Will the outcome of Clean Air Act case impact our region?

Texas officials and industry leaders are diligently awaiting the outcome of a legal decision pending before a federal appeals court — South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) v. EPA, No. 15-1115– that could push the State Implementation Plan (SIP) several steps back in its pursuit of compliance under the Clean Air Act. The state’s two largest metropolitan areas – Harris-Galveston-Brazoria (HGB) and Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)– have been deemed ozone nonattainment areas by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which means the areas are considered to have air quality that does not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone. However, both areas have made forward progress in recent years, improving ozone levels despite marked increases in population in both metroplexes.

In the past 18 months, the state gained traction in its quest to come into compliance by a mandated 2018 deadline with the EPA’s approval of “redesignation substitute demonstrations” for the HGB (Oct. 20, 2015) and DFW (May 25, 2016) regions. The redesignation substitute demonstration indicates that the area has attained the revoked 1997 8-hour ozone NAAQS due to permanent and enforceable emission reductions and that it will maintain that NAAQS for 10 years from the date of the EPA’s approval of this demonstration.

The SCAQMD, the air pollution control agency for California’s Orange County and the urban portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, is challenging the EPA’s redesignation substitute process. If the court rules against the petition, the HGB region continues its path to attainment by July 20, 2018. The HGB region is currently designated as moderate nonattainment for the 2008 standard. If the court votes in favor of the SCAQMD, then HGB area would default to severe nonattainment status, which carries serious consequences, including increased restrictions on industry expansion, permitting delays, additional regulatory oversight, and reduced federal transportation and transit funding.

The federal appeals court has not yet acted on the petition, nor the EPA’s request to allow the agency to work on the issues with involved parties rather than have them settled by the courts. That could be a win-win for the HGB region because, as is stated in the EPA’s response to the petition, the agency “…is not seeking to remand the Redesignation Substitute.”

The team at EDGE is closely watching developments in this case and we are standing by to answer your questions about the process, or to advise you of how your company could be affected under either scenario. We have the expertise and experience to help you successfully navigate the complex landscape of environmental regulations and offer several Clean Air Act services, such as: pollution prevention and control technology evaluations, emissions estimates and emissions inventory reporting, and federal (PSD/NAAQS) and state toxics dispersion modeling impact analyses.