Texas faces less stringent goals in final clean power plan

EMILY SCHMALL, Associated Press

Under the plan unveiled Monday, Texas would need to cut emissions by nearly 34 percent by 2030.

DALLAS (AP) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed Monday to sue the Obama administration over a federal plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, even though the state faces a less-stringent mandate under a final version of the plan than was originally proposed.

Under the plan unveiled Monday, Texas would need to cut emissions by nearly 34 percent by 2030. The Environmental Protection Agency had originally proposed that Texas reduce emissions by 39 percent. The EPA's broader plan calls for a 32 percent nationwide reduction by 2030.

Still, state regulators say concerns remain about how reducing emissions will affect electrical supply if Texas is forced to shut down about half its coal-fired power plants.

"The harm to Texas families will be immeasurable," Paxton said in a statement. Paxton was indicted Monday on three felony counts of securities fraud.

The power plant rule forms the cornerstone of Obama's plan to curb U.S. emissions and keep global temperatures from climbing.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott pledged to "lead the fight against an overreaching federal government that seems hell-bent on threatening the free-market principles this country was founded on."

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokeswoman Andrea Morrow says the agency that regulates the state's underground resources — including coal — will review the modified plan to determine "practical and legal aspects" to implementing the rule.

"Texas continues to have questions about the appropriateness, overall impact and usurpation of states' authority," Morrow said.

The electric distribution grid operator for most of Texas expects half the state's coal-fired power plants would shut down with Texas forced to develop more renewable energy sources.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a November report that the federal power plan would challenge power reliability in Texas and raise consumer electricity costs.

"Consumers will be saddled with billions in increased power costs," said Stephen Minick, a Texas Association of Business spokesman.

However, the Sierra Club's Al Armendariz, formerly a regional EPA administrator, believes that only the biggest emitters will be idled and that the health benefits will be significant.

Armendariz calculates that the six dirtiest power plants in Texas — all of them coal — account for more than 30 percent of all the carbon emitted, about 83.8 million tons, in Texas' electricity sector.

"I suspect that what's going to happen is that a small number of power plants are going to be phased out and be replaced with renewable energy," Armendariz said.

The EPA is relying heavily on governors to help develop an emission-cutting strategy within three years but can create its own plan for states that refuse.

But it is unclear how the EPA would force Texas to comply with its new standards.

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