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Tracy Hester On What The Clean Power Plan Means For Texas

Texas power plants emit more carbon dioxide than those of Florida and Pennsylvania put together. So how will the Lone Star State meet new federal requirements to slash greenhouse gas emissions while producing enough electricity to support its growing population?


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Texas leads the nation in greenhouse gas emissions from electric power generation. The state’s power plants pour more carbon dioxide into the air than those of second-place Florida and third-place Pennsylvania combined. That means the Lone Star State will face special challenges in meeting the requirements of President Obama’s newly announced Clean Power Plan, which aims to cut carbon emissions from the U.S. power sector to 32 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030.

Tracy Hester is a lecturer in environmental law at the University of Houston Law Center. He joins Andrew Schneider on this week’s installment of the Bauer Business Focus.


Tracy Hester in the studio



What particular difficulties would Texas face in meeting the Clean Power Plan?

“We rely on coal for generating [much of] our power… Texas…also has its own electricity grid. Other states are going to be able to essentially swap power…This sort of trading is very common in environmental regulation. That’s going to be a challenge for Texas, because we’ve intentionally designed our system to give Texas the primary role in controlling where our power goes.”


How will that affect the state’s ability to generate enough power to keep up with population growth?

“Some of the least-efficient power plants, powered by coal, are going to come under pressure to close. That’s going to eat into the reserve capacity needed to keep the grid running during times of high demand.”


It’s quite possible the Supreme Court will ultimately take up legal challenges to the Clean Power Plan. How have the justices ruled in other cases involving power plant emissions?

“They just issued a decision…that overturned EPA’s rules for mercury emissions from power plants…The Supreme Court [also] struck down EPA’s rules that required large emitters of greenhouse gases to get permits under a different program of the Clean Air Act. [Both decisions were 5-4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy as the swing vote].”

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media's business reporter, covering the oil...

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