Monday, April 30, 2007

Future Dim For Air Quality Laws

Here are some excerpts from an article in today's "Dallas Morning News". With all the attention global warming and climate change have been getting in the media, one would think legislators would be passing every law limiting polluting emissions of every sort; especially carbon dioxide. You would think it would be a "slam dunk", to paraphrase a former director of the CIA. And you would be WRONG. At least in Texas. And you might not think what happens in Texas is important, and again you might be wrong, as goes Texas might mean so goes the rest of the U.S., maybe more.

I'm not sure of the implications of the activity in the Texas legislature, but it does not look good for environmentalists. It seems reason, caution, and logic are winning out over hype, hysteria, and showbusiness. I get the impression that people are not believing the global warming doomsayers. All the talk in the world about global warming and the impending climate crises is not going to amount to anything unless enforceable laws are passed. It doesn't look like that is going to happen in Texas, and my guess is these kinds of bills are going to get the same chilly reception in Washington, D.C. in Congress. I'm just posting some highlights from the article. Read the entire article and let's hear what you think.

Go here to read the complete article:

Future dim for air-quality bills
Legislature: Most proposals to make coal plant permits tougher aren't getting a hearing

01:20 AM CDT on Monday, April 30, 2007
By RANDY LEE LOFTIS / The Dallas Morning News

When TXU and other companies announced their huge expansion of coal power in Texas, gaping holes in the state's air pollution rules became apparent.

But a Dallas Morning News review shows that most bills before the Texas Legislature aimed at making the state's air permit system tougher are dying without getting a committee hearing. Others, including bills to halt new coal-plant permits until rules can be tightened, have gotten a hearing but seem destined to get no action.

Strong public reaction to those regulatory shortcomings led legislators to file bills to fix the permitting system and to raise related issues such as global warming. For a while, it seemed possible that the 2007 session might bring fundamental changes to Texas' oft-criticized approach to protecting the public from air pollution. But with a month left before the Legislature adjourns, the chance for comprehensive reform is fading fast.

Although Texas ranks first among the states and seventh worldwide in emissions of carbon dioxide, all the bills attempting to write a Texas policy on global warming are also apparently headed for early deaths. So are bills that would require the sale of cleaner California-standard cars in Texas.

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, is among the legislators who pushed most aggressively for coal reforms. He filed bills to tax coal, strengthen clean-air technology requirements for coal plants, cut summertime emissions from power plants, and offer incentives for cleaner plants near urban areas. All are stalled. "I'm increasingly bearish on whether we're going to get anything out," Mr. Anchia said.

That happened Friday when a Senate bill aimed at limiting TXU's market share passed the House with some environmental amendments. Environmental lobbyists hope for more such small victories, but they are reluctant to say too much about them for fear of rallying the opposition. "There are many good bills out there that deserve a chance," said Tom "Smitty" Smith, Texas director of Public Citizen.

Environmental advocates are working to salvage as many reforms as possible during this session since half of the originally proposed coal plants are either still in progress or already have their permits.

Even if environmentalists managed to kill or delay Oak Grove, however, this session they won't achieve the same type of sweeping and clear new direction to clean-air regulation that water-development advocates got with the 1997 passage of Senate Bill 1, the state's comprehensive water planning law.

The water law, a response to a 1996 drought, still dictates state water policies a decade later. The clean-air bills, a response to the proposed coal boom, have smashed into a wall of opposition that the water bill never encountered.

Mr. Bonnen said he wants to wait until the furor over the coal boom has calmed down before thinking about which way Texas should go on regulating power plant pollution.
"We need to do this in an unemotional way that's not influenced by how people feel about a particular company's CEO," he said, referring to TXU's John Wilder, who became a lightning rod for criticism of TXU's coal plans.

At least 65 bills in the Legislature deal in some way with clean air. Bills awaiting action by the full House or Senate have passed a committee vote. Bills left pending or with no action in committee have received a hearing but have not had a vote. They could be revived or could become amendments to other bills but most probably will expire with no action. Bills that have received no hearing are probably almost certainly destined to will expire with no action.

(This is just a list of bills directly addressing "global warming", Peter)

Global warming
Awaiting action by full House:
HB 3431. Would extend state tax breaks to future equipment used to capture carbon dioxide emissions.
Passed Senate; awaiting action in the House:
SB 1762. Would order a state study on global warming's impact on the Rio Grande.
Left pending or no action in committee:
HB 722. Would create a state global warming task force.
SB 945. Would require actions and emissions cuts to fight global warming.
No hearing:
HB 2073, HB 2143, HB 2362, HB 3897, 3939, SB 1687. Would require actions and emissions cuts to fight global warming.


Anonymous said...

State's have enough pressing problems that require responsible decisions. I imagine it's very difficult to justify legislation for issues surrounded in controversy and hype, especially those with little if any viable solutions.

Peter said...

It sounds as if you have your mind made up.... don't pass environmental laws that are controversial with uncertain outcomes. That's not how they do it in California.