Big Bend National Park Source: flikr/MarcusCalderon
The vistas at some of Texas’ natural treasures, like Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, aren’t the same as they used to be. Right now seven coal-fired power plants in Texas are emitting such large amounts of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other pollutants that they are obstructing visibility, causing what’s known as “regional haze.” That’s why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently held a public hearing in Austin to take comments on its plan to restore visibility in these parks, as well as the Wichita Falls National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, since Texas’ dirty power plant emissions also affect our neighbor to the north. EPA is focusing its attention on Texas, in particular, after the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposed an unreasonable plan to restore “natural visibility” in the parks by 2155 (140 years from now!). Frankly put, waiting until 2155 to restore natural visibility in our national parks is not an acceptable course of action from the TCEQ, as Texas is required to show “reasonable progress” toward a national goal of restoring visibility by 2064. Texas should step up as a leader to keep our state a great place to live by prioritizing public and environmental health, while building out our robust renewable energy sector and supporting clean technologies that don’t obstruct our health or views.
Fortunately, EPA proposes to ensure that Texas meets the regional haze requirements through an alternative plan that will provide improved visibility in these areas, as well as health benefits: Read More
Smog over Dallas Skyline Source: WikiCommons/Turn685
This Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will hold hearings across the country on the proposed updates to our national smog (ground-level ozone) standards from their current level of 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 65 to 70 ppb. Exacerbated by the combustion of fossil-fuel power plants and car exhaust, ground-level ozone is the single most widespread air pollutant in the United States and is linked to severe respiratory health outcomes. For an industrious and populous state like Texas, ozone poses a great threat to public health. In Texas, the hearing will take place from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. local time at Arlington City Hall.
Does the proposal go far enough?
While EDF supports EPA’s proposal to strengthen these critical health protections, we believe that going even further, to 60 ppb, would provide the strongest protections for Americans and would be in line with what leading medical associations like the American Lung Association recommend. Read More
Rep. Issac teaching fellow lawmakers about the TERP program and benefits.
Last week, I went to the Texas Capitol to show support for Representative Jason Isaac’s efforts to educate his fellow lawmakers on the importance of the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP). A diverse group of stakeholders, including Texas businesses, local governments, environmental groups, and others are calling on the Texas Legislature to 1) preserve an essential program that helps improve air quality in Texas, and 2) use the funds that have already been collected from Texas businesses and residents for their intended use – healthier air quality. Representative Isaac has jokingly referred to the unique coalition of industry, government, and environmental organizations as “dogs and cats living together,” but the solidarity is an important indication of both the success and importance of the TERP program to the health of Texans and our economy. But only if the State Legislation spends the funds already collected rather than keep the money in state coffers. Read More
As the Texas legislative session begins ramping up, I am reminded of smart policies from sessions past that holistically benefit Texas, had bipartisan support, and brought unlikely allies together. As we head into the session, it’s important to remember that no matter which side of the aisle you are on, clean energy solutions make sense for Texas – economically and environmentally.
This week, Environmental Defense Fund and R Street Institute, with support from Google, hosted a breakfast roundtable at the Texas Capitol to highlight one of those bills. The panel highlighted the potential for Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) and other commonsense, market-driven financing policies to be game-changers for accelerating the deployment and adoption of clean energy resources and water conservation practices across the state of Texas.
PACE, an innovative financing tool that allows people to repay loans for clean energy projects (like rooftop solar and energy efficiency upgrades) through their property tax bill, has the potential to unlock a considerable amount of private funding for clean energy projects in the state. This agreement simultaneously offers building owners cheaper financing options, and lenders secure repayment terms. With benefits for all, it’s no wonder the PACE bill passed last legislative session with support from both sides of the aisle, environmental groups, and industry alike. Read More
Source: By NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory
At a recent event hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the group’s director, Kathleen Harnett White, declared that carbon dioxide, the pollutant most responsible for warming Earth’s climate, is the “gas of life” and that we don’t need limits on carbon emissions. Yes, some amount of carbon is needed for the climate, just like some amount of arsenic is needed by the human body. But at higher levels, arsenic is deadly poisonous. The fast-growing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is like too much arsenic in the body – deadly. White apparently has forgotten elementary aspects of high school science.
Here is what the real scientists say about the impact of carbon dioxide on our climate: Read More
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages 90 percent of Texas’ electric grid, has been busy. In the last two months of 2014, the agency released two very lengthy reports examining the future of a lower-polluting power grid in light of upcoming EPA clean air protections, in particular the Clean Power Plan. As the media described it, the reports did not provide the rosiest of outlooks for costs to Texans or electric reliability. But I think they are looking at the reports the wrong way.
The electric grid is changing. Innovative technologies – many of which are created right here in Texas – are lowering electricity bills and increasing energy independence. They are disrupting the way we produce and use electricity and they are changing the way ERCOT looks at grid reliability – albeit not in these two reports.
Cleantech entrepreneurs are at the helm of deciding Texas’ (and, let’s face it, America’s) energy future. And there are quite a few market opportunities outlined in the reports, if you look closely. Here are a few hidden in the report, plus other trends to keep an eye on: Read More