First Texas Greenhouse Gas Permit Issued
Updated: Aug 29
The U.S. EPA issued the first greenhouse gas (GHG) permit in the state of Texas on November 12, after assuming regulatory control over its air permitting program in January of 2011. The permit was issued to the Lower Colorado River Authority’s (LCRA) Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant, a natural-gas fired facility located in Llano County, Texas. LCRA proposed replacing the 37 year old, technologically antiquated plant which provides approximately 440 megawatts, with a new 590 megawatt natural-gas fired plant. As a result of EPA’s new regulations on air emissions that significantly contribute to climate change, LCRA needed to obtain a GHG permit for the new power plant.
The GHG emissions regulations promulgated by EPA have become one of the most polemical subjects in the country. It has contributed to an already divided U.S. Congress, as arguments over its effect on industry and the environment fly across the aisle. Despite the controversy and debate, EPA moved forward in an aggressive fashion, seizing control over the recalcitrant Texas’s air permitting abilities. The move was made in part because Texas was the only state that outright refused to acknowledge or implement the newly promulgated GHG regulations. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the state regulatory agency charged with the responsibility of protecting the environment, including the air quality, for all Texans. Texas ranks number one in the U.S. for most greenhouse gases emitted annually.
The TECQ’s regulatory authority was stripped because of its refusal to issue a permit for the new power plant, simply because it did not agree with the regulations. TECQ and Texas in general are concerned that new regulations will be overly burdensome to industry and subsequently kill jobs, which is the narrative of many who see EPA as the agency that is overreaching in its authority. This GHG permit clearly demonstrates that consideration of economic growth and public health and environmental issues are not mutually exclusive. LCRA has not complained that the GHG permit was overly burdensome or that it resulted in any job losses in the facility.
The new natural-gas fired facility will employ state-of-the-art technology that will reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxides (NOx) that are released into the atmosphere. Additionally, the new power plant is designed to be extremely efficient, reducing the amount of fuel consumed to generate electricity by approximately 35-40 percent. EPA is applauding the LCRA for its ability to comply with federal regulations in a timely fashion, successfully completing the permitting process in 8 months. EPA is also in the process of reviewing 10 permit applications for other Texas businesses.