Texas Clean Air Matters

Selected tag(s): Texas Legislature

What to watch as the Texas Legislature takes up climate, energy, water and more

We’re past the midpoint of the Texas legislative session and the bill filing deadline is behind us. Because the legislature only meets for five months every other year, there’s a lot to accomplish in a short span.

Now, as things pick up steam we’ll see which bills move forward and which don’t. A bill needs to be heard in committee to have any chance of passing (here’s a helpful primer on the legislative process), and less than a month remains until the House starts reporting bills out of committee. The clock is ticking.

Although most bills won’t make it across the finish line, here are a few related to climate, energy and water that warrant a closer look.

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Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Legislation, Methane, Natural gas, Oil, Renewable Energy, Solar / Also tagged , , , , | Comments are closed

Renewables BuyBack Bill Pays Good Money For Clean Energy

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF Energy Exchange blog.

Picture this: You live in Texas, the state with the most solar energy potential in the U.S. Knowing this, you decide to install solar panels on your home’s rooftop because, in Texas, you can lease – rather than buy – the entire solar energy system. The option to lease allows you to take advantage of a low monthly payment that will be offset by the savings on your energy bill, rather than face high upfront investment costs.

Now, while you are at work during the day, your panels are actually putting excess, unused energy back onto the grid, when electricity is most expensive. And, that surplus of energy isn’t just wasted; it is used by your electric company to serve other customers. In most states, electric companies buy this power back at a retail rate. But, in Texas it’s not quite that simple. In order to see any form of pay back, you have to be a lucky customer of one of only three retailers – TXU Energy, Reliant Energy and Green Mountain Energy – that offer “renewable buyback” rates in Texas. If you happen to buy electricity from one of the other 50 retailers serving residential providers across the state, though, you could always switch over to a renewable buyback program. But there is no guarantee that you will be paid a fair market value for the 25+ years your solar energy system is expected to last.

Making a long-term investment to protect against highly-fluctuating, unpredictable electric rates is a difficult decision, and making that decision without knowing whether you are guaranteed fair compensation is nearly impossible. This is one of the key reasons why Texas lags behind the nation in solar adoption. Fortunately, there is a solution in the works. Senate Bill 1239 from state Senator Jose Rodriguez seeks to guarantee homeowners, schools and religious facilities at least a minimum buyback rate based on wholesale market energy prices, which were about 50 percent lower than retail rates in 2011, on average. The bill has a similar impact for rural electric co-operative, municipal and independently-owned utility customers, ensuring that any homeowner, school or religious entity that installs a properly-sized solar energy system will be compensated comparable to the way a fossil fuel power plant is compensated in the wholesale market. Read More »

Posted in Renewable Energy, Solar, Texas Energy Crunch / Tagged | Comments are closed

Texas House Votes To Suffocate You and Your Family

I heard someone recommend selling the Texas Legislature as a way to fill the budget gap, but it is clear after yesterday that most of our Legislators are already owned by big polluters (decorum requires that I leave it at “owned”).

Although the process was already stacked in favor of polluters, the Texas House voted to strip away the last remaining fig leaf of protection for Texans fighting to keep their air and water clean.  Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Pampa) authored an amendment to the TCEQ sunset bill (HB 2694) that would shift the burden of proof to the individual challenging the issuance of a permit for polluting facilities like coal-fired power plants. 

This means that should a company want to build a coal or chemical plant near your home and you and your neighbors become concerned about a plant pumping harmful, cancer-causing chemicals into the air, you will be required to prove the extent of the problem rather than the permit applicant being required to prove the permit meets state and federal health and safety law as is required for every other permit.    Read More »

Posted in Air Pollution, Environment, TCEQ, Texas Permitting / Also tagged , , | Comments are closed

Resolutions for Those Who Should Care About Clean Air

Many of us are vowing to lose weight, spend less or quit smoking in 2011. This is a time when we evaluate the previous 12 months of our lives and look for opportunities to become better people. There is no doubt that Texas air quality could be better. With our state ranking at the top of every bad list on air quality, improvement is necessary. As I finished my own resolutions I imagined what some of our federal and state leaders’ could be – in a perfect world:

  • Environmental Protection Agency: In 2011, we resolve to adopt more health-protective standards, especially with regard to ozone. More than half of our country’s population is exposed to this harmful air pollutant, with levels regularly exceeding current federal standards in many large cities. We will no longer delay implementation of a stronger standard. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee reviewed the data during Read More »
Posted in Air Pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, Ozone, Texas Permitting / Also tagged , , , , , , | Read 2 Responses