Texas grid operator says EPA rule would be costly

EMILY SCHMALL, Associated Press

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The electric distribution grid operator for most of Texas said Monday that a federal mandate to slash carbon emissions nationwide would challenge power reliability in Texas and raise consumer electricity costs by as much as 20 percent as half the state’s coal-fired power plants shut down.

The state would have to invest billions in new transmission lines, and reliability might be jeopardized at peak times around cities if the plan is implemented as quickly as the federal agency has proposed, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas said in a report Monday.

Under the plan unveiled in June, Texas, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases and industrial pollution in the nation, would need to cut emissions by 39 percent. The EPA’s broader plan calls for a 30 percent nationwide reduction by 2030.

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In the short-term, ERCOT planner Warren Lasher said, retail electricity prices would increase because of more expensive energy supplies.

Prices could rise as much as 20 percent, without accounting for the cost of investments in transmission lines and other infrastructure.

“The ability to implement this plan or one like it is a good distance away,” Lasher said.

However, EPA spokesman David Gray said the agency offers “a large toolbox is available to planners,” to ensure states and regions have adequate energy supplies.

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Texas Commission on Environmental Quality spokeswoman Andrea Morrow says the agency that regulates the state’s underground resources — including coal — will file its comments to the EPA by a Dec. 1 deadline. The EPA must issue a final rule by June 2015.

Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott has repeatedly sued the EPA and has said the recent proposal is part of a “job-killing agenda” that threatens the state’s booming energy industry.

The EPA is relying heavily on governors to help develop an emission-cutting strategy within three years but can create its own plan for states that refuse. But it is unclear how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would force Texas to comply with its new standards.