County judge ‘disappointed’ in EPA decision

By Bob Buckel | Published Wednesday, December 26, 2012

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Wise County Judge Bill McElhaney said last week that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to include the county in the DFW Metroplex “non-attainment” area for air quality standards is “disappointing.”

The county was one of 29 petitioners that requested the EPA last reconsider that decision. Tuesday, EPA Director Lisa Jackson advised all those who had submitted petitions that their requests had been denied.

“Although it is disappointing to hear from the EPA that denial for reconsideration was their answer, it is not totally surprising,” he said. “While they weakly agreed with a few of our assertions as to errors or poor sampling techniques made in several of their methods of study and modeling, their initial major contentions overall did not change.

“The EPA still insists that Wise County is polluting the entire DFW Metroplex, regardless of which way the winds blow.”

McElhaney said he believes regional EPA representatives were more open to Wise County’s arguments that objected to the lack of air quality monitors in the county and raised other issues.

“Ultimately, the final conclusions were made in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “However, the final process and decision is not over until it’s over, so hopefully we will fare better in the upcoming Circuit Appeal Court case.”

The inclusion of Wise County along with Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall and Tarrant counties in the non-attainment area means an array of rules and regulations already in place in those counties will likely be implemented in Wise County as well.

According to Jennah Durant of the press office for EPA Region 6, the timetable for implementation of measures such as stricter vehicle testing standards or idling restrictions is largely up to the state’s regulatory agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

“Under the Clean Air Act, the state’s clean-air plan for the DFW area will need to show the area as being in attainment by 2018,” she said. “The state has a great deal of discretion to decide what types of controls are included in the plan and how they’re applied in Wise County.”

Control measures could also include requiring low emission diesel fuel and reformulated gasoline as well as possible speed limit reductions, as well as vapor recovery systems for water heaters, small boilers and process heaters. Larger industrial polluters could be required to install special equipment.

Judge McElhaney conferred last Tuesday afternoon with county’s legal counsel in Washington and was advised that the county’s “Petition for Review” – which has been on hold before the D.C. Circuit Court since early November pending the EPA’s reconsideration – will now be lifted.

Wise County’s review appeal process in the Circuit Court should go forward in the near future, he added.

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