Politics

Texas Leaders: Supreme Court Stay On Obama’s Clean Power Plan Is A Victory

Texas Attorney Geveral Ken Paxton says the state won’t take steps to implement the Obama Administration rule until the Supreme Court issues a final ruling. That puts the state’s power companies in a bind over whether to invest in expensive upgrades.

The EPA rules could have led to the closure of as many as 14 coal-fired power plants in Texas.
The EPA rules could have led to the closure of as many as 14 coal-fired power plants in Texas.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton is hailing the Supreme Court's stay of the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan. He sees it as a win for Texas electricity customers, who he says would otherwise face much higher bills.

But the ruling could force a tough choice on the state's power companies.

The Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. It gives state governments a deadline of summer 2016 to submit plans to the EPA for how they will comply with the rule or to request a one- or two-year extension.

Paxton argues that deadline is now hold.

"The whole point of the stay was to stop us from having to provide any implementation plan," Paxton says, "and so we're not moving forward with anything until this case is resolved."

In other words, not until after the rule is reviewed by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision, in turn, will almost certainly wind up back before the U.S. Supreme Court. A final ruling may not come down until after President Obama leaves office next year.

And a Republican is elected to the White House, the new president could issue an executive order and undo the plan.

Tracy Hester, who teaches environmental law at the University of Houston Law Center, says that creates more uncertainty for Texas power companies.

"If you're a utility, and you're having to make capital investment decisions stretching on a time-frame of a decade or more, you take a gamble if you're deciding to stay your hand and wait for the Supreme Court to sort it out and hope for a reversal and hope that the timelines for compliance will be stretched out and hope that it won't affect your ability to make investment decisions in the meantime," Hester says.

The D.C. Circuit Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the case by June.

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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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