Pruitt’s EPA rejects challenge to Baytown refinery operating permit

Scott Pruitt’s EPA has rejected a challenge to the state operating permit for one part of Exxon Mobil Corp.’s Baytown refinery and petrochemical complex near Houston, according to a response formally published in the Federal Register on March 23, according to E&E News.

In 2016, the Environmental Integrity Project, along with Air Alliance Houston and the Sierra Club, filed an administrative petition questioning the state’s decision to apply classifications to a new ethylene production unit as a “minor modification” that wouldn’t require it to have additional pollution controls. The groups argued that state regulators were improperly relying on a different permit that set “plantwide applicability” emissions rules that were not in compliance with the Clean Air Act.

While the EPA is legally required to make a decision on Title V permit challenges such as this one within 60 days, it is known to often miss such deadlines. Pruitt signed this particular ruling more than a year and a half after the groups brought the petition forward. In July 2017, these groups filed five lawsuits to force action by the EPA on this petition and four others with the goal of getting the EPA to stop promoting lax permitting procedures in Texas.

Last week, a judge ordered the EPA to rule on these four petitions by July of this year. The petitions target another Title V permit for the Baytown complex, as well as aspects of the permits for the Welsh Power Plant, located in northeast Texas, Motiva Enterprises LLC’s Port Arthur refinery; and Petroleo Brasileiro SA’s Pasadena refinery.

AAH and our partners will continue to urge the EPA to enforce clean air regulations. By not taking action, it is failing to prioritize human health over industry profits.