Gov. Rick Perry's response to this week's Environmental Protection Agency clean-air enforcement actions in Texas might help him sell his book or even get re-elected, but they won't resolve the EPA's long-running objections to state policy or help Texans understand the issues involved.
Perry says the EPA's steps to take over issuing operating permits for refineries and other heavy industries in Texas are a "big government" move, part of the Obama administration's "concerted effort to transfer power away from the states to the federal government."
The EPA says Texas Commission on Environmental Quality guidelines, which have governed the permit process since 1994 but have been revised several times, do not now meet requirements of the federal Clean Air Act.
Perry plans to write a book about state sovereignty this summer, his publisher has announced, and it's one of the themes of his campaign against Democrat Bill White in the November general election.
But the governor is wrong to blame the EPA's action on President Barack Obama. Documents available on the TCEQ website show the EPA objected to the Texas permit process at least as long ago as 2006, under the administration of President George W. Bush. Those objections have been the subject of continuing meetings and often strongly worded correspondence between EPA and TCEQ officials ever since.
After years of those discussions, the EPA published formal objections in the Federal Register in September.
At issue from the beginning has been the state's "flexible permit" process. The Clean Air Act requires refineries and other potential major sources of air pollution to measure and control certain contaminants in each unit of an operating plant.
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