Friday, July 8, 2011

The Continuing Conflict Between the EPA and Texas

This week has brought yet another round of conflict between the EPA and Texas.  On July 6, the EPA finalized its Cross State Air Pollution Rule, which according to the EPA, "requires 27 states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states."  Despite lobbying to exclude Texas from this rule, the EPA included Texas in cuts that the Dallas Morning News has characterized as "particularly steep":

By 2012, the state’s utilities must reduce annual sulfur dioxide emissions to 244,000 tons, a 47 percent cut from 2010 levels. Its nitrogen oxide levels must fall about 8 percent.

At issue is how utilities will comply with the emissions cap in the short term.

Utilities representatives claim that the cap was applied too hastily and does not give them enough time to comply, while the EPA and environmental groups claim that there are plenty of cost-effective alternatives.  These rules, combined with others, put pressure on utilities to retire some of their coal fired power plants.  Stay tuned for how this conflict evolves as it raises important questions about the technical and political feasibility of transitioning from dirty coal and about the dynamics between the EPA and states pushing against regulation.

Hari Osofsky

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