By Ramit Plushnick-Masti-Associated Press
HOUSTON | A long-standing tit-for-tat between Texas and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over how to regulate pollution has grown fierce in recent months, leaving industry frustrated and allowing some plants and refineries to spew more toxic waste into the air, streams and lakes than what is federally acceptable.
Both sides and conservation groups agree the battle has put the health of Texas residents and the environment at risk. But the back-and-forth over everything from who should issue permits to whether state agencies are properly cracking down on polluters shows no signs of slowing down.
The fight has gotten so ugly that the EPA took the unprecedented step this month of announcing it will directly issue greenhouse gas permits to Texas industries beginning in January after the state openly refused to comply with new federal regulations.
“Emissions are too high, the emissions are too toxic and Texas water is being harmed,” said EPA Regional Director Al Armendariz.
The EPA is “putting politics ahead of the environmental issues,” said Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Texas and the EPA have disagreed for years over pollution regulation, but the hostility intensified recently with Republican Gov. Rick Perry accusing the EPA and the Obama administration of overstepping boundaries and meddling in states’ rights. With a more conservative state Legislature about to convene next year, there’s appetite to keep up that fight.
The EPA, meanwhile, by flexing its muscles in Texas, may be able to send a message to other states that the days when the agency allowed contentious issues to languish unresolved have ended. Other states have had their differences with the EPA, and at least a dozen have come together in a lawsuit â€” along with Texas â€” challenging new greenhouse gas regulations.
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