Public Participation in Permitting Process
Reference: Rule Project Number 2010-004-039-LS
HURRY: Comment period closes February 16, 2010.
The following comment was submitted to TCEQ by Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project on behalf of all Texans.
TO: Patricia Duron
Office of Legal Services
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
P. O. Box 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087
Re: Rule Project No: 2010-004-039-LS
Docket No.: 2009-1777-RUL
More than one year ago (November 26, 2008), Region 6 of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed to simultaneously approve and disapprove revisions to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) SIP. The EPA disapproval of the revisions centered on inadequate public participation requirements for new and modified air sources. On September 23, 2009, EPA proposed disapproval of portions of the rules regarding TCEQ plant-wide applicability limit permit program and flexibility permit program. The proposed disapproval concerned notice requirements and public participation.
The proposed rule receiving public comments at this time was prepared to address the discrepancies in the rules identified by the EPA to avoid sanctions by EPA against TCEQ.
Lack of Stakeholder Meetings
TCEQ indicated the agency did not hold stakeholder meetings as the proposed rules were developed to respond to EPA’s identified discrepancies concerning public participation in the air permitting process. This lack of stakeholder involvement points out the lack of public participation and involvement in the regulatory process in Texas.
The Proposal Excludes Certain Permit Renewal Applications
The proposed changes to the public participation process contains provisions that would expand “the scope of applications that are subject to Notice of Application and Preliminary Decision (NAPD) to all air quality permit applications, except certain permit renewal applications.” The increased public participation process is excluded from permit renewal applications that consist of construction of a new facility or modification of existing facility that results in an increase in allowable emissions of less than 250 tons per year of carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxides or 25 tons per year of volatile organic compounds or sulfur dioxide or particulate matter. The exclusion of such permit modifications is not acceptable. The proposed rule was designed to expand the requirement for notice to new minor sources, but does not expand the notice requirements to minor modifications of existing sources.
The proposed rules will result in the pubic receiving additional notices of air permitting processes and allow the public to expand their ability to participate in the permitting process. These changes are welcomed by Earthworks’ Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project. However, the lack of stakeholder meetings and exclusion of certain permit renewal processes from the increased public notice and public participation process are unacceptable.
Even though this is a process to receive public comments on proposed rule changes dealing with public participation, Earthworks’ Texas Oil and Gas Accountability Project wants to encourage TCEQ and the EPA to increase the enforcement of the existing regulations as well as the proposed regulations. The lack of adequate enforcement of existing laws and regulations are having detrimental impacts on the quality of life and health of the public.