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Clean Power Plan Rollback Wouldn’t Change Much about Texas’ Power Mix, Experts Say

The move would resonate more strongly in coal-heavy regions of the country than in Texas, where natural gas and renewables have advantages over coal.

A now-closed coal plant outside of Rockport, Texas.

Clean Power Plan rollback wouldn’t change much about Texas’ power mix, experts say. Texas Republicans are cheering the Trump Administration’s proposal to roll back the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

Texas had sued over the plan to curb carbon emissions, calling it “federal overreach.” Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas praised Tuesday’s release of the proposed “Affordable Clean Energy Rule.”

“I'm glad to see President Trump remains committed to eliminating job-killing Obama regulations that for years were a wet blanket on the Texas economy,” Cornyn said in a statement.

Still, when it comes to where Texas gets its power, some experts say the new policy, if enacted, wouldn’t change that much.

The new plan gives states more leeway on regulating coal plant emissions, which could mean some Texas coal plants already headed toward retirement stay open longer. But coal is decreasingly important in Texas.

“And that’s because we have a competitive electricity market,” said Victor Flatt, head of the University of Houston’s Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Center. “Wind and natural gas are so inexpensive here.”

Plus, said Texas A&M law professor Felix Mormann, natural gas pairs better with renewables than coal.

“Natural gas-fired power plants have the ability to reduce and increase their output very quickly,” he noted, “and that’s what’s required in a grid where we have a lot of output coming from solar and wind that depends on weather conditions.”

Even nationwide, some analysts say the new policy would only delay coal’s eventual decline.

“In response to the economic factors, like the availability of abundant and inexpensive supplies of natural gas and increasing amounts of renewable energy, the market moved away from coal plants,” said Steve Weiler, an attorney with the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, whose clients include energy and petrochemical companies.

“This apparent victory for the coal industry is likely to be short-lived,” Weiler said. “In the end, market forces, not regulation, will prevail, no matter how hard the administration tries.”

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