Texas’ Attorney General, Governor Could Learn from Fellow Republicans on Clean Power Plan

texas capitol with flagsIf you are a regular reader of our blog, you already know that the Clean Power Plan – the first-ever nationwide limits on carbon pollution from power plants – represents a giant victory for Texans’ air and health. Even better, the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) plan holds the promise of creating clean energy jobs while saving water. This should be music to Texas’ ears since we are rich with clean energy potential and have long suffered from drought.

Yet, recently our Attorney General, Ken Paxton, proudly ignored all of these factors and declared Texas is filing a lawsuit against the commonsense standards. Shortly after, Governor Greg Abbott said he fully supports Paxton. From the way they phrase it, you’d think the Feds were threatening their very right to breathe (which is ironic considering they are actually trying to protect it).

In contrast, we have Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican governor of New Jersey and former head of the EPA under George W. Bush. With such a conservative record, you may assume Whitman is in the same camp as Paxton and Gov. Abbott – but you’d be wrong.

Instead, Whitman undertook a rational evaluation of the plan and, as a result, is coming out in support. Let’s take a closer look at her reaction to the Clean Power Plan in relation to that of our Attorney General and Governor.

  • On jobs

Gov. Abbott: “…the federal government has yet again proven its readiness to sacrifice American jobs in the name of expanding bureaucratic authority and pushing its liberal agenda.”

Whitman: “The idea the EPA is a job killer is false.” She points to an example (as in, tangible evidence and hard facts) of how the economy soared and energy use climbed from 1985 to 2008, while emissions from six major regulated pollutants dropped a dramatic 60 percent.

  • On the legal authority of EPA to regulate carbon pollution

AG Paxton: “Once again, President Obama and his EPA have overstepped their legal authority.” He also calls it “an unlawful plan.”

Whitman: “EPA does have the authority […] The law says so and the Supreme Court has said so, twice.” Again, isn’t it nice to see a claim backed up with legitimate reasoning?

  • On the flexibility EPA is giving to states

AG Paxton: Says the plan will “radically restructure the way electricity is produced and consumed.” With exactly zero evidence on his side.

Gov. Abbott: Calls the plan “EPA’s latest power grab” and “burdensome federal regulations” which are “treading all over the State of Texas’ sovereignty.”

Whitman (who, may I remind you, actually ran the EPA): Calls it “the most flexible thing” the agency has ever done. She even says, “I believe they have gone as far as they can possibly go […] What EPA did was to allow as much flexibility as frankly I’ve ever seen them be able to create in a regulation.”

  • On potential solutions to the U.S.’s pollution problems

AG Paxton and Gov. Abbott: N/A

Whitman: Believes we need a “national energy plan” that is “clean, green, affordable and reliable.”

Thankfully, Whitman is far from the only Republican with her head on her shoulders. In fact, a poll from the National Surveys on Energy and Environment shows 56 percent of Republicans support the Clean Power Plan. And GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte just announced her support for the Clean Power Plan “to address climate change through clean energy solutions.” She didn’t have a gut reaction and denounce the plan. Instead she “carefully reviewed” the standards and decided they were worth throwing her weight behind.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have public officials who carefully read over policies and consider their options before spouting off hyperbolic fear-mongering?

If Paxton and Gov. Abbott were to actually review the current situation in Texas, crafting a strategy for the Clean Power Plan would be a no-brainer. Cities are increasingly embracing renewable energy of their own accord, Texas’ main grid operator acknowledges compliance is actually highly realistic, and Environmental Defense Fund’s own analysis shows current trends can carry Texas nearly 90 percent of the way toward Clean Power Plan goals. Dallas Morning News succinctly summed it up: “Texas should stop fighting and start complying with the new rules.”

While Paxton and Gov. Abbott are busy spending state resources on lawyers and lawsuits, we could be using Texas-sized energy solutions to protect our health and grow our economy through the Clean Power Plan. Perhaps they need a lesson in rationality from a fellow Republican.

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  • About the author

    Vice President, Clean Energy
    Jim Marston is the founding director of the Texas office of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), located in Austin, where he has served since its beginning in 1988. He is also a leader of the Pecan Street, Inc., a partnership that includes Austin Energy, the University of Texas, the Chamber of Commerce, and several large high/clean tech companies aimed at making fundamental changes in the nation's electricity grid.

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