Why Doesn’t Texas Want Clean Air?

Source: EPA

Source: EPA

Para un breve resumen de la crítica de Texas contra CSAPR en español, haga clic aquí.

Today the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard arguments over two critically important clean air protections – the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Standards for Mercury and Air Toxics. Texas has fought tooth and nail against both of these major pollution protections – protections that together have been estimated to prevent up to 45,000 deaths, 19,700 heart attacks and 530,000 asthma attacks.

Why are These Rules Important to Texas?

Air pollution from Texas’ coal plants is, like many things in Texas, giant sized. Texas power plants collectively are the nation’s largest emitter of nitrogen oxides (NOx), and the second largest emitter of sulfur dioxide (SO2). Both pollutants are components of smog and are harmful to human health.

The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSPAR), which applies to the eastern U.S, is of particular interest to Texas, not only because it helps control emissions within the state, but also because it helps protect the state from air pollution blowing in from neighboring states. CSAPR provides for upwind states to be good neighbors and protect downwind communities from harmful particulate matter and smog-forming pollution discharged from power plant smokestacks.

The Truth about Compliance Costs

There are a few companies with operations in Texas who have claimed that the sky is falling because of compliance costs associated with these protections. However, reports from several power companies have proven to be unreliable and a far cry from what the industry would actually spend in compliance. American Electric Power (AEP) and Southern Company, both of which are involved in the litigation seeking to block these clean air protections, have slashed estimated compliance costs by 30 to 50 percent. (Read more about AEP’s compliance estimates here and here, read more about Southern Company here.)

The Current Status of Air Quality in Texas

For the past five years, improvement in the state’s air quality has stagnated and continues to remain at concentrations deemed unhealthy for citizens. The Dallas County Medical Society has weighed in on the need to control pollution coming from power plants in order to protect public health from the harms of air pollution. In August of this year, the association petitioned the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to adopt rules to reduce harmful pollution from three, outdated coal-fired power plants that are greatly contributing to Dallas-Fort Worth and East Texas’ high ozone levels.  TCEQ’s denial of the petition leaves little hope for state regulations alone to solve Texas’ air quality challenge. Across the state, Texans’ health is sacrificed for the sake of political interests and a “pro-industry” reputation.

What These Delays are Costing Texans

The emissions reductions from CSAPR alone would 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. Continued delay in bringing these critical health protections prevents realization of these health benefits – benefits that are especially critical to a state such as Texas, which has the largest percentage of uninsured of any state in the country. In addition, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has spent over $2.5 million of taxpayers’ dollars to date suing the EPA over various clean air protections – including CSAPR.

The time tested history of the Clean Air Act is one of the most profound successes in providing healthier air at a fraction of the predicted costs. The decisions made by the Supreme Court on these cases will have a lasting impact on the quality of air we and future generations will breathe.

Texas should two-step itself out of challenging sound public health protections and stop wasting precious tax dollars for an ideological agenda that isn’t going anywhere.

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