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EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler Finishes Up Texas Swing

Acting Administrator Signs Final Action for Petroleum Refinery Sector Reforms and Announces New Clean Air Act Decisions for the Lone Star State

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DALLAS  — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler signed a final action to make technical improvements for 2015 petroleum refinery sector rules and announced recently signed rules reforming EPA’s New Source Review and State Implementation Plan processes. Administrator Wheeler also met with EPA Region 6 staff and leadership and held an all- hands meeting. This marks his 10th regional office visit and the conclusion of his initial tour of all EPA regional offices. Finally, Administrator Wheeler met with Texas state air and water officials to discuss the new announcements regarding Texas’s nonattainment designations and WOTUS

“Today, we announced several new actions that will provide the state of Texas greater flexibility in meeting air quality standards and help its energy producers and job creators invest in new technologies that will continue America’s record energy production while also improving air quality. Under President Trump, Texas field production of crude oil is at an all-time high, and today’s announcements will only further that progress,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “I also visited our Region 6 office and wrapped up my initial tour of all 10 EPA regional offices. It has been a productive and valuable experience meeting with EPA’s regional staffers who are our first line of contact with local communities and critical to ensuring strong partnerships with the states.”

Administrator Wheeler met with Region 6 senior leadership as well as union leadership. He also continued his tradition of hosting an all- hands staff meeting where he spoke and took questions from Region 6 staffers. 

“It was a pleasure hosting Acting Administrator Wheeler at the Region 6 offices here in Dallas,” said EPA Region 6 Administrator Anne Idsal. “Our staff are appreciative of the opportunity to meet and talk with the Administrator in person and highlight all the great work we have accomplished in our region.”

Administrator Wheeler then held a roundtable with Texas air and water officials including members of the Governor’s office, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and other stakeholders. 

“I appreciate Acting Administrator Wheeler coming to Texas to visit with state regulators about their upcoming initiatives,” said Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian. “Cooperative federalism is important and I am proud to work alongside President Trump’s EPA to ensure Texas continues to lead the nation in the responsible production of our natural resources.” 

Finally, Acting Administrator signed a final action to make technical improvements for 2015 petroleum refinery sector rules. These revisions remove uncertainty associated with the implementation of the December 2015 final rule amendments and simplify compliance, while not affecting emissions reductions projected from the 2015 rules.

This action will reduce annual compliance burdens for the sector by $12 million. The reforms include changes to work practice standards, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements. This action also updates the compliance date for standards for maintenance vents.

In addition, Acting Administrator Wheeler provided an update on several other Texas-related Clean Air Act actions:

  • In the coming weeks, EPA will propose an action to reverse the previous Administration's nonattainment designations for the 2010 sulfur dioxide NAAQS in the Texas counties of Freestone, Anderson, Rusk, Panola, and Titus. These designations, focused on emissions from several power plants which have recently shut down, ignored Texas’ preference for monitoring and instead relied upon modeling from the Sierra Club. The U.S. and Texas have experienced dramatic improvements in sulfur dioxide. Nationally, SO2 emissions have plummeted by more than 75 percent in the last decade.
  • EPA intends to proceed expeditiously to reconsider Texas’ inclusion in the 2015 Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction (SSM) State Implementation Plan (SIP) Call. On October 16, 2018, Region 6 Administrator Anne Idsal sent a letter to TCEQ granting reconsideration of the EPA’s 2015 SSM SIP Call as it applies to Texas. The SIP Call required states to remove “affirmative defenses” and other regulatory exemptions for air pollution increases from industrial facilities during periods of startup, shutdown and malfunction. EPA’s earlier approval of Texas’ provisions for “affirmative defenses” for these events has previously been upheld by the 5th Circuit, and these provisions are designed to ensure that operators address and prevent emissions during these events.
  • On November 7, EPA signed its final state implementation plan (SIP) Requirements Rule for implementing the 2015 National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. This rule will assist states like Texas in developing their implementation plans to meet the 2015 ozone standards, while providing flexibility and allowing state agencies to utilize tools for regulatory relief for international air pollution.