The Austin Chronicle

Assessing Texas’ True Energy Needs

By Daniel Mottola, January 10, 2008, 2:10pm, Newsdesk

In the ongoing, albeit slightly scaled-back rush to build new coal-fired power plants in Texas, the state’s historically industry-chummy environmental commission has been roundly criticized for failing to assess Texas’ true energy needs, as well as the cumulative air quality impact of proposed coal plants, prior to handing out new permits.

But thanks to language written into the 2008 federal Appropriations Bill by Waco-area Democratic Congressman Chet Edwards, the federal Government Accountability Office will be called in to conduct such a study. The GAO is Congress’ nonpartisan investigative arm. Among Edwards’ concerns, considering the Environmental Protection Agency is about to tighten ozone pollution standards, is that Waco and several other cities statewide (including Austin) will become federal violators following the change, forcing local governments to take costly countermeasures. Edwards says the study should analyze cumulative emissions in Central Texas from existing and planned coal burners for an entire ozone season.

Currently, permitting procedures only address cumulative impacts within 37 miles of a plant. Governor Rick Perry reportedly called for GOP attacks on an earlier version of the bill, due partially to its focus on not-yet-regulated carbon dioxide emissions, apparently fearing the results could somehow make Texas look worse than its present status as the nation’s #1 emitter of Co2.

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