Texas Clean Air Matters

What we know so far about Rick Perry’s power grid “study”

Among Rick Perry’s first acts as Secretary of Energy was calling for a 60-day “study” of whether any policies or regulations have led to the premature retirement of coal or nuclear plants. I – and many others in the clean energy industry – are concerned this so-called study will amount to little more than a pro-coal fluff piece.

To people familiar with energy policy and the coal industry’s rhetoric, Perry’s request is a transparent promotion of coal and a backdoor attack on clean energy resources, like solar, wind, and energy efficiency. Besides, 60 days is barely enough time to fill job vacancies in a new administration, much less conduct a thorough analysis of America’s complex energy policies.

But until the report is released, we can only look at what Perry and other Trump appointees have said and done about energy, generally, and coal, specifically, to predict what arguments Perry’s office will make.

Over the next few weeks, EDF will examine several of the administration’s pro-coal arguments and explain why: Read More »

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As New Energy Secretary, Rick Perry Will Inherit Trump’s Assault on American Clean Energy

Rick Perry by Gage SkidmoreThose of us who lived through Rick Perry’s governorship in Texas were concerned he’d take his “pollution-first” mentality to Washington. But the Trump administration’s assault on clean energy started before Perry cleared the first hurdle for becoming Secretary of Energy today, signaling he’ll likely be confirmed by the full Senate.

In two short weeks, President Trump laid out the dismal, dirty, and dangerous energy platform he’ll expect Rick Perry to execute. It’s up to us to protect and defend the jobs clean energy creates, along with its benefits for business, consumers, health, and our natural resources.

Energy efficiency
President Trump’s regulatory freeze halted four rules designed to reduce energy waste and, consequently, energy bills and greenhouse gas pollution. The Washington Post reported, “The freeze would appear to have the effect of sweeping up four very nearly finished Energy Department energy efficiency standards, affecting an array of products, including portable air conditioners and commercial boilers.” Heating and cooling use the most energy in buildings. This rule on commercial air-conditioners was published last year. The amount of C02 reduction and the fact that the Department of Energy negotiated the rule with industry make it a landmark example of how efficiency rules don’t hurt manufacturers while saving utility customers billions of dollars. Closing off this avenue of cooperation between the government and industry stakeholders takes away drive for innovation and allows others (China) to take the lead. Read More »

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Could Rick Perry Forego his Special-Interest Past for a Clean Energy Future?

rick-perry-by-gage-skidmore-flickrBy now you may have heard that Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas, is President-elect Trump’s pick for Energy secretary. If appointed, he will be succeeding Samuel Bodman, Doctor of Science in chemical engineering from MIT; Steven Chu, PhD in physics from the University of California, Berkeley; and Ernest Moniz, PhD in theoretical physics from Stanford University.

Since the majority of the budget of the Department of Energy (DOE) is spent on nuclear waste clean-up and very technical research projects, the fact that Gov. Perry doesn’t measure up to his predecessors in his scientific credentials is disappointing. All the more so that his track record is one of unquestioning support of highly polluting interests in his state.

I have written about Perry plenty of times, so it should come as no surprise that I am less than thrilled with the idea of him heading the same department he famously declared he would eliminate.

Put simply: The appointment of Rick Perry is “open season” on the environment, and all who care about the health of their families should be concerned. Time and again, he has put polluters over people for political gain, and leveraged backroom deals with special interests — the rest of the economy and the air be damned. My only hope is that he takes to heart the jobs and economic growth resulting from Texas wind power, and uses it to steer the DOE toward fostering a thriving clean energy economy. Read More »

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Rick Perry: The 21st Century Galileo?

At a campaign fundraiser in West Virginia last month, Governor Rick Perry talked climate change and science with attendees. At the event, Mike Stuart, Chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party said, “We have to base our views on real science, not junk science.”

Source: www.tobaccocampaign.com

 As part of an organization deeply rooted in science, I think it’s time we take a closer look at the Governor’s views on science and the scientific community, and evaluate what is being called ‘junk science’. Perry has said that a “secular carbon cult” is responsible for creating anxiety over the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on our planet. Perry also said of global warming, “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just, is nonsense. … Find out what the science truly is before you start putting the American economy in jeopardy.”  

It’s hard to find out what the science truly is when the Governor’s appointees censor scientists who are discussing climate change. John Anderson, a professor at Rice University, recently revealed that Perry’s Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) deleted all references to climate change and sea-level rise from an article he wrote about the changes in Galveston Bay.

Let’s analyze ‘what the science truly is’ from a scientist’s perspective. According to a report produced by the Intergovernmental panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made up of 800 scientists from all around the world, the global sea level rose 6.7 inches in the last century due to melting ice caps. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century. The 10 warmest years in global meteorological history have all occurred in the past 15 years. Glaciers and mountain snows are rapidly melting—for example, Montana’s Glacier National Park now has only 27 glaciers, versus 150 in 1910. This is in addition to all of the extreme weather events we are experiencing including unprecedented wildfires, heat waves, and drought here in Texas, which is exactly the kind of impacts that scientists predicted that global warming would bring. Katherine Hayhoe, climate scientist and professor of atmospheric science at Texas Tech University, has said of global warming, “We have a very narrow window of time to do something meaningful about this issue, and that window is closing. Every year we go without a binding climate policy to reduce our emissions shrinks the chance we have of hitting lower emissions targets” [that can prevent large scale harm].

Perry has also likened his own position to Galileo “who was outvoted for a spell” and proclaimed  that “virtually every day another scientist leaves the global warming bandwagon.” When asked for elaboration on the scientists leaving the global warming front, his office provided two dozen articles, almost none from or about actual scientists.

To the contrary, research confirms that 98 percent of climate researchers believe that the climate is changing faster than it has before and that humans are responsible for most of the recent warming tends. Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University – the governor’s alma mater – has refuted claims made by Perry regarding skeptics in the science community. Dessler stated, “There are only a handful of atmospheric scientists in the entire world who dispute the essential facts — and their ranks are not increasing, as Perry claimed.” In fact, the National Academy of Sciences, the independent group set up by Congress to answer questions on scientific controversies for the country, concluded in 2010, “Climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by human activities, and poses significant risks to humans and the environment.”

If you went to 100 doctors and 98 of them diagnosed you with cancer and said you should probably stop smoking cigarettes, but two doctors insisted that cigarettes were perfectly healthy, and that lump was probably not cancer, who would you listen to?  At one time even Big Tobacco could find a doctor or two to push junk science and politicians willing to support their industry for the right price.  I wonder whether Perry’s views on the environment have anything to do with the fact that he’s taken $11 million in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry since 1998? In a debate this fall Perry said he couldn’t be bought for a measly $5,000, but $11 million dollars might be a different story. 

Rather than Galileo, Rick Perry is like the handful of doctors in the 1960’s who, when faced with a consensus in the medicine that cigarette smoke caused lung cancer, continued to advocate in ads that people smoke Camel’s. These doctors fronted for cigarette companies for money. One wonders what caused Rick Perry to reject science and carry the water for big polluters.


Posted in Air Pollution, Environment / Read 2 Responses

Yawn. Rick Perry Sues The EPA…Again

Texas filed a petition in federal court last week to block the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) that will require states to reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, most of which come from coal-fired power plants.  It’s a case of Texas versus the EPA, round eight and counting.

In a letter sent to President Obama on Sept. 26, Governor Perry said the implementation of the CSAPR will have an “immediate and devastating effect on Texas jobs, our economy and our ability to supply the electricity our citizens, schools and employers need.”

Perry and his administration have yet to meet a health safety rule they like. This political banter is said to be pro-business, preventing Texans from losing jobs. Yet this comes from the same administration that cut 49,000 teacher positions and 6,000 state employee jobs earlier this year. Perry claims that the rule will kill jobs in Texas. Why doesn’t he care about the pollution that kills Texas’ children?

Earlier this month, Perry stated that “the Obama Administration continues to put up road blocks for our nation’s job creators by imposing burdensome regulations based on assumptions, not facts, that will result in job losses and increased energy costs with no definite environmental benefit.”

No definite environmental benefit? The CSAPR will improve air quality, provide increased protection for sensitive ecosystems, and improve visibility in national and state parks. Nationally, this rule will save up to 34,000 lives, prevent 400,000 asthma attacks, and avoid 1.8 million lost sick days each year. In Texas alone, up to 1,704 lives will be saved each year. The state will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the 27 states to which this rule applies.

Perry went on to say, “yet again, this administration is ignoring Texas’ proven track record of cleaning our air while creating jobs, opting instead for more stifling red tape.”

I hope Governor Perry doesn’t break his arm when patting himself on the back for the air quality in Texas. A new report released by Environment Texas on Sept. 14 cites smog pollution in seven Texas cities among the smoggiest nationwide, putting residents’ health at risk. This report ranks cities in Texas and across the country for the number of days when the air was unhealthy to breathe from 2010-2011.

Perry has stated, ‘I will always err on the side of life.’ His rhetoric certainly conflicts with his actions. The new air pollution rule will not only save the lives of Texans, but also bordering states that feel the effects of pollution from power plants here in the Lone Star State. It’s time that we make air quality a priority in Texas, and stop allowing coal plants to dirty our air and poison our families.

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, GHGs, Ozone / Read 8 Responses

Houston Chronicle to Rick Perry: “Stop Blowing Smoke”

This post was written by Colin Meehan, Clean Energy Analyst for EDF’s Energy Program

Houston (and the Rest of Texas) Benefit From the EPA’s Efforts

In an editorial today, the Houston Chronicle lauded the EPA for developing sensible rules that protect human health while keeping impacts to industry as minimal as possible. Specifically the Chronicle pointed out that EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) will save lives and improve Texans’ health with benefits that far outweigh the impacts to industry in the state.  Pushing back against Governor Perry and TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw’s unfounded claims of massive job losses, the Chronicle’s editorial board had this to say about Perry’s political posturing:

“We’re well aware that Perry is contemplating a presidential run, and that “federal overreach” plays well to some Texas voters, but clean air doesn’t stop or start at the state line. Texas emissions pollute the air of other states, including Louisiana, Illinois and Michigan, but our Texas air is in turn polluted by emissions from at least 12 other states.”

TCEQ: Fighting the EPA While the EPA Works with Texas Businesses

These issues were raised at a conference earlier this week, where I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with Chairman Shaw as well as former TCEQ Chair and current Texas Public Policy Foundation Fellow (a conservative Texas think tank funded in part by fossil fuel interests) Kathleen Hartnett White.   Both Shaw and White have long been critics of what they see as ‘federal government overreach,’ although noticeably neither were vocal on this issue when in 2007 the Bush administration declared TCEQ’s flexible permitting program was “in violation of the Clean Air Act.”  (See Appendix 5-6 of the link). Still, Shaw continued to use the EPA’s actions on flexible permitting as an example of federal overreach that in his opinion threatens jobs more than it helps the environment.  Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Particulate Matter, TCEQ, Texas Permitting / Read 2 Responses