Engineering News

Texas Bristles At Late Inclusion In US Emissions Rule
July 8, 2011

Texas officials and power companies complained Thursday that the state was included at the last minute in a new federal rule capping pollution from coal-fired power plants, denying Texans the opportunity to voice their concerns before its adoption.

The rule, issued Thursday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, affects about 1,000 coal-, gas-, and oil-fired power plants in 27 states. Texas was added late in the rule-making process and was the subject of a down-to-the-wire lobbying effort in recent days.

The EPA regulation, which takes effect in January 2012, requires cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions that cross state lines. Those pollutants contribute to smog and soot, which are linked to lung and heart problems, the EPA said.

Texas officials and power companies complained the EPA didn't make it clear Texas would be subject to the new rule until shortly before it was issued. Other states had more than a year to plan and prepare for the rule.

"Today's EPA announcement is another example of heavy-handed and misguided action from Washington, D.C., that threatens Texas jobs and families and puts at risk the reliable and affordable electricity our state needs to succeed," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a statement.

The EPA said Texas had time to participate in the rule-making process. It also said the regulation, called the "Cross-State Air Pollution Rule," replaces an earlier rule that included Texas.

"The state of Texas and Texas stakeholders enjoyed ample notice and opportunity to comment on the rule comparable to that afforded other states and stakeholders," the EPA said in an emailed statement. The agency also said it made an "explicit request for comment" to Texas power companies and regulators, and obtained comment from them before finalizing the rule.

Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) said the rule would "adversely affect thousands of Texas jobs creators and electricity customers" and that Texas had not been given "fair notice and the opportunity to be heard."

Texas has about 18 coal-fired power plants that generate more than 11,000 megawatts of electricity, some of which "could be forced to add expensive equipment...or prematurely shut down," said Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas.

NRG Energy Inc. (NRG) and Xcel Energy Inc. (XEL), which own coal-fired power plants in Texas, said they were still studying the rule, which runs 1,300 pages, and aim to meet or exceed environmental regulations where they operate.

Utilities in other parts of the country were also examining the rule.

American Electric Power Co. Inc. (AEP) of Columbus, Ohio, is concerned about the deadlines for complying with the rule and "a series of other rules coming out of EPA," said AEP spokesman Pat Hemlepp.

For example, the "Cross-State" rule has a 2014 deadline that would require AEP to install pollution-control equipment on one or more plants, a task that generally takes more than three years, Hemlepp said.

Duke Energy Corp. (DUK), of Charlotte, N.C., plans to shut down older coal-fired power plants as part of a modernization plan that includes plans to commission four new power plants next year, said Duke spokesman Tom Williams.

Source: Dow Jones Newswire

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