Houston Public Media

Environmental Groups Worry About New EPA Haze Rule

The Big Brown power plant in Freestone County burns coal mined nearby.

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Environmental groups are worried the Environmental Protection Agency is giving Texas power plants a pass on pollution.

The agency has decided that plants won’t need to install new emissions controls to clean up haze over national parks. The Obama Administration had pushed for the controls. Now, the EPA is planning to let Texas power plants pursue “alternatives.” Those include a new “cap and trade” emissions credit program within the state.

The agency is arguing that program, combined with the state’s participation in a similar national program, will lead to the same amount of emissions cuts as retrofitting old plants. Groups like the Sierra Club aren’t buying it.

“Letting them pollute for longer is not really a solution,” said Elena Saxonhouse, one of the group’s attorneys. She claimed the EPA is wrong, that you can’t cleanup haze the same way without the new air quality controls.

The new rule will probably face a legal challenge. University of Houston environmental law professor Victor Flatt said the rule will be tough on some coal plants.

“Mostly on the really older ones that were probably going to be gone anyways, less on the newer ones,” he said.

Still, the EPA is helping those older plants with its move to override the Clean Power Plan. Together, the actions could mean a longer lifeline for Texas coal.