The Senate Natural Resources Committee heard testimony this morning on a bill that would create a Texas Energy Policy Council charged with crafting an energy plan for the state.

Members of the council would include top officials from the Public Utility Commission, the Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (the grid operator). It would plan Texas' energy future over a 20-year period, including how to deal with federal environmental regulations.

The details of what exactly the energy council should study has stirred considerable interest, and jockeying, among Texas energy providers. The bill — introduced by state Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay — underwent significant revisions shortly before the hearing. Language that would have required the planners to "identify the electric generating facilities in this state that produced the greatest amounts of air pollution during the preceding five years," and recommend retirement of a substantial amount of that generation, was removed, presumably at the urging of the coal companies that would have been especially affected.

"The substitute [bill] has resolved many of our concerns about this legislation," said Phillip Oldham, a representative for the Texas Association of Manufacturers.

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At the hearing this morning, representatives of various types of generating fuels praised the new version of the bill (though some people had only seen the original version).

However Paul Sadler, executive director of the Wind Coalition, said that he was concerned about language in the bill that changed some existing laws regarding renewable energy to warn against providing "operational or competitive advantages to renewable energy generators." That language remained in the new version of the bill.

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