THE BIG CONVERSATION:
This fight's gotten heated, but not like this.
Engaged in a protracted battle with Texas over federal regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency has indicated that today it will seize control of Texas' permitting program for power plants because of the state's refusal to enforce new emissions rules, The New York Times reports.
A number of states have taken up legal fights against the new regulations, which the Obama administration has called necessary and Republicans — many doubtful that such emissions contribute to global warming in the first place — have called an intrusion by the federal government.
But Texas remains the only state in the U.S. that has completely refused to enforce the new regulations, which will take effect on Jan. 2.
As a result, the EPA said Monday that it would take control of the state's program starting today — a rare move, and certainly the most dramatic step yet in the EPA's battle with Texas, Greenwire notes.
In a letter to state officials, the agency wrote: "The unwillingness of Texas state officials to implement this portion of the federal program leaves EPA no choice but to resume its role as the permitting authority, in order to assure that businesses in Texas are not subject to delays or potential legal challenges and are able to move forward with planned construction and expansion projects that will create jobs and otherwise benefit the state's and the nation's economy."
Andrea Morrow, a spokeswoman for the state's environmental agency, called the EPA's move an "arrogant act by an overreaching EPA that is trying to implement new, unnecessary controls on American industry."
- House Speaker Joe Straus picked up a key nod Wednesday from state Rep. Beverly Woolley, a Houston Republican and vice chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus whose endorsement, Texas Monthly's Paul Burka notes, should "put to rest the furor over whether [Straus] is a 'true' conservative."
- Former Gov. Mark White was among the 60 judges, prosecutors and politicians who filed a brief Wednesday urging the state's Court of Criminal Appeals to allow a controversial, unprecedented hearing on the constitutionality of the death penalty to continue.
"I turned around to Karl [Rove] and said, 'I'm sorry. I didn't know we were supposed to BS the president.'" — Matthew Dowd, a former political strategist for George W. Bush, recalling a scene early in Bush's 2004 re-election campaign in which the president appeared confident that he would sail to victory
- Mexico keeps drone incident under wraps, El Paso Times
- Parker looks back at first year, Houston Chronicle
- Per National Trend, Perry Stingy With Pardons, The Texas Tribune
- And in the last TribCast taping of the year: the census, what's left of the speaker's race and predictions for 2011
The Brief will be vacationing until Jan. 3. Till then, happy holidays! See you in 2011.