In an effort to improve the health of Americans, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule on July 6, 2011. According to the EPA’s official website, this rule “requires 27 states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states.”
In 2005, the EPA first issued its Clean Air Interstate Rule, which the new Cross-State rule replaces. CAIR was created to set permanent caps on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions in the eastern United States, which the EPA claimed would result in savings of “$85 to $100 billion in health benefits and nearly $2 billion in visibility benefits per year by 2015” (from the official CAIR website). However, a December 2008 court decision ordered the EPA to implement a new rule, building on what had come before.
The rulings have created concern among some Texas electricity companies about whether they can comply while maintaining reliable electrical service, especially after the prolonged drought of this year’s summer. Kent Saathoff, vice president of system planning and operations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, suggests that the dropping water levels in plant cooling reservoirs may cause state power plants to cut back or completely shut down operations, according to an article on MySanAntonio.com (“Power problems might be worse next year”). One plant was already required to cut back on output during the summer.
Others feel that the regulations are reasonable for Texas power plants to meet in the time allotted. A Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. research report said that Texas coals plants could “meet the new emissions restrictions if they used their existing scrubber systems for longer periods” (quoted in the MySanAntonio article). Similarly, in a blog post on the Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog, Starla Yeh shared Dr. Sue Tierney’s responses to several points of debate.
Keep in mind that regardless of which Retail Electric Provider you choose, the electricity in your area will still be provided by your local Transmission and Distribution Service Provider. This means that every Texas resident has a stake in the electric companies’ response to the Cross-State Air Pollution Rules.
You can play a part in the discussion by going online to learn more from a variety of sources, including newspaper articles and the EPA itself–but make sure you take in both sides of the issue. If you want to make your voice heard on the subject, you can contact your Texas Congressional representative and share your thoughts. Continue to visit the Texas Electricity Providers blog for more information on important subjects affecting the Texas electricity market.