AUSTIN — Texas is challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision on July 15 to disapprove the state’s flexible permits program.

Attorney General Greg Abbott on July 26 filed the state’s petition for reconsideration with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

Texas’ flexible permits program was created in 1994 “to incentivize grandfathered operations to voluntarily enter into the State’s air permitting and environmental regulation program,” according to the attorney general’s office.

The Clean Air Act required the EPA to act on Texas’ flexible permit program rules within one year, which would have been in 1995, Abbott said.

Facilities exempted because of their “grandfathered” status agreed to submit to state regulation because the program offered them operational flexibility.

In exchange for emissions regulations, participants were authorized to allocate emissions on a facilitywide basis rather than at each release point. Grandfathered facilities were operating before the state’s permitting program began in 1971.

Abbott said Section 101 of the Clean Air Act provides that air pollution prevention “is the primary responsibility of the States and local governments.” And, Section 110 of the Act provides a similar admonishment to respect the states’ authority, stipulating that “each State shall have the primary responsibility for assuring air quality within the entire geographic area comprising such State.”

On July 29, Gov. Rick Perry said the EPA’s action would lead to further mandates and regulations on Texas businesses and place Texas jobs at risk.

Officials sign letter to delegation

Congress’ contemplation of new laws to tighten oversight of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico —in light of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill — prompted a letter urging the Texas congressional delegation to fight against attempts at more federal regulation.

Dated July 29, the letter was signed by 10 high-ranking state officials, including Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, Attorney General Abbott and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson.

Also signing were Railroad Commissioners Victor Carrillo, Elizabeth Ames Jones and Michael Williams, state Sen. Troy Fraser, chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, and state Rep. Jim Keffer, chairman of the House Committee on Energy Resources.

State employees to pitch in more

Texas Facilities Commission, the agency charged with the upkeep of state buildings, wants state employees to help cut janitorial costs by dealing personally with their own wastepaper and other discards.

What is prompting this: the projected state budget deficit of $18 billion.

The commission is asking state employees to put their own trash in small cans, dump it themselves, and to recycle recyclables.

Janitors will work during daytime hours instead of at night to save on air conditioning and lighting costs.

State Bar to help military veterans

Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans is a new State Bar of Texas program to develop and assist pro bono legal clinics for military veterans who otherwise cannot afford or do not have access to legal services they need.

State Bar of Texas President Terry Tottenham, a former U.S. Marine, on July 20 said, “Our military servicemen and women have made great sacrifices in duty to their country. As lawyers, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of a great many veterans — and in the families of those who did not return.”

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District, campus ratings released

The Texas Education Agency on July 30 announced 239 school districts and 2,624 schools received Texas’ highest accountability rating of Exemplary.

The second-highest rating of Recognized was received by 597 districts and 3,153 schools.

Forty-five districts and 125 schools received the lowest rating, Academically Unacceptable.

Annual tax holiday coming up

State Comptroller Susan Combs on July 28 said that during the state sales tax holiday, which runs Aug. 20-22, retail shoppers will pay no state or local sales tax on many school supplies, school backpacks and most children’s and adults’ clothing and shoes priced at less than $100.

Combs predicted shoppers will save $59.3 million in state and local sales taxes during the upcoming holiday.

The first annual state sales tax holiday was in 1999.