Snow Day for Emissions? Rolling Blackouts Lead to Free Emissions Pass

This week Texas experienced rolling blackouts after extremely frigid temperatures blanketed the state, catching power generators off guard. While the details of the blackouts have not been disclosed fully, and there is discussion that some companies may have profited greatly from the event, at the very least, the outages angered some and created a hardship for others. There’s also another negative impact to consider: higher emissions from industrial facilities.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released a statement reminding citizens that power generating facilities have “authorized maximum emission limits” during these high demand periods. The agency states that it will “exercise enforcement discretion for exceedances of these limits.”

Enforcement discretion can be loosely interpreted to mean that power generating facilities get a “free pass” during these times. It also means facilities that go down during these blackouts are not likely to be held accountable for any emissions that occur as a result of the outages.

This post is in no way intended to minimize the need for increased power during below-freezing weather, and is not meant to suggest that facilities should be held liable for emission events that they can’t control, but it is one more reason for all of us to be conscious of our energy consumption, and one more thing to be aware of as we continue our efforts to improve air quality in Texas.

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    Dr. Craft’s expertise is on air toxics issues, focusing specifically on reducing criteria and greenhouse gas emissions from the energy and transportation sectors. She has worked to reduce emissions and toxics and has been an integral strategist in designing and initiating comprehensive clean air measures, as well as in developing standards to measure environmental performance.

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