Texas Clean Air Matters

Enough Drama, Texas has a Roadmap to Cut Pollution and Grow its Economy

Source: Nicholas Henderson Flickr

Paramount Theater in Austin, TX. Source: Nicholas Henderson Flickr

They say everything is bigger in Texas and often that's true, especially when it comes to big hair and the bravado of politicians. This amounts to a lot of drama and theatrics. I mean, as someone who grew up in Dallas, I can tell you that the soap opera by the same name wasn't too far off the mark.

Being a mighty oil and gas (and wind!) state, this drama often translates into fights with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other environmental regulators over pollution reduction. Texas is the number one emitter of carbon emissions and second biggest water-polluter in the nation. Texas doesn't really have solid ground to stand on.

Yet as of 2012, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (current GOP and Koch-brothers backed candidate for Governor) has sued the federal government over environmental regulations sixteen times. And of the 25 total lawsuits pending against the federal government, Texas has only prevailed five times. Exemplified yet again in June when the Supreme Court ruled seven to two that yes, in fact, EPA is allowed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from most large industrial facilities, like power plants and factories, despite Texas’ arguments. Read More »

Posted in Clean Power Plan, Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy | Leave a comment

Supreme Court Confirms EPA’s Authority to Address Climate Pollution, Abbott Fails in Yet another Attack on Clean Air

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott falls flat in flawed legal challenge against EPA

iStock_Coal_Plant_2_jpgLast week, the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to address climate pollution under the Clean Air Act. The Court ruled 7-2 in favor of allowing EPA to require that large industrial sources of greenhouse gas pollution install the best available control technology when building or rebuilding plants that are also sources of other major air pollutants. This means that large cement plants, refineries, power plants, chemical facilities, and other industrial facilities must use modern emissions controls for climate pollution.

This is a big win for Texans who are hard hit by air pollution. Unfortunately, the state leads the nation in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and is home to several cities and communities with significant air quality challenges.

A 5-4 majority of the Court also held that EPA must narrow its permit program to avoid applying the program to many smaller sources that EPA itself had concluded would pose serious problems yet yield relatively small pollution mitigation benefits. But Justice Scalia recognized that EPA achieved an important victory for public health and clean air. While describing the outcome of the high Court’s decision from the bench, Justice Scalia stated that “EPA is getting almost everything it wanted in this case.” Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

This Smart Energy Experiment in Texas will Benefit You, Too

Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.

Workers install solar panels on a home in Austin's Mueller neighborhood, a project of Pecan Street Inc.

As I stroll through the Mueller neighborhood in Austin, TX, I see parks, fountains, two-door garage homes – absolutely nothing out of the ordinary – just your average suburban neighborhood. But I know better.

Under the surface of this community lives the most “connected” network of energy customers in the country. Mueller is the launching site for Pecan Street Inc.’s living smart-grid research project and, according to a recent issue of Time Magazine, America’s Smartest City.

The Time article features homeowners who generate and make money on their solar panels, while enjoying access to minute-by-minute energy use data. It shows their sense of stewardship and empowerment.

The story does a good job summarizing the mission of Pecan Street, of which Environmental Defense Fund is a founding member and environmental partner. But the author misses one important point when he writes: “The rest of America may never realize Mueller’s vision for the future.”

The truth is, we have cause for a lot more optimism than that. We believe that the Mueller model is scalable and EDF is working hard to make sure the rest of the country can also enjoy the benefits of a smarter, cleaner home. Read More »

Posted in Energy Efficiency, Pecan Street, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | Comments closed

Estimates do not Meet Reality, Time to Improve Texas Water Planning

By: Richard Lowerre, Attorney with Frederick, Perales, Allmon & Rockwell

Source: StateImpact Texas

Source: StateImpact Texas

Recently, the Texas Center for Policy Studies (TCPS) issued its report examining Texas’ current water planning process. Founded in 1982, TCPS has pursed its theme of "Research for Community Action" by developing policy recommendations for sustainable growth and development in Texas.

Water has been a major topic for this work, and the current drought highlights the need for an effective state water planning process. TCPS’s report, however, finds fault with many aspects of the current planning process.

Overall, the report concludes that the projected need for water in 2060, according to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), is more than twice the amount that should be needed. As a result, the 2012 State Water Plan, developed by TWDB, recommends spending many billions of dollars on new reservoirs and other water projects that can be avoided. Read More »

Posted in Coal, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, Natural gas, Oil | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Chairman Nelson Cannot Ignore Texas Wind’s Benefits and Condemn Its Cost

Wind technicians working atop a turbine in Sweetwater, Tex. Source: NY Times

Wind technicians working atop a turbine in Sweetwater, Tex.
Source: NY Times

Earlier this month, Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) chairwoman Donna Nelson called for the federal government to end its renewable energy tax credit for Texas wind and for the end of state policies that have resulted in Texas’ clean energy economy boon. The chairman’s appeal is so devoid of a factual basis it is hard to conclude that this is anything other than part of an orchestrated campaign by fossil fuel interests to stop the growth of renewable energy. Like the other attacks on clean energy, this is more politics than substance.

The federal and state policies that Chairman Nelson wants to eliminate have been great for Texas. Texas ranks first in the nation for wind-related jobs, employing over 8,000—and many of those jobs are keeping agriculture-heavy West Texas and Panhandle communities afloat amid the devastating multi-year drought. Plus, 60% of all wind projects under construction across the country in the first quarter of 2014 were in Texas. And studies (including one produced by the Texas PUC) have shown that electricity prices are lower when more wind energy is installed on the power grid.    Read More »

Posted in ERCOT, Green Jobs, Renewable Energy, Wind | Tagged , | 1 Response, comments now closed

Texas State Climatologist on Politics, Weather, and Setting the Facts Straight on Climate Change

Source: TAMU Times

Source: TAMU Times

John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist, is a tried and true Texan. As a professor in the Atmospheric Sciences Department at Texas A&M University, he observes Texas weather patterns, monitors the state’s multi-year drought and air pollution climatology, and makes improvements to the climate data record. I recently had the chance to pick his brain over weather, climate change, and the state of affairs in Texas.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Lone Star State, Texas is a state of extremes. We have a history of extreme weather patterns and extremes between our climate zones. We also have extreme views about Texas’ climate and whether it is changing. Unfortunately, polarized views can distort perceptions on important issues. Regardless of the scientific data that confirms our changing climate, the subject has become so politicized that it’s nearly impossible to discuss. However, there shouldn’t be a debate over whether to use all of the available data to ensure that Texas is appropriately planning for its viable economic, natural, and demographic future.

Here is what Dr. Nielsen-Gammon had to share: Read More »

Posted in Climate Change, Drought, Environment, Extreme Weather | Tagged , , | 2 Responses, comments now closed

America's Coal-Producing States Weigh their Options

A coal train rolls through a town in West Virginia, which produces more coal than any other state except for Wyoming.

A coal train rolls through a town in West Virginia, which produces more coal than any other state except for Wyoming.

Nobody was surprised to hear political foes of President Obama and leaders from several coal-dependent states blast EPA’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from America’s power plants.

The Clean Power Plan, released June 2, represents a big change in the way America will generate and use energy in the coming decades. We understand: Big changes are scary.

So it’s interesting to ponder which political leaders in states dependent on coal-fired power will, in the end, seize this historic opportunity.

Who will use the flexible policy tools offered in the Clean Power Plan to diversify their energy economies and unleash innovation to help their states grow? Who will show political courage? Read More »

Posted in Clean Air Act, Climate Change, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency | Comments closed

The Cheapest Way to Cut Climate Pollution? Energy Efficiency

This blog post was written by Lauren Navarro, Attorney and California Senior Manager, Clean Energy, and co-authored by Kate Zerrenner.

On June 2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made a historic announcement that will change how we make, move and use electricity for generations to come.

For the first time in history, the government proposed limits on the amount of carbon pollution American fossil-fueled power plants are allowed to spew into the atmosphere.

There are two clear winners to comply with the plan while maintaining commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response.

We’re already seeing pushback from some of our nation’s big polluter states, such as West Virginia and Texas. But the truth is that while the proposed limits on carbon are strong, they’re also flexible.

In fact, the EPA has laid out a whole menu of options in its Clean Power Plan – from power plant upgrades, to switching from coal to natural gas, and adopting more renewable energy resources. States can choose from these and other strategies as they develop their own plans to meet the new standards.

That said, there are two clear winners on the EPA’s menu that offer low-cost options for states that seek to comply with the plan while maintaining their commitment to electric reliability and affordability: energy efficiency and demand response. Read More »

Posted in Demand Response, Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid | 1 Response, comments now closed

Is Residential Solar on the Rise in Texas?

iStock_Solar_InstallerLast week, I wrote about the continued success of Texas’ wind energy industry, but the growth in solar is also impressive. Nationally, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all new electric generation in the first quarter of 2014. Plus, residential solar installations surpassed commercial projects for the first time in history earlier this year. This is significant, proving that more homeowners are making the switch and investing in a cleaner energy supply.

According to the Center for American Progress, “more than 60 percent of solar installations are occurring in zip codes with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000." This is an important revelation as the price of solar comes down quickly, projected to be cost-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020, more homes can and will add solar panels. In fact, experts expect more than half of all American homebuilders to offer rooftop solar as an option in new single-family homes by 2016. That’s a significant uptick from just 12 percent in 2013.

These findings make clear that people are taking their energy use into their own hands, highlighting the power of people in the new energy landscape, where customer-centric demand-side resources – rooftop solar, energy efficiency, demand response (which compensates electricity customers for conserving energy), electric vehicles, and energy storage- will play a key role. I discussed this trend in a radio interview with Voice of Russia a few weeks ago in a segment entitled Whole Home Automation: Promising for Consumers and Climate. Read More »

Posted in Pecan Street, Renewable Energy, Solar | Tagged | 1 Response, comments now closed

Diesel Engines in Need of an Overhaul, but not Without More Funding

By: Christina Wolfe, EDF's Ports & Transportation Analyst

Source: autos.ca

Source: autos.ca

Despite the well-known health risks from diesel emissions and the economic consequences of unhealthy air, clean air projects are often stalled because they lack money. Fortunately, funding options for transportation-related clean air initiatives are available at the national, regional, and state levels. One of the key national sources of funding has been the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), administered through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DERA provides up to $100 million each year through 2016 for reducing emissions from existing diesel engines, and recently, EPA announced that roughly $9 million is available for agencies seeking to undergo clean diesel projects.

DERA typically funds replacement, repower, and retrofit projects for diesel vehicles and equipment to improve air quality and public health by reducing hazardous air pollutants, like particulate matter and smog-forming pollutants, among others. Through the Request for Proposals, eligible applications are required to have a partnership with a local government or metropolitan planning organization, a public or private fleet of vehicles or equipment, and other interested entities (e.g., technology providers, community groups, etc.). Because of these unique partnerships, DERA has been able to make federal dollars go even further. The DERA partnership approach attracts public and private funding that, when combined with federal funds, allow for more emissions reductions. Both partners stand to gain a great deal in the way of enhancing business operations and improving local health and are eager to participate. In the end, for each federal dollar awarded, as much as $3 from non-federal sources is added to the project, and together these funds provide up to $7 – $18 in public health benefits. Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Drayage, Environmental Protection Agency, Particulate Matter, Transportation | Tagged | 2 Responses, comments now closed
  • Confluence of SJR, Old, and Middle rivers

    About This Blog

    Advocating for healthier air and cleaner energy in Texas through public education and policy influence.

  • Get blog posts by email

    Subscribe via RSS

  • From Twitter

  • Meet The Bloggers

    Ramon AlvarezRamon Alvarez
    Senior Scientist

    Elena Craft
    Health Scientist

    Jim Marston
    Vice President, US Climate and Energy Program, Director of the Texas regional office

    Marita Mirzatuny
    Project Manager

    Marcelo Norsworthy
    Transportation Research Analyst

    Kate Zerrenner
    Project Manager

  • Categories

  • Archives