Texas Will Refuse To Implement Federal Permitting Rule On Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Texas coal mine locations. Image credit:Energy Report - Coal; Window On State Government, via TX Railroad Commission.

USEPA is proposing that, by this coming January, permit applications for especially energy intensive operations cover greenhouse gases. That would include facility modifications as well as new plants and periodic updates of permits. In response, "the chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, told the EPA in a letter last month that Texas would openly defy the regulations and refuse to ensure that companies comply."

The Texas Tribune reports that State officials in multiple agencies are laying down in front of USEPA's climate action bus. It's probably less a matter of political ideology - generally a front argument used by politicians to protect corporate interests - than not wanting to kill the goose that consistently lays the golden egg for Texas. They have a economic basis to support their argument; but the 'devil is in the details' as alwaysHere's the essence of Texas Alamo defense on behalf of 'the economy'.

The state's campaign against EPA climate initiatives began in February, when the attorney general fired off his first petition challenging the scientific basis for the EPA's climate-regulation proposals. Two months earlier, the agency had taken an essential step toward regulating greenhouse gas emissions by asserting the gases posed a danger to human health and welfare. Known as the "endangerment finding," the ruling triggered a clause in the Clean Air Act calling for regulation. Restrictions on greenhouse gases had been considered under the Bush administration but remained stalled until the Obama administration took the matter up. A critical 2007 Supreme Court ruling, much-resented by conservatives, found that the EPA had the authority to regulate the gases. The Texas petition in February asked the EPA to recant its endangerment finding, and a court filing signaled the state's intent to mount a legal challenge.

Texas' filings last week, to the D.C. Circuit court, read in part like a traditional lawsuit but also ran through whole gamut of political arguments against climate regulation.

Of course, the usual cast of characters are playing their roles in Washington DC.
In the D.C. Circuit court, Texas has consolidated its challenges with those of many other entities, among them the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Coal Association and the National Association of Manufacturers, which all are bringing similar complaints.

Key point. Texas is only moderately dependent on coal for electricity production (44% in 2007) but Texas is the number-one ranked state in the nation for total coal consumption! This #1 position for total coal consumption among states is partly on account of being populous and having a good economy; but, also because many Texas industrial boilers consume coal directly. I explained this in the post "We Were Wrong" - Coal Burning For Electricity Is A Poor Indicator Motive For Opposing Cap & Trade
Why this political approach is likely to work, overcoming or at least delaying EPA's GHG permitting proposal.
Partly as a response to EPA's various Clean Air Act regulations, we saw the Sage Brush Rebellion of the Reagan era, the Brush Cutting Rebellion of the Bush Era, and now seem to be entering a Rebellion led by State-level attorneys and bureaucrats. The common factor underlying all three "rebellions" is the empowerment of state political action. They leverage state's rights legal arguments, based on the need to bolster state and national economies. It worked before and likely will again.

The economics side of the argument can influence the US Congress because the petrochemical industry, a big part of the Texas economy, exports a great deal of valuable product, helping keep the US balance of trade in line. According to the trade group ACC:

U.S. chemistry exports totals are almost $174 billion--larger than either agriculture or aircraft/aerospace. More than ten cents out of every dollar of exports are chemistry-related.

Where is the hope?
Texas can develop wind power further but that won't deal with industrial boilers. More pollution controls will be needed at utilities and at industrial operations; and it's probably going to make sense to look at carbon sequestration or one sort or another for both.

Those requirements lead to the economic counter-argument of Texas, which is that such expenses would give market advantage to companies making petrochemicals in China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and so on.

A partial response to the economic impact challenge would be to levy a climate-action tariff against imports from nations that do not have similar controls. So limits to free trade, which means more government administration of business transactions, and gets us back to the Tea Party mindset. A conundrum isn't it?

More posts on Texas carbon-dependent economy.
EDF Drops Opposition To Proposed Texas Coal Plant
Fact: Texas Coal-Fired Power Plants Release More Mercury
Texas Coal Fired Utility Building 'Alamo of Coal'
"We Were Wrong" - Coal Burning For Electricity Is A Poor Indicator Motive For Opposing Cap & Trade
No Child Left Unpolluted In Texas: School Absence Rates Linked To ...

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