It was a foregone conclusion that Texas’ highest elected officials would slam the Clean Power Plan.
Attorney General Ken Paxton has vowed to sue the Obama administration over the new environmental rules, which will dramatically cut carbon emissions from power plants. Likewise, Gov. Greg Abbott has pledged to lead the charge against what he characterized as an out-of-control government.
Taking politics out of the equation just for a moment (indulge us), such intransigence would make sense if Abbott and Paxton hailed from a coal-producing state such as Kentucky, Wyoming or West Virginia. The Clean Power Plan puts coal directly in its sights, shifting energy production toward solar, wind and natural gas. Under that equation, those states do suffer economically. But guess which state is primed for success? Texas. That’s right. The Lone Star State could thrive under these rules.
Not only would Texans benefit from cleaner air, but this state leads the nation in wind energy production, is blessed with an abundance of sunshine and is home to one-third of the country’s natural gas reserves.
The standards set for Texas in the Clean Power Plan’s final rules are less stringent than those originally proposed. Texas needs to cut its carbon emissions by nearly 34 percent by 2030. The original proposal called for a cut of nearly 39 percent. The new plan also gives states two additional years before they need to be in compliance. That deadline is now 2022.
Achieving compliance is within the state’s reach. As John Hall, a policy expert with the Environmental Defense Fund, told us earlier this year, if Texas simply stays the course with planned retirements of older coal power plants coupled with new developments for solar and wind energy, “We are on track to achieve 71 percent of the required reductions.”
Remember, Hall said this before the less-stringent final rules for Texas were announced.
At the very least, while Texas fights these new Environmental Protection Agency rules in court, state officials should develop a compliance plan as a contingency.
We have no doubt that state officials and Texas-based utilities can craft a better plan to meet Texas’ needs than a mysterious one developed by the EPA. This would open the door for possible cap-and-trade. It would also provide the market with certainty.
With these rules, we have again heard the all-too-familiar cry of government overreach. But, remember, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions, and power plants are the largest sources of carbon dioxide emissions, the key catalyst to climate change.
In light of Congressional gridlock and inaction, these rules represent the only substantive way for the Obama administration to mitigate the effects of climate change. The benefits of curbing carbon emissions will be felt for generations.