EPA Issues First Texas Greenhouse Gas Permit

College students protest on the green at Dartmouth prior to the Republican Debate on October 11, 2011 in Hanover, NH
College students protest on the green at Dartmouth prior to the Republican Debate on October 11, 2011 in Hanover, NH

Updated, Thursday 3 p.m.:

Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, said in an email response to the EPA's move: "The EPA continues to unnecessarily burden the energy industry with overreaching mandates that achieve no environmental benefit."

Original story:

The Environmental Protection Agency, which took over greenhouse gas permitting in Texas earlier this year in the face of the state's resistance, announced on Thursday that it has issued its first such permit in the state — to a yet-to-be-built natural gas power plant in Llano County.

The plant will replace an older and less efficient power plant unit built in 1974. The Lower Colorado River Authority, a major electricity and water supplier in Central Texas, will build the replacement plant.

“We appreciated EPA’s work on our project,” said LCRA General Manager Becky Motal, in a statement on the EPA's release. “We believe that replacing our aging Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant with this new combined-cycle natural gas plant benefits everyone."

But the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state's environmental regulator, questioned the necessity of greenhouse gas permitting. "While we are pleased that the LCRA's Ferguson power plant project can move forward, we see no need for — or any environmental benefit from — EPA's greenhouse gas permit," said Andy Saenz, an agency spokesman, in an email comment. "The TCEQ authorized the project on Sept. 1, 2011 after careful review that determined the permit was protective of the environment and fully compliant with all state environmental regulations."

Al Armendariz, the regional head of the EPA, praised the efficiency and environmental controls of the planned LCRA plant. "LCRA is leading the way by providing Texans an efficient and reliable source of power," he said in a statement.

Texas is suing the EPA to roll back its greenhouse gas regulations, which began taking effect for a small number of plants in January. In most other states, state-level regulators would issue the greenhouse gas permits. But Texas is the only state refusing to implement the regulations, and the EPA has been the target of considerable political vitriol from Texas politicians.

Last night at the Republican presidential primary debate, Perry said that regulations by the EPA and other authorities were "what's killing America." During his infamous stumble, he clarified that the EPA was not among the three federal agencies he would eliminate. However, "EPA needs to be rebuilt, there's no doubt about that," Perry said.

The governor's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The EPA said that 10 other Texas plants, or planned plants, have applied for greenhouse gas permits. Those include the proposed Las Brisas power plant near Corpus Christi, which plans to use petroleum coke as its fuel.

Separately, the EPA also announced on Thursday that it was awarding a climate-related grant of nearly $487,000 to the North Central Texas Council of Governments, for a "Freight Efficiency Outreach Center" aimed at cutting emissions from freight transportation.

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