EnergyStatewide NewsBiden EPA Using Faulty Emissions Data to Justify Permian Basin Regulation, Gov. Abbott Alleges

With a prospective redesignation from the EPA on the horizon, the Texas governor is going on the offensive against the federal government.
August 25, 2022
The federal government’s attempt to redesignate the Permian Basin as a non-attainment zone is based on faulty data, Gov. Greg Abbott alleged in a letter to the White House this week.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of finalizing a new rule that would redesignate portions of the basin for alleged air quality nonattainment. If implemented, Permian producers would be subjected to heightened emissions and air quality regulations by the EPA.

But according to Abbott, the measurements the EPA is using to justify the new rule are faulty. The EPA pointed to measurements in Carlsbad, New Mexico and El Paso, which both had eight-hour ozone readings above 70 parts per billion (PPB) — the point at which air quality is deemed unsafe for humans by the agency.

The Texas side of the Permian Basin does not have any public ozone monitors. Abbott contended that the readings in El Paso and New Mexico are affected by emissions from Mexico, as attested by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

“I recently wrote to you calling for a halt to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ‘discretionary redesignation’ of the Permian Basin — a targeted move by your administration against the energy sector that would jeopardize 25 percent of our nation’s gasoline supply,” Abbott’s letter begins.

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“Based on your surrogate’s response, it is clear that your administration is bound and determined to move forward, regardless of the lasting adverse impacts of this policy on Americans who are struggling against inflation and high gas prices.”

Producers in the Permian Basin would face heightened compliance costs, which industry members fear will scare off potential energy investments.

“We believe there is no valid reason for EPA’s proposed ‘discretionary redesignation’ of the Permian Basin, which would hurt Texans and U.S. consumers in their access to reliable, affordable sources of energy,” Thure Cannon, president of the Texas Pipeline Association, told The Texan. “The EPA is using faulty data, including ignoring the fact that much of these ozone emissions actually come from Mexico to affect New Mexico monitors. As always, the midstream sector supports fact-based, reliable and scientific data to regulate the industry, rather than putting political aspirations ahead of science.”

According to a survey by the Dallas Federal Reserve, oil and gas producers see the federal government as antipathetic toward their industry. “Government animosity toward our industry makes us reluctant to pursue new projects,” one respondent said.

Another added, “The current administration [in Washington] declared war on fossil fuels before going into office, and they have continued that war to this day.”

Abbott further criticized the federal government’s condensed timeline for approving this new rule, which is expected to be decided at the beginning of next month.

He added, “Of course, the dearth of logic and data to support the administration’s position has little to do with process and procedure. It is grounded in your desire to eliminate oil and gas production in Texas. As you said during your campaign, ‘I guarantee you, we’re going to end fossil fuels.’”

“But under federal law, you cannot put politics before process and procedure… We will begin by challenging the accelerated timelines that your agency uses to rush through its policies.”

Abbott contends that the 240-day process from the time of notification of the rule is too short. “[T]his time is neither sufficient to conduct the necessary technical analyses nor even afforded in full, as demonstrated in recent matters with Texas in which the EPA arbitrarily shortened procedural timelines,” he said.

“Because your administration has very little of it remaining, you refuse to deliberate or halt this ‘discretionary’ action despite the adverse impacts on Americans. If those impacts are irrelevant to your administration, be honest and tell us. Don’t send your surrogate.”

Abbott has clashed frequently with the Biden administration on multiple issues, including energy, and the White House has returned the favor by increasing its scrutiny over the state’s most prolific industry.

The EPA conducted flyover emissions inspections in the Permian Basin the first half of August using helicopters and infrared cameras — which only take images of gases with little ability to determine what kinds are being emitted. The Biden EPA is continuing the trend set by the agency under former President Obama, placing a stronger regulatory eye over the nation’s fossil fuel industry.

Back in June, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to an Obama-era EPA regulation under the Clean Air Act which more strictly regulated emissions from power plants, ruling it exceeded legislatively-delegated authority.

The rule’s final format is expected to be dropped around September 1, at which point any legal action sought against it may be filed.

The EPA did not return a request for comment.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comment from the Texas Pipeline Association.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.