Category Archives: TPPF

Why The Latest Report From The Texas Public Policy Foundation Has No Foundation

Recently, the Texas Public Policy Foundation released a report titled: EPA’s Approaching Regulatory Avalanche:  “A Regulatory Spree Unprecedented in U.S. History”

(Source: www.parkercountyblog.com

Not only is the title of the report inflammatory and divisive, but the recommendations of the report suggest that Congress should gut the core foundations of primary clean air and clean water protections. Why?  According to Ms. White, “…the new rules have marginal, if indeed measurable at all, health benefits. Nor are they supported by credible science.”  Interestingly, Ms. White issues such statements in a report that fails to reference one single peer-reviewed piece of scientific evidence to support her claims that EPA rules do not have any health benefits.

It’s not surprising that Ms. White calls for an attack on protections legislated through the Clean Air Act (CAA). Texas facilities have proven to be some of the worst emitters in the entire country. While she was a commissioner at the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, Ms. White consistently tried to override clean air and water protections by rubberstamping permits for facilities across the state and failing to provide proper enforcement for high profile violators such as ASARCO and Flint Hills Refinery.

While we could spend weeks picking apart Ms White’s misleading statements that riddle the report, we thought a more constructive way to respond to the misinformation provided is to highlight a few specific examples of the egregious claims and then tell the truth:

TPPF Claim #1:

EPA is picking on poor little ol’ Texas by placing an effective Federal Implementation Plan on Texas.

The truth is that Texas is an outlier among all the states.  Texas alone decided not to modify its permitting program to comply with the law.   

On, December 1, 2010, EPA released the State Implementation Plan (SIP) Call Rule for greenhouse gas emissions that flowed from the Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA. In the SIP call, EPA found that Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permitting regulations in 13 states did not meet CAA requirements because their programs did not cover greenhouse gas emissions as regulated by the Supreme Court. EPA asked those states to change their laws and submit those changes as a part of a revised SIP for review and approval, and gave the states one year to change their laws.  Twelve states cooperated; Texas alone refused to cooperate with EPA’s efforts to apply greenhouse gas requirements in the PSD program.

In order to allow industry in Texas to be able to obtain legal permits, EPA was forced to issue a Federal Implementation Plan (FIP) and to take on the responsibility of issuing the PSD permits for stationary power plants, large factories and other industrial facilities.

EPA had no other choice – since Texas, and Texas alone, refused to take responsibility for granting these permits.

TPPF Claim #2:

Protecting clean air and water through the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) will lead to Armageddon with rolling blackouts and job losses.

  • Independent analyses confirm that industry can comply with MATS while maintaining the reliability of the electric system.
  • EPA’s analysis found adequate reserve margins for generation will be maintained and regional grid reliability will not be compromised.
  • EPA’s analysis has been confirmed by independent assessments of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the Department of Energy, and the Congressional Research Service.
  • An Associated Press survey found that power companies expect to retire about 8 percent of generation to comply with the air toxics and CSAPR. The average age of the affected coal plants is 51 years and their profitability has been devastated in recent years by the low price of natural gas.
  • The adaptable compliance framework put forward by EPA provides a conservative, protective backstop to ensure that any local reliability concerns or specific compliance challenges can be addressed.

TPPF Claim #3:

Protecting clean air and water will cost too much. Plus, Texas has already solved our air quality problems.

We beg to differ. Bizarrely, Ms. White discredits one of her main arguments in the report, which is that these rules cost too much. The report states that “since 1970, aggregate emissions of the six criteria pollutants regulated under the CAA have decreased 53 percent. This environmental achievement occurred while the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased over 200 percent.”

If clean air and water are such devastating job killers, how does Ms. White reconcile the fact that Texas has been one of the fastest growing, most profitable states in the nation while air quality has improved?  Interestingly, Ms. White makes no mention of the fact that last year’s drought, almost certainly related to climate change, cost the state billions of dollars in loss.

It appears that Ms. White is blowing a bunch of smoke to try to confuse and scare Texans.

Also posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ | Comments closed

Austin Energy's Electric Rates Are Lower Than The Texas Public Policy Foundation Would Have You Believe

(Source: www.inhabitat.com)

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF Energy Exchange Blog by Colin Meehan.

Austin Energy’s Rates: 13% Below the Average Rate in ERCOT’s Competitive Markets – After Accounting for the Proposed 12.5% Rate Increase

Austin Energy has been in the news a lot lately, and most often for some controversy around the ongoing rate review process.  What often gets lost in these heated discussions is that fact that Austin's heritage of clean energy and innovative approaches to economic development are firmly rooted in our city's electric utility, and that the utility allows city leaders to keep taxes low.  At the same time, Austin Energy's leadership often puts it in the crosshairs of groups that are ideologically opposed to clean energy and city owned utilities, and whether supported by facts or not, the opportunity to criticize Austin Energy has proven too difficult to resist.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) is often one of the ringleaders in the crusade against clean energy as well as city owned utilities, and they're not going to let facts get in the way of scoring an ideological point.  In knocking Austin Energy and promoting their agenda, TPPF cherry picks data and uses coded language like the idea that customers "can choose" rates lower than Austin Energy's if they are in the competitive regions of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).  The truth is, for a customer in the competitive areas of ERCOT to maintain lower rates than Austin Energy they would have to change electric providers each month, and they’d have to be pretty lucky on top of it.

The problem is that the rates TPPF reference when they say customers can choose lower rates are usually introductory, variable or otherwise subject to increases not included in the rates that customers do choose.  What this means is that customers actually pay more than TPPF's selective math would suggest, but TPPF seems more concerned with scoring political points than what customers actually pay for their electricity.

Look at the data from a more logical point of view and you will see that competitive regions in ERCOT average higher residential rates than ERCOT's average rates.  In fact, ERCOT rates are kept low largely by municipal and co-operative utilities like Austin Energy, the customer owned utility model that TPPF criticizes in their latest missive.  The most recent data available for a real analysis of the rates Texans pay was released by the Energy Information Administration just a few months ago, including data through 2010.  As the chart below shows, Austin Energy's rates are well below the ERCOT average, and even farther below the average competitive market rate, despite TPPF's claims to the contrary.  

Even if you account for Austin's proposed 12.5% rate increase, the new rates are 13% below competitive rates in ERCOT. This calculation doesn’t even include the impact of increasing wholesale power rates in ERCOT, which increased about 50% between 2010 and 2011 in the South Zone (Austin Energy's location in the competitive market).  While it's too early to tell how the wholesale power price increase has impacted competitive retail rates, it's clear that Austin Energy's rates – even after the rate review is completed – will be below the competitive average.

As we talk about rates in our community and across Texas, it’s important to remain focused on factual analysis and avoid misleading assumptions driven more by ideology than a desire for real debate. Unfortunately, arguments like those put forward by TPPF don't contribute to an honest discourse; they mislead the public, distort reality, and threaten Austinite's low tax lifestyle.

Also posted in Utilities | 1 Response, comments now closed
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