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MOTRAN holds air quality luncheon amid EPA notice

Local businesses and lawmakers gathered to discuss what this notice means and how it could impact the local economy, specifically in oil and gas.

MIDLAND, Texas — The Midland-Odessa Transportation Alliance held a luncheon Wednesday on the air quality in the Permian Basin. This is in light of a recent Environmental Protection Agency notice.

Local businesses and lawmakers gathered to discuss what this notice means and how it could impact the local economy, specifically in oil and gas.

This EPA notice could make the Permian Basin a "non-attainment" area. Non-attainment areas are considered to have worse air quality than average.

If this goes through, the way we do business here, especially in the oil and gas industry, would have to change.

"The Permian Basin currently produces 43% of all crude oil in the United States, and 50% of it's natural gas," said Michael Lozano with the Permian Basin Petroleum Association.

However, oil and gas production might be more restricted.

"They're trying to say that the air quality in the Permian Basin doesn't meet a federal standard," said State Representative Brooks Landgraf. "Of course that's hard to believe since we don't have any air monitoring stations. But the idea is that there is a federal law called the Clean Air Act and they're saying, the EPA is saying, the Permian Basin is not in compliance."

Local leaders said they've done their own measurements, and the ozone numbers are within means.

"We have just recently done some monitoring all across the Permian Basin, and are showing that our ozone levels are much below the current threshold that's required by the EPA," said Kevin Sparks, Texas Senator elect.

If the Permian Basin is listed as a non attainment zone, it could mean more red tape for businesses and infrastructure.

"It can impact whether we're able to build roads, or whether we have to choose between drilling oil wells and building roads," said Sparks.

Now, local lawmakers and others are pushing back.

"I've been in very close talks with Governor Abbott and his office," said Landgraf. "Since the EPA's initial announcement came down, the governor is fully engaged on this. Also Congressman Pfluger is very active on the federal level, so we have all hands on deck in this situation."

Right now things are up in the air, but industry leaders want to continue to produce oil and gas while also keeping the area around it clean and safe

"It is our opinion, and it has been our opinion for more than half a century, that the Permian Basin is a vital part of our portfolio in this country and the world, and our members want to safely and responsibly use our natural resources and are committed to environmental action to do so," said Lozano.

Moving forward, there will likely be public comment on the issue. It is important to remember that this is just a notice, so nothing is official as of right now.

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