to see a map with areas of Texas that may be impacted most by federal review of new listings of species as endangered.

Sources: Compiled by Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts with data from the Railroad Commission of Texas, Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the Environmental Protection Agency.

National Ambient Air Quality Standards

The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for carbon monoxide, ground-level ozone, lead, nitrogen dioxide, particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, and to thoroughly review those NAAQS at five-year intervals. At the conclusion of that review EPA can determine that the existing standard is appropriate or can propose to change the standard. The following NAAQS are currently in the news:

Ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standard

Update: On June 6, 2013, the EPA proposed a rule to implement the 2008 ozone NAAQS. This proposed rule addresses a range of state implementation plan requirements for the 2008 ozone NAAQS.

At the conclusion of the most recent five-year review of the ozone standard in 2008, the EPA established a new standard at 75 parts per billion averaged over eight hours. However, EPA delayed implementation of that standard while they considered whether to further lower the ozone standard ahead of the five-year review schedule.

On September 2, 2011, at the direction of President Obama, the EPA decided not to propose a new ozone standard ahead of schedule. Instead, the agency will reconsider the standard in 2013 on its required five-year review schedule.13

Since the EPA did not adopt a new ozone standard in 2011, the agency resumed implementation of the 2008 standard. As part of this implementation, on April 30, 2012, the EPA designated two areas in Texas as “nonattainment” for the 2008 standard:

  • Dallas-Fort Worth, including the following counties:
    • Collin
    • Dallas
    • Denton
    • Ellis
    • Johnson
    • Kaufman
    • Parker
    • Rockwall
    • Tarrant
    • Wise
  • Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, including the following counties:
    • Brazoria
    • Chambers
    • Fort Bend
    • Galveston
    • Harris
    • Liberty
    • Montgomery
    • Waller

This may affect chemical plants and refineries, power plants and motor vehicles.

TCEQ says the studies EPA is relying on in considering this change are inadequate:

“ the epidemiology studies used… are not scientifically rigorous enough to be used as the basis for this important policy decision." 14 and it could result in additional Texas counties being declared non-attainment zones..”15

According to the National Journal, the head of Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations says the revised standard would cost the economy:

“$19 billion to $90 billion… by EPA’s own estimates.”16

Particulate Matter Air Quality Standard

EPA has established a NAAQS for “coarse” and one for “fine” particulate matter. “Coarse” particulate matter, known as PM10, consists of materials such as farm dust, smoke, and metals.

Even though EPA calls it “coarse,” PM10 consists of particles that are less than or equal to 10 microns in diameter or about 1/7th the average width of a human hair.

Fine particulate matter, PM2.5, is four times smaller than PM10 or about 1/28 the average width of a human hair. PM2.5 is so small that it primarily consists of condensed nitrates and sulfates. EPA regulates sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions to control PM2.5.

The last five-year review of the particulate matter standard was completed in 2006.17

The Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011 was heard by a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee on October 25, 2011.

In October 2011, Earthjustice, the American Lung Association, and National Parks Conservation Association sent a notice of intent to sue letter to the EPA, indicating the groups will sue if the agency doesn’t propose new particulate matter standards within 60 days.

The groups allege EPA failed to comply with the Clean Air Act requirement to review each National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) every five years.

Updates:
On June 14, 2012, EPA proposed to lower the annual fine particulate matter standard from 15 micrograms per cubic meter to within the range of 12 to 13 micrograms per cubic meter.

On Dec. 14, 2012, EPA finalized an update to its NAAQS standards for PM2.5, setting the annual standard at 12 micrograms per cubic meter. The agency also retained the existing standards for PM10.

Portland Cement Kiln Rules

In August 2010, EPA issued rules to regulate air emissions from new and existing Portland cement kilns. The Portland Cement Association says about 18 of the 97 cement plants in the United States will have to close if the existing EPA rules are allowed to stand.

On July 18, 2012, EPA proposed amending the Portland Cement Kiln Rules in respond to petitions for reconsideration filed by the Portland cement industry and to a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

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