About Air and Water

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Texas' electric deregulation cost is tallied in study

By Jack Z. Smith - The Fort Worth Star-Telegram - Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A report released Monday concludes that electric deregulation has cost Texas residential consumers more than $11 billion in higher rates and that the operator of the state's major power grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has been poorly managed and industry-dominated.

The 101-page report, "The Story of ERCOT," is the result of a research project of the Steering Committee of Cities Served by Oncor and the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power, which works with 158 cities and other governmental entities to buy electricity in bulk.

Deregulation, it said, has resulted in higher rates for Texas power consumers rather than the lower rates forecast by lawmakers who passed the state law in 1999.

Before deregulation, Texas had cheaper rates than most states. Between 1999 and the first six months of 2010, however, Texas residential consumers "suffered greater increases [in electric rates] than residents in all but six other states," the report said.

"Had electric prices remained at the national average -- not below it, just at it -- Texas residential consumers would have saved more than $11 billion since the implementation of deregulation," the report said, citing data compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The entire deregulated Texas market, commercial, industrial and residential, "would have saved $15.5 billion had prices remained at the national average," the report said.

However, the latest EIA data, for November, shows that Texas' average residential electric rate was 11.37 cents per kilowatt-hour, below the national average of 11.7 cents.

Read more in the Fort Worth Star Telegram

Read more:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Texas AG asks U.S. House to block regulation of greenhouse gas emissions

By DAVE MICHAELS Washington Bureau The Dallas Morning News - Feb. 9, 2011
WASHINGTON — Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott asked Congress on Wednesday to block the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions, saying legislation would allow him to drop his lawsuits over the rules.
Abbott testified at a congressional hearing where Republican lawmakers grilled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson over her agency’s move to regulate climate-altering gases emitted by industrial facilities.
A Republican bill would overturn the EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and would prevent the agency from using the Clean Air Act to address climate change.
Texas’ fossil fuel producers, utilities and other businesses stand to benefit if Republicans succeed in blocking regulation, although President Barack Obama would almost certainly veto the bill. Texas Republicans have been at the forefront of efforts to stymie the EPA.
Abbott has filed six legal challenges of EPA regulations that address climate change. One of the lawsuits challenges the decision to invalidate parts of Texas’ clean-air program over its refusal to award permits for greenhouse gas emissions.
“I am here to tell you that if your legislation passes, that will mean that Texas will be dismissing those six lawsuits against the EPA,” Abbott told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Jackson said the EPA was forced to take over parts of Texas’ clean-air program because the state failed to carry out its responsibilities. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA sets thresholds for regulated pollutants, which states must enforce.
Texas’ refusal
While other states have challenged EPA regulation of greenhouse gases, Texas is the only state that refused to include greenhouse gases in its clean-air program. Jackson said businesses that wanted to build in Texas would have been unable to get permits without the EPA’s intervention.
“The Nucor steel facility just got a permit in the state of Louisiana,” Jackson told the committee. “If they wanted to build the exact same facility in Texas, they would need a permit for greenhouse gases — and they cannot get one because Texas refuses to consider those permits.”
Jackson also clashed with Texas Republicans on the committee over dozens of pollution permits that were invalidated when the EPA rejected three Texas permitting programs in September 2009. The EPA said the Texas programs failed to meet the standards set by the Clean Air Act.
Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Lewisville, complained to Jackson that Texas was singled out for disapproval, while other states with similar programs weren’t challenged.
“This appears to be Texas-specific,” Burgess said. “And if it is, that is wrong.”
But Jackson said EPA’s concerns with the quality of Texas’ clean-air programs went back to the Bush administration.
“When I became administrator, I found a situation where businesses in Texas have no certainty that the permits protect them from lawsuits for excessive pollution,” Jackson said. “The answer certainly could not have been to look the other way.”
Jackson testified on the same day that House Republicans unveiled their proposals for spending cuts, including a $1.6 billion budget cut for EPA in 2011. Such cuts could hurt the EPA’s ability to carry out its regulatory agenda.
‘Highhanded’ EPA
The agency has become a prime target for House Republicans who question the science of global warming and assert that EPA regulations create uncertainty for business.
“The EPA has been highhanded in Texas,” said Rep. Joe Barton , R-Arlington. “I don’t think the EPA had the authority to revoke these existing permits, and I think their [carbon dioxide] regulations are extremely onerous if implemented.”
Barton said the committee would probably approve the legislation, called the Energy Tax Prevention Act, in the next two months. Sen. James Inhofe , R-Okla., has sponsored the legislation in the Senate, where its path to passage is much less certain.
Some House Democrats, including Rep. Gene Green of Houston, said they disapproved of EPA regulation of greenhouse gases and preferred Congress to set standards. But it’s not clear that Green and other Democrats would vote for the GOP bill.
Much of Wednesday’s hearing revolved around Republicans and Democrats arguing about whether man-made activities are to blame for climate change.
Republicans faulted Democrats for ignoring the regulations’ impact on jobs and energy costs. Democrats blasted Republicans for trying to legislatively overturn the EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health.
“Politicians overruling scientists on a scientific question — that would become part of this committee’s legacy,” Jackson said.
Read more in the Dallas Morning News

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

EPA Office of Public Engagement Notice: EPA Submits Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan to Independent Scientists for Review

From Larmett.John@epamail.epa.gov

Dear Friend:

The draft plan is open to public comment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) submitted its Draft Study
Plan on hydraulic fracturing for review to the agency’s Science Advisory
Board (SAB), a group of independent scientists. EPA scientists, under
this administration and at the direction of Congress, are undertaking a
study of this practice to better understand any potential impacts it may
have, including on groundwater. EPA has held a series of public
meetings, with thousands in attendance, across the country and developed
a sound draft plan for moving forward with the study.

EPA is planning to host webinars on Tuesday, February 15th and
Wednesday, February 16th to walk interested stakeholders through the
content of the draft study plan. We will be e-mailing details on how to
participate in these webinars later this week.

Best wishes,
John Larmett
Senior Public Liaison Specialist
Office of Public Engagement
Office of External Affairs & Environmental Education
Office of the Administrator
(202) 564-7842 - Office
(202) 280-8246 - Blackberry

February 8, 2011

EPA Submits Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan to Independent
Scientists for Review

The draft plan is open to public comment

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today
submitted its draft study plan on hydraulic fracturing for review to the
agency’s Science Advisory Board (SAB), a group of independent
scientists. Natural gas plays a key role in our nation’s clean energy
future and the process known as hydraulic fracturing is one way of
accessing that vital resource. EPA scientists, under this administration
and at the direction of Congress, are undertaking a study of this
practice to better understand any potential impacts it may have,
including on groundwater. EPA announced its intention to conduct the
study in March 2010 and use the best available science, independent
sources of information, a transparent, peer-reviewed process and with
consultation from others. Since then, EPA has held a series of public
meetings across the country with thousands attending and the agency has
developed a sound draft plan for moving forward with the study.

The scope of the proposed research includes the full lifespan of water
in hydraulic fracturing, from acquisition of the water, through the
mixing of chemicals and actual fracturing, to the post-fracturing stage,
including the management of flowback and produced or used water and its
ultimate treatment and disposal.

The SAB plans to review the draft plan March 7-8, 2011. Consistent with
the operating procedures of the SAB, stakeholders and the public will
have an opportunity to provide comments to the SAB during their review.
The agency will revise the study plan in response to the SAB’s comments
and promptly begin the study. Initial research results and study
findings are expected to be made public by the end of 2012, with the
goal of an additional report following further research in 2014.

Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which large volumes of water, sand
and chemicals are injected at high pressures to extract oil and natural
gas from underground rock formations. The process creates fractures in
formations such as shale rock, allowing natural gas or oil to escape
into the well and be recovered. Over the past few years, the use of
hydraulic fracturing for gas extraction has increased and has expanded
over a wider diversity of geographic regions and geologic formations.

For a copy of the draft study plan and additional information:

More information on hydraulic fracturing:

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Call 817 272-1183 or e-mail planetarium@uta.edu