Today marks the second in a series of clean air court victories that are nothing less than triumphant for air quality and health in Texas. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in favor of Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), a clean air standard that will protect the health of Americans across 28 Eastern states, including Texas, from the harmful air pollution emitted by distant power plants that moves across state borders. For Texas, the nation’s number one emitter of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and the number two emitter of sulfur dioxide (SO2), these vital clean air protections will safeguard the health of our children and elderly and revoke the coal industry’s free license to pollute without limitation, shielding neighboring states from lethal particulate matter and smog-forming pollution. Not to mention, today’s decision (once again) proves that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s crusade to dismantle EPA’s common sense standards is fruitless, wastes taxpayer’s dollars, and jeopardizes the public health of all Texans.
Much like the life-saving Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), upheld earlier this month by the U.S. Court of Appeals, CSAPR will reduce sulfur dioxide levels from power plants in eastern power plants by 73% and nitrogen oxide levels by 54% from 2005 levels. The emissions reductions from CSAPR alone will save up to 1,704 lives in Texas and provide the state with $5.8 to $14 billion annually in health benefits starting in 2014. Despite these substantial health benefits, the State of Texas challenged the rule to prevent a handful of coal plants from switching to low-sulfur coal, increasing scrubber efficiency, or installing readily-available pollution-control technology.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who was infamously quoted as saying, “What I really do for fun is I go into the office, [and] I sue the Obama administration” has endlessly opposed the current administration’s efforts to clean our air under the dubious pretense that regulations will be too costly for the state’s coal industry. This is simply not true, yet these suits are costing Texans millions in order to protect the interests of dirty coal power producers. Abbott has sued the federal government 31 times since 2004, needlessly costing Texan taxpayer’s nearly $4 million. Not surprising, more than half of these lawsuits were filed against the EPA. With this recent series of clean air victories that will put in place common sense safeguards for human health and air quality, it’s time for Abbott to end the vendetta against environmental protections and stop wasting taxpayer’s dollars.
Texans deserve leaders that will fight for their health and the livelihood of future generations; we do not need ideological leaders who will serve office on behalf of industry. These two recent decisions come as resounding victories for Texans who care about life-saving actions to address out-of-control air pollution from the state’s largest sources. Texas has abundant natural gas, cheap wind power, and plentiful solar energy potential. These energy resources have ignited an energy boom in the state, along with a rise in manufacturing and jobs that are poised to benefit Texas for years to come. Rather than fight for the aging, polluting power plants of the past, Texas leaders should invest in world-class wind and solar energy resources to maintain the state’s leadership in the new American energy economy and protect Texas communities from the debilitating impacts of air pollution.