* Texas already at odds with EPA over air-quality rules
* State says not given adequate notice of rule change
By Eileen O'Grady
HOUSTON, (Reuters) - Texas Governor Rick Perry and
two top state regulators on Thursday blasted the U.S.
environmental agency for including Texas in a rule to slash
sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants, warning that the
last-minute action could threaten the state's electric supply.
The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule to
reduce air pollution from coal-fired power plants in states
east of the Rocky Mountains. [ID:nN1E7660XM]
"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," said
Perry, a potential Republican presidential contender, in a
The state's environmental agency and EPA Administrator Lisa
Jackson have been battling over air quality rules related to
Texas refineries for more than a year.
Thursday, the battle shifted to the electric sector. Owners
of coal-fired power plants in Texas have invested billions to
reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide in recent
years, said officials with Luminant and NRG Energy Inc,
the two largest power producers in the state.
The challenge from the new rule, known as the Cross State
Air Pollution Rule, is that stricter limits take effect next
year, giving power-plant owners little time to comply.
Texas was not included in the EPA's draft rule related to
sulfur dioxide cuts because EPA modeling had shown little
downwind impact from Texas power plants on other states.
On Thursday, however, the EPA said Texas would be required
to meet lower SO2 limits to avoid allowing the state to
Five states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana,
Massachusetts, along with the District of Columbia -- were
dropped from the final EPA rule.
"The late decision to apply the rule to Texas and the
modeling for the rule have resulted in wholly unreasonable
mandates and unrealistic timelines," said Luminant, owner of
Texas' largest generating fleet including a dozen coal plants
with a capacity of 8,000 megawatts.
Dallas-based Luminant said it has cut SO2 emissions by 21
percent since 2005 while boosting electric output.
Luminant said the rule would have a "highly
disproportionate impact on Texas" which will account for
one-quarter of the total SO2 emission reductions under the
Environmental groups hailed the EPA action as long overdue
to protect the health of Texas residents and downplayed any
possible threat to the state's electric grid.
"We are especially pleased with EPA's decision to include
Texas in its proposal and to include SO2 as Texas coal plants
are at the top of the list of worst polluters in the nation,"
said Neil Carman, director of the Sierra Club's clean-air
program in Texas.
Texas Public Utility Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman
said power plants could be forced to add pollution control
equipment, adjust their fuel supply to include more costly
coal, reduce output or "worse case, prematurely shut down."
Texas, which operates as an electric "island" with limited
ability to import power from other states, is looking for ways
to encourage power-plant construction given growing electric
demand and shrinking power reserves.
Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission for
Environmental Quality, said EPA's move to include Texas was
"not based on sound science" and will result in regulations
"that are not necessary for public health protection."
Shaw said the federal agency also failed to give Texas
adequate notice that it would be included in the final rule
related to SO2 emissions.
(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Lisa
© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.