Republican seeks moratorium on new coal plant permitsadmin
A Central Texas lawmaker became one of the first Republicans to take a strong stance against coal plants in Texas on Wednesday, filing a resolution urging a halt to new permits for the next six months.
State Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson’s resolution is considered a long shot in legislative circles. Even if it passes, it won’t have the force of law. And some legislators say the tenor of the debate might already have changed by the time the resolution comes up for a vote.
But lawmakers concerned about coal plants say Mr. Anderson’s bill is an important first step ”“ regardless of whether it passes, the door will be opened for bipartisan discussion and a message will be sent to energy companies.
“It’s a step, and that’s the important thing,” said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who has already filed two bills relating to coal taxes and energy efficiency. “I stand in support of taking action, whether or not it’s this resolution.”
Some lawmakers and business leaders around the state are unhappy with the pace of coal plant permitting, which Gov. Rick Perry fast-tracked in 2005 in the belief, he said, that the state needs a quick solution to avoid future power shortages.
TXU Corp. is preparing for public hearings on permits for 11 plants while fending off efforts to slow the permitting process and seek cleaner technology.
“Public-policy leaders must carefully weigh any delays to adding much-needed generation in the state,” TXU spokeswoman Kim Morgan said Wednesday. “Texans can’t afford to delay any longer.”
TXU, which formed its business strategy around coal, says Texas needs the coal-burning plants to stave off power shortages projected two years from now. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates Texas’ power grid, agrees.
But environmentalists and some elected officials have come out swinging, disputing the power shortages forecast and saying conservation can buy Texas time to explore cleaner technology.
“I think all of us in Texas are looking to the governor to do something,” said Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, who is leading a statewide campaign against coal pollution. “This is not a partisan issue; it’s a health issue.”
Nine of the 16 permits being sought in Texas would put coal plants within 50 miles of Waco, McLennan County’s seat. Mr. Anderson’s district is in the county. Some Waco leaders worry that if TXU builds plants nearby, the city will be at risk of no longer meeting federal clean air rules.
“If we go into nonattainment over this, then we limit our local industries’ ability to grow, or to attract new industry to our area,” said Waco Mayor Virginia Dupuy.
Mr. Anderson said some new coal plants may be necessary, but he wants to make sure they use the cleanest coal technology possible ”“ and consider alternative energy sources. His fears for Central Texas include an uptick in hazy days and increased exposure to mercury.
The moratorium “gives us time, folks, to evaluate the whole enchilada,” Mr. Anderson said Wednesday. “No one knows the total effect of these nine plants.”
Mr. Anchia said Mr. Anderson’s bill, while it may be on the far end of the spectrum, will give other members ”“ including more Republicans ”“ “the room they need to participate” in the debate.
He said his ideal compromise is one that clears the way for one or two traditional coal plants while fast-tracking energy permits for others that meet stringent emissions standards.