Inhofe: States, Employers Concerned About Actions of EPA Regional Office
July 15, 2010

Contacts:

Matt Dempsey Matt_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-9797

David Lungren David_Lungren@epw.senate.gov (202) 224-5642

Inhofe: States, Employers Concerned About Actions of EPA Regional Office

Sends Letter to EPA Administrator Requesting Information on Region 6

Link to Letter

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, today sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson regarding recent actions by EPA Region 6 Administrator Dr. Al Armendariz. The actions of Dr. Armendariz, detailed in the letter, threaten jobs, local economies, and could undermine the longstanding partnership between EPA and state and local agencies-a partnership that has effectively implemented and enforced environmental regulations for several decades.

"A number of concerns have been brought to my attention by state and local officials, as well as regulated businesses and their employees, about recent actions taken by EPA Region 6," Senator Inhofe said. "These actions could threaten jobs and local economies in the states over which Region 6 wields authority.  Environmental protection is an important priority, but it shouldn't exist in a vacuum, absent considerations about jobs and economic growth.

"In addition, environmental management and enforcement have long been shared by states and the federal government.  Yet Region 6 appears to be overriding the federal-state partnership that has worked successfully for over forty years.  The most effective means of protecting the environment can only come through this partnership, and it must be based on trust and mutual respect.

"Through my leadership position on the EPW Committee, I am sending a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to get more information. Administrator Jackson and I have a strong working relationship, so I am hopeful we can address these concerns and restore the federal-state partnership in Region 6."

 

Full Text of Letter

July 14, 2010

The Honorable Lisa Jackson

Administrator

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Ariel Rios Building

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460

           Re:  Recent Clean Air Act Activities by Region 6

Dear Administrator Jackson:

I have been made aware of a number of actions initiated by the Region 6 Administrator, Dr. Al Armendariz, which have alarmed state and local officials and regulated entities.  These actions, discussed below, seem to contradict the relationship between the EPA and state and local agencies developed over forty years pursuant to the Clean Air Act.  Further, I am concerned about the costs and impacts of various actions on regulated businesses and their employees.  I have not been made aware of any information that these actions would further in any meaningful way the primary goal of the Clean Air Act, improving air quality.  I request that you indicate whether you support these actions and if they are part of any national initiative or policy.

On May 10, 2010, Dr. Armendariz convened a meeting at EPA Region VI Dallas Headquarters.  Participating in the meeting were state environmental and natural resource regulatory authorities, representatives of the oil and gas industries, and representatives from industry trade associations.  I will not detail the many statements or conclusions offered by EPA Region VI staff and Dr. Amendariz with which the invited participants disagree or question, but instead, I will focus on the request by Dr. Armendariz for a region-wide speciated inventory of VOC and NOx air pollutants for the purported purpose of preparing for the impending ozone NAAQS.

  • 1. In asking for a speciated inventory, which will be costly, is EPA contemplating providing credit for the reactivity of various pollutants in the formation of ozone? Otherwise what is the purpose?
  • 2. The request was made on a region-wide basis but only included the States of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Why was New Mexico excluded?
  • 3. The inventory was requested on a county-by-county basis to be gathered by the relevant trade associations from their oil and gas industry exploration and production members as a voluntary undertaking ignoring traditional state involvement.  Should the industry decline to participate, Dr. Armendariz threatened to issue Clean Air Act Section 114 requests.  Such threats do not make the request a voluntary effort.  Further, since the revised Ozone NAAQS has not been made final and work on the 2008 Ozone NAAQS has essentially been halted by EPA, non-attainment areas for the new NAAQS have not been designated and the EPA Rule on how to implement the New NAAQS, the Implementation Rule, has not been made final, it would seem unreasonable to issue a 114 request for the requested information.  Do you believe that a 114 request is reasonable at this time?
  • 4. Since more than 9 companies will be required to supply information, I request that you supply to me the Paperwork Reduction Act documents indicating clearance by OMB for this request.
  • 5. What is the basis for only requesting information from the oil and gas production and exploration industry?
  • 6. The focus of the information appears to be on areas with shale production and exploration? Is there a national effort to examine air emissions from shale gas operations?
  • 7. Dr. Armendariz requested well site equipment counts and a company level forecast of production and drilling schedules for the next ten years. I would like to know the purpose of this request with regard to an as yet final ozone NAAQS.
  • 8. Producing this information will be redundant and an unnecessary cost as the sources will be required to submit formal information as part of the SIP development process conducted by the States once a new ozone NAAQS has been promulgated. Do you agree with this assessment?
  • 9. I would like an explanation as to the purpose of excluding the state and local regulatory authorities. In addition, I seek your commitment to follow the requirements of the Clean Air Act's federal-state partnership in addressing air quality issues - a partnership which has been successfully implemented and developed over 40 years.

In addition to these issues, I am aware that Dr. Armendariz has threatened to federalize the Texas air permitting program on the grounds that the Texas air program is deficient.   Please provide any documents describing the nature of these threats and EPA discussions with Texas authorities on the nature of the deficiencies and consequences of the failure to correct such deficiencies.

It has also been reported that Region VI is in the process of hiring at least 8 engineers or other staff specialties to operate the Texas program.  What is the source of funds for this hiring?  Do the positions reduce staff levels in other EPA or Region VI programs?

Finally, Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company (OG&E) recently made a proposal for an alternative visibility SIP.  The proposal would avoid the costly installation of Sulfur dioxide control equipment (scrubbers) by replacing coal with natural gas.  Dr. Armendariz has been quoted (informally) as stating that he would deny the OG&E SIP proposal.  The substitution of gas for coal is a cost-effective alternative to installing expensive scrubber technology.  I would like to know the current status of the proposal and to be kept informed of any pending or final action by EPA or Region VI on the OG&E proposal.

Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact Ryan Jackson at 202-224-0152 or George Sugiyama at 202-224-0146.

 

Sincerely,

JAMES M. INHOFE

Ranking Member

 

Cc:       Dr. Al Armendariz

Regional Administrator

Environmental Protection Agency

Fountain Place 12th Floor, Suite 1200

1445 Ross Avenue

Dallas, TX 75202-2733

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