Texas PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman Lays into the EPA

PUC Commissioner
PUC Commissioner

Another top Texas official has weighed in against the Environmental Protection Agency. During a meeting today of the Public Utility Commission, chairman Barry Smitherman, in a brief digression from the agenda, said that the federal agency was attempting to "disarm the U.S. economy," with a raft of rules covering everything from fly-ash waste from coal plants to greenhouse gases. 

In Texas, Smitherman said, "we have a nice mix of resources" on the electricity grid — with coal and natural gas contributing nearly equal amounts of power, and supplemented by nuclear and fast-growing wind. He expressed concern that the EPA, which is currently studying the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, appeared antagonistic to fossil fuels.

After extensive discussion at today's meeting, the commission decided which route the Lower Colorado River Authority must take when it builds a contentious transmission line through the Hill Country. The line is part of a $5 billion transmission-line buildout by Texas to aid wind power.

"Transmission lines, to me, deliver prosperity," Smitherman said. "I know nobody wants 'em. I drive under them every day."

The commission's job, Smitherman said, was to "prepare Texas for the future, regardless of any stupidity that happens outside of our boundaries."

Mr. Smitherman also mentioned his recent trip to China to study energy there. He was stunned at the intense air pollution — a "crazy bad" day for air pollution occurred in Beijing during the trip, and also with the huge imbalance between China's appetite for coal power and its appetite for renewables. "I came away from the trip concluding that I'm not really afraid of the Chinese as a competitor," he said.

"China won't beat us, but we could beat ourselves," he said, before launching into his concerns about the EPA.

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