has covered energy and environment for the Tribune since 2010. Previously she reported on clean energy for The New York Times from 2008 to 2009, serving as the lead writer for the Times' Green blog. She began her career at The Economist in 2000 and spent 2005 to 2007 in Austin as the magazine's Southwest correspondent. A Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University from 2007 to 2008, she has an undergraduate degree in English from Harvard and a master's degree from the London School of Economics. She is co-author of The Great Texas Wind Rush, a book about how the oil and gas state won the race to wind power.
During a meeting today of the Public Utility Commission, chairman Barry Smitherman said that the Environmental Protection Agency was attempting to "disarm the U.S. economy," with a raft of rules covering everything from fly-ash waste from coal plants to new rules on greenhouse gases.
The politics and rhetoric of the Environmental Protection Agency's multi-front battle with Texas make for a grand spectacle. Behind the scenes, however, there are signs that big industrial plants are trying to move past the stalemate on their own, talking with federal regulators and, in some cases, preparing to meet the demands of the agency.
Electricity use on the Texas grid rose by 3.5 percent in 2010, and wind turbines generated 7.8 percent of the power, according to figures released today by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the grid operator.
In Texas, the largest oil producer in the United States, the demand for carbon dioxide is soaring, because it can help squeeze oil out of formations deep in the earth. That's why the idea of of capturing it and pumping it underground is gaining traction in the power sector. It sounds like an exercise in environmental idealism: Take the heat-trapping gas — belched prolifically from coal plants, which generate 45 percent of the nation’s electricity — and bury it, benefiting the atmosphere and combating global climate change. Of course, it is something of an environmental conundrum that stowing the greenhouse gas underground can also help to produce more fossil fuels.
The executive director of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department discusses the acquisition of a large piece of remote and rugged land along the Devils River; next steps for the bighorn sheep released in Big Bend Ranch State Park; the threats posed by invasive species like the giant salvinia, an exotic, rootless fern, and zebra mussels — and what the state's budget shortfall might mean for his agency and for the state's lands, waters, fish, wildlife and parks.
Come January, as Texas lawmakers begin work to pass bills and tackle the yawning budget gap, they will go up against a simple but implacable barrier: time. Texas is one of a dwindling number of states whose legislatures hold scheduled meetings only every two years. Just three other, far smaller states — Montana, North Dakota and Nevada — still have biennial legislative sessions. Lawmakers differ on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, especially for budgeting. Regardless, Texas seems unlikely to change anytime soon.
Texas's bid to suspend a federal efforts to regulate greenhouse gases hit another roadblock today, when the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals turned down the state's request for a stay of a move to force states to implement federal plans.
Over the next several months, hundreds of electric and plug-in hybrid cars will arrive in Texas cities. They will emit little pollution and be cheaper to operate than conventional vehicles. For the state government, however, the advent of alternative-fuel vehicles creates a long-term concern: They will generate little or no gas tax revenue — a key funding source for keeping the state's roads and bridges in good repair.
Every politician needs a villain. George W. Bush had Saddam Hussein; Barack Obama had George W. Bush. Gov. Rick Perry has the EPA., which has had the audacity to order Texas to do more to clean its air.
Energy is never far from the agenda at the Legislature. This year, Sunset Advisory Commission reviews of oil and gas and electricity regulators will keep the sector in the spotlight, as will renewed clamor for legislation — however unlikely to happen in a tough budget environment — to aid clean energy.
The tussle between Texas and federal environmental regulators is heating up in yet another arena — natural gas drilling — after the EPA ordered a gas company to act to come to the aid of two North Texas homes with contaminated wells. Texas Railroad Commissioners fired back, calling the EPA's move "premature" and "grandstanding."