Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): Lower Colorado River Authority

Former Utility Executive Talks EPA, On-Bill Financing And “Waterproof Power”

It’s always nice to hear a guy say things that you agree with; it kind of makes you think you might be as smart as him, at least on the topic at hand (even if you know that’s not really true).  When it’s a person who has probably “run more public power agencies than anyone in history” including the Tennessee Valley Authority Texas’ Lower Colorado River Authority it makes you feel extra smart.  EDF has been a strong advocate of market based clean energy solutions like demand response, on-bill energy efficiency financing and clean energy in Texas, but hearing S. David Freeman talk about those issues with the Texas Tribune yesterday added some much needed perspective to the energy discussion.

Credit: LCRA

It’s well worth the full read here. But here are some of my favorites:

On the ongoing battle between Texas and the EPA:

… this is a kind of a almost childish reaction to something you’ve got to do that people are now saying they don’t want to do. We have gone from 1970 to 2010 with people recognizing that the most precious, the most finite, the thinnest resource we have is this thin layer of air around the earth in which we have to breathe, and we have been steadily trying to put less and less poison into the air. Now, all of a sudden in 2011, because there’s a recession and people are hurting economically, folks are trying to blame the environmental laws. Well, that’s almost like blaming your momma for making you go to church.

On industry’s concerns about regulation:

I lived through an era when the electric power industry took out full-page ads in the paper saying, “We don’t know how to build a scrubber,” at the same time the engineers were learning how to build a scrubber [a piece of pollution control equipment]. And we’ve built scrubbers and we’ve installed them. The electric power industry has bellyached about the environmental laws while obeying them for the last 40 years…

On environmental progress and historical perspective:

…I’m not sure that the current public is quite as familiar with what’s going on as we were in the 1970s and 1980s, because back then the Cayuga River was on fire and you couldn’t breathe in Los Angeles or Houston. But because of the EPA, and only because of the EPA, the air quality has gotten a lot better. It’s still not healthy. And so this is a march of progress that has gone on for a long time, and at every step of the road there have been affected industries.

On solar power:

If I were in charge of Texas right now, I would make sure that we initiated the load management [i.e., demand response] program immediately… I would do on-bill [energy] efficiency. And I would pick up the phone and call First Solar or one of these major solar companies and say, “I got a bunch of land in West Texas, near substations. How many megawatts can you put in between now and June?”

On “water proof” power:

Water, more than anything else, is the limiting factor on power production. It’s time that we start, in a practical state like Texas, beginning to face the fact that electricity that can be generated without heating up or consuming water is far more practical than large nuclear, coal or even gas-fired plants… So we don’t have all the power capacity we think we have, looking at the future. And therefore it puts a whole new look on the value of wind and solar and storage… And that’s with waterproof power.”

Posted in Air Pollution, Energy-Water Nexus, Environment, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Solar / Tagged | Comments are closed

Once Again, Texas Cries Wolf Over the Issuing of Permits

Just last year, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Chairman Bryan Shaw accused EPA’s finding on the illegality of Texas’ flexible permitting process as an example of federal overreach that would kill jobs more than it helps the environment. However, in July 2011, the EPA reported that all ‘flexible permit’ companies in Texas agreed to apply for approved air permits and not one job was lost.  Now, we hear another similar tale. When the EPA attempted to enforce the Clean Air Act and regulate Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, Texas filed several lawsuits against the EPA and Attorney General Greg Abbott wrote a letter where he called on Obama “to end job-killing regulations and rescind the EPA rules that Texas has challenged.”

Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first Texas GHG permit for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant in Llano County, Texas. LCRA is modernizing and expanding its plant by replacing its 37 year old unit with a new more efficient and reliable natural gas powered unit.

Credit- www.horseshoe-bay-tx.gov

LCRA is the first company in Texas to complete the GHG permit process and obtained a final permit in about 8 months. Without the EPA stepping in, this process wouldn’t have happened and the facility wouldn’t be able to operate, given that Texas flat out refused to issue GHG permits. Therefore, by stepping in on permits related only to greenhouse gas emissions, EPA provided authority for certain large Texas emitters of greenhouse gases to obtain permits that are legally required by the Clean Air Act.  EPA had offered to allow Texas to administer the program, but Texas refused.   For a state that barks loudly about state’s rights, it is shocking that Texas is unwilling to issue these permits.

What was TCEQ’s response to the LCRA permit? Andy Saenz, a spokesman for TCEQ said, “we see no need for — or any environmental benefit from — EPA’s greenhouse gas permit.” Not one word about job killing or it being impossible to get greenhouse gas permits.

It’s important to note that Texas, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and industrial pollution in the nation, is the only state that refused to work with EPA to ensure that large greenhouse gas emitters could get the permits the law requires.  

“We appreciated EPA’s work on our project,” said LCRA General Manager Becky Motal. “We believe that replacing our aging Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant with this new combined-cycle natural gas plant benefits everyone. The region will benefit from the latest environmental controls and our customers will benefit from our ability to better manage costs with a plant that will use about 35 to 40 percent less fuel than traditional gas-fired plants.”

The EPA is currently reviewing ten additional GHG permit applications for Texas companies.

Posted in Clean Air Act, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, TCEQ, Texas Permitting / Tagged | Read 1 Response