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EPA vs. Texas: The Cross-State Rule

In the month ahead, the cross-state air pollution rule will get its day in court, and as summer approaches, debate will continue over the capacity of the Texas electric grid and how to incentivize construction of more power plants.

Steam rises from the stacks at the Martin Lake Coal-Fired Power Plant in Tatum, TX March 30, 2011.

The controversial federal cross-state air pollution rule will get its day in court on April 13. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington will hear arguments on the legality of the rule, which seeks to reduce pollution from Texas power plants. The state of Texas and Energy Future Holdings, the umbrella corporation that includes Luminant, have big concerns about the rule, which was stayed by the court late last year before it could take effect. 

As summer approaches, the question of how to get more capacity onto the electric grid will be a big topic. The court date for the cross-state rule will bring that back into play, and the Public Utility Commission will doubtless continue to discuss it in open meetings. The PUC will hold an energy efficiency workshop on March 29. The Gulf Coast Power Association will have grid self-sufficiency on its agenda in its spring meeting in Houston (April 3-4). Intriguing: Gov. Rick Perry has lately shown an interest in ERCOT, touring its facilities in Taylor and tweeting about the grid. 

Also of note in the energy and environment world:

  • The PUC is holding a hearing on prepaid electricity on April 15.
  • Waste Control Specialists, the Harold Simmons-controlled company, will start accepting low-level radioactive waste into its new Andrews County repository in April, The Associated Press reports. Thanks to changes from the last Legislature, the dump can accept waste from lots of states, not just the original two, Texas and Vermont.
  • The Sierra Club will be watching the health of Texas rivers on March 28, when the TCEQ takes a look at adoption of environmental flow standards for the Guadalupe/San Antonio River Basins and San Antonio Bay and for the Colorado/Lavaca River Basins and Matagorda Bay.
  • Speaking of water, West Texas is still in drought, but tighter water restrictions take effect April 1 in Lubbock, where lawn watering will be allowed one day a week, and in Midland. And the House Natural Resources Committee may hold more water hearings, per its interim charges to examine drought issues.
  • Is an appointment to the empty seat on the Railroad Commission imminent? The buzz centers on Buddy Garcia, a TCEQ commissioner. Meanwhile, the Railroad Commission will continue its hearings on a proposed controversial coal mine in Maverick County. The commission is still months away from deciding about whether to issue a permit to the Mexican company that wants to operate the mine.

Conferences abound, as always. Some to note:

  • Energy: The Texas Tribune is hosting a conference on energy at the University of Houston on April 13. Speakers include Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Railroad Commission. The University of Texas is holding an electricity conference in early April, featuring a few panels on renewables. Upcoming speakers at the university's Energy Institute Symposium series include Dr. Charles Macal, senior systems engineer at the Argonne National Laboratory, on March 29; Andrew McAllister, managing director at the California Center for Sustainable Energy, on April 5; and Ashmeet Sidana, general partner of Foundation Capital, on April 12 (topic: Taking Green Technologies from Innovation to the Market: A VC’s Perspective).
  • Water: The CleanTX Foundation's water forum will be held in Austin on April 4; speakers include Tom Mason, former general manager of the LCRA.
  • Lubbock is hosting a conference on water conservation on April 20; it's called "Spring Into Green" and will feature talks from the likes of Aubrey Spear, the city's water director, and Ed Archuletta, president of the El Paso Water Utility. The LCRA is hosting a  Central Texas Water Efficiency Network Symposium at the LCRA Montopolis Center in Austin on March 30. On April 3, the U.S. Committee on Irrigation & Drainage conference is holding a conference on the future of irrigated agriculture, in Austin.

And, of course, there's Earth Day on April 22. Dallas will mark it with a two-day festival.

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