Gilbert Calls On Texas To “Go Green”

Posted on 11/12/2009. Filed under: 2010 elections | Tags: , |

Proposes Overhaul Of Environmental Regulatory Agency, Increasing Renewable Portfolio Standard

AUSTIN-Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Hank Gilbert unveiled a series of bold, common sense addressing energy and the environment on Wednesday in Austin.

With Lady Bird Lake and the skyline of one of America’s ten greenest cities as his backdrop, Gilbert called for a statewide plan to address global warming, energy conservation, and renewable energy as well as a complete overhaul of environmental regulation in Texas.

“Environmental regulation in Texas is a maze that the average citizen has great difficulty navigating,” Gilbert said. “Depending upon the particular problem, an average person could be bounced back and forth between the Texas Commission On Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission several times before ultimately giving up. That must end,” he said.

Gilbert outlined a plan under which environmental regulation and oversight from several state agencies including the Texas Railroad Commission are combined with those of the Texas Commission On Environmental Quality under a new agency, the Texas Environmental Commission.

“The New Texas Environmental Commission will centralize environmental regulation and natural resource and energy conservation under one umbrella. This is the kind of common sense policy we need to protect our land, air, and water,” he continued.

In addition, Gilbert called for the issuance of a statewide plan to address global warming, energy conservation, and renewable energy.

“In the early 1990s, a joint legislative committee warned our state about the threats of global warming. To date, we still have no cohesive plan to address the issue of greenhouse gasses threatening the atmosphere over Texas. It is time to stop kicking the can down the road and address the problem now,” he said.

In terms of energy, Gilbert called for an elected Commissioner to head the Public Utility Commission and for increasing the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.

“Under current law, our state has a target of requiring electric providers to produce 10,000 mega-watts of energy from renewable sources by 2025. Already in Texas we have over 7,000 mega-watts of generation capacity coming from renewable energy. I’m calling for mandating that energy providers generate 20 percent of our state’s power from renewable energy by 2020,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert’s proposal also includes:

  • Consolidating utility regulation under the Public Utility Commission of Texas. (currently natural gas regulation rests with the Texas Railroad Commission)
  • Overhauling existing statutes and administrative regulations to hold polluters and regulated industries accountable to Texans.
  • Incentives for increasing wind, solar, and biomass capacity.
  • Raising energy efficiency standards for residential and commercial construction.
  • Requiring the establishment of state energy standards for various appliances.
  • Property tax incentives for homeowners who install solar panels on their homes, and eliminating the sales tax on the purchase and instillation of solar panels.
  • Giving businesses a franchise tax deduction for the cost of solar and wind energy systems designed to power their businesses.
  • Giving homeowners and businesses property tax exemptions for the appraised value of solar, wind, or biomass energy systems.
  • Retooling the Texas Enterprise Fund to focus on bringing green jobs to Texas.
  • Retooling the Texas Emerging Technology Fund to focus on helping develop new green energy and environmentally sound technologies.
  • Requiring all existing coal power plants to adopt cleaner technologies by 2017.
  • Adopting strict standards for mercury and other pollutants from existing power plants and factories.
  • A moratorium on permits for new coal power plants unless their emissions are captured and stored.
  • Requiring cement production plants to reduce mercury emissions by 80 percent by 2014.
  • Strict standards for underground disposal wells (commonly called injection wells).
  • Mandatory use of purification technology for drilling waste to be disposed of through injection wells by 2020.
  • A Surface Owner Protection Act.
  • A constitutional amendment requiring all revenues generated by the Sporting Goods Sales Tax as well as other user fees and taxes presently dedicated to the park system to be so allocated.
  • $150 million be allotted for the acquisition and development of new state parks and for the addition of land to existing state parks.

“We must protect our natural resources and significantly reduce pollution Texas’ carbon footprint. It’s time to go green, Texas,” Gilbert concluded.

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FACT SHEET

Go Green, Texas

BY THE NUMBERS

Texas is the worst air polluter in the nation\. (SOURCE: Congressional Quarterly’s State Fact Finder 2007)

Texas releases more volatile organic compounds into the air than any other state in the country. (SOURCE: ScoreCard.org)

Texas releases more toxic chemicals into water than any other state in the nation. (SOURCE: ScoreCard.org)

Texas ranks fifth in the nation in terms of toxic chemicals released into the air. (SOURCE: ScoreCard.org)

Texas releases more cancer-causing carcinogens into the air than any other state in the U.S.  (SOURCE: ScoreCard.org)

Texas ranks seventh out of the fifty states in terms of the number of cancer-causing carcinogens released into water. (SOURCE: ScoreCard.org)

Texas ranks second among the fifty states in the amount of hazardous waste generated and first in carbon dioxide emissions. (SOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [LINK])

LAGGING BEHIND ON REDUCING OUR CARBON FOOTPRINT

In 1991, the Join Select Committee on Toxic Air Emissions and the Greenhouse Effect recommended, among other things, that the Legislature develop a plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and facilitating energy conservation. (SOURCE: Report to the 72nd Legislature of the Joint Select Committee on Toxic Air Emissions and the Greenhouse Effect [LINK]). To date, the state has no such plans.

COAL

Texas coal power plants are among the dirtiest in the nation:

TXU’s Martin Lake Power Plant ranks first in the nation in terms of mercury pollution by pound. TXU’s Monticello, Big Brown, and AEP’s H.W. Pirkey plants rank 4th, 6th, and 7th respectively. (SOURCE: Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants, Environmental Integrity Project [LINK])

TXU’s Big Brown plant ranks 13th in the nation in terms of SO2 pollution by ton. (SOURCE: Dirty Kilowatts: America’s Most Polluting Power Plants, Environmental Integrity Project [LINK])

If existing Texas coal-fired power plants were required to meet federal New Source Performance Standards, emissions would be reduced as follows:

NOx SO2 PM
Annual emissions from Texas
coal-fired power plants (tons) 125,481 500,676 33,972
Reduction to meet the federal
new source standards (tons) -53,000 -392,893 -23,408

(SOURCE: Policy Options For Clean Air and Sustainable Energy In Texas, Texas Business For Clean Air. [LINK])

Most Texas coal power now emit several times above the EPA limits of various pollutants. However, they have been “grandfathered” because of their age. Requiring all existing plants to comply with current limits could reduce SO2 emissions by nearly 80% and yield significant reductions in NOx and PM. (SOURCE: Policy Options For Clean Air and Sustainable Energy In Texas, Texas Business For Clean Air. [LINK])

RENEWABLE PORTFOLIO STANDARD

About Texas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard: Texas first RPS was created as part of electric utility deregulation (Senate Bill 7) in 1999. It mandated that electricity providers collectively generate 2,000 MW of additional renewable energy by 2009. In 2005, the Texas Legislature increased the RPS to 5,880 MW by 2015 with a target of 10,000 MW in 2025. (SOURCE: State Energy Conservation Office, [LINK])

Texas’ Renewable Portfolio Standard contains far less ambitious targets than those set by other sates. (SOURCE: Policy Options For Clean Air and Sustainable Energy In Texas, Texas Business For Clean Air. [LINK])

By contrast, other states have much more ambitious standards:

New York: 24% by 2013; California: 20% by 2010; 33% by 2020; Maine: 40% by 2017 (SOURCE: Database of State Incentives For Renewables & Efficiency, North Carolina Solar Center, North Carolina State University [LINK])

AIR QUALITY

Ozone levels in all major Texas urban areas exceed the EPA’s 75 ppb 8-hour Ozone Average Standard. (Texas Commission On Environmental Quality).

Texas leads the nation in total CO2 emissions with 652 million metric tons of CO2,
representing 11% of CO2 emissions nationwide. (Energy Information Administration, U.S. Department of Energy. [LINK])

If Texas were a country, it would rank seventh ahead of Canada and United Kingdom in total CO2 emissions. (SOURCE: Policy Options For Clean Air and Sustainable Energy In Texas, Texas Business For Clean Air. [LINK])

WATER QUALITY

Seventeen water bodies in Texas are classified as “impaired” due to high levels of mercury concentrations in fish by the Texas Department of State Health Services. (Texas Commission On Environmental Quality.)

POTENTIAL IMPACTS OF GLOBAL WARMING ON TEXAS

Potential impacts of climate change in Texas include: rising sea level, loss of coastal wetlands, erosion of beaches, saltwater contamination of drinking water, and decreased longevity of low-lying roads, causeways, and bridges. (SOURCE: Policy Options For Clean Air and Sustainable Energy In Texas, Texas Business For Clean Air. [LINK])

ENERGY

Texas leads the nation in total electricity consumption, with 343 TWh of electricity
sales in 2006. (SOURCE: Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy/U.S. Department of Energy)

Per-capita, Texans consume more electricity than the national average (Figure 11) and more than twice the rate of some other states, such as New York, California, and Hawaii. (SOURCE: Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy/U.S. Department of Energy)

Net electricity generation, by fuel, for 2007 was as follows for Texas: Coal, 37.4%; Wind, 2.9%; Nuclear, 13.4%; Other, 0.4%; Hydroelectric, 0.4%; Natural Gas, 45.5%. (SOURCE: Policy Options For Clean Air and Sustainable Energy In Texas, Texas Business For Clean Air. [LINK])

ERCOT manages the electricity market and brings electric power to 21 million customers in Texas, which account for 85% of the state’s electric load and 75% of the Texas land area. ERCOT oversees 78,000 MW of power generation capacity in Texas. [SOURCE: Electric Reliability Council of Texas]

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