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‘Tone deaf’: Texas comptroller speaks out against EPA’s efforts to regulate Permian Basin

‘Tone deaf’: Texas comptroller speaks out against EPA’s efforts to regulate Permian Basin

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is speaking out against a proposal from the Environmental Protection Agency to classify the Permian Basin as out of compliance with federal air quality standards — a suggestion he called “tone deaf” and “job killing.”

The Permian Basin, which spans parts of West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, produces 60% of the nation’s oil and almost a quarter of its natural gas. Hegar says regulating it could raise gas prices, undercut allies abroad and add to global supply chain issues; the EPA says not regulating it could have long-term, global consequences for climate change.

“EPA’s proposed reversal prioritizes Green New Deal politics over the jobs and the Texas economy,” Hegar wrote in a statement. “All Americans are suffering from historic inflation while the Russian invasion in Ukraine and supply chain bottlenecks have created a global energy crisis. … I remain committed to protecting Texans and our economy from job-killing government mandates.”

Using infrared cameras, the EPA conducted helicopter flyovers of the basin in recent months to survey oil and gas operations and identify large emitters of methane and other excess emissions of volatile organic compounds. The agency said while those compounds have potential short- and long-term health effects on their own, they also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, a harmful air pollutant, when they combine with nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight.

In the spring, the EPA announced that, based on “current monitoring data and other air quality factors,” the agency was “considering a discretionary redesignation” for portions of the basin. If the area is redesignated to nonattainment, the agency said Texas would be required to submit a plan to bring it into attainment matching the 2015 ozone National Ambient Air Quality Standards and the Clean Air Act.

“The Permian Basin … has produced large quantities of dangerous VOCs and methane over the years, contributing to climate change and poor air quality,” said Region 6 Administrator Earthea Nance. “The flyovers are vital to identifying which facilities are responsible for the bulk of these emissions and therefore where reductions are most urgently needed.”

In a letter sent to the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs requesting input and additional economic reviews of the EPA’s proposal, Hegar said the ruling would “impose burdensome permitting requirements on any facility that emits ozone, including oil and gas production facilities.”

“The EPA’s proposal would also require Texas to make multiyear plans to reduce ozone in the region, and its proposal would impose costly new requirements on businesses in the Permian Basin that would reduce oil and gas production, delay new construction projects and deter job creation,” he wrote.

Other state officials have written letters opposing the regulations, including senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, and Gov. Greg Abbott.

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