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The Texas Addiction: Dirty Coal

22 Sep 2011  |   Emma Brown

Tags: Clean Air, General Environment, General Political

Texas needs an intervention.  It’s addicted—addicted to coal.

On Wednesday, the State Attorney General Greg Abbott filed suit to stop recently issued EPA air standards from going into effect.  The standards, which went into effect in July, require 27 states to reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, and nitrogen oxides, a component of ground-level smog.

Abbott claimed the EPA standards were “overreaching and unlawful.”  Earlier this year, the same office also filed suit to stop the EPA from enforcing reductions to greenhouse gas emissions on similar grounds.

The Attorney General’s move is far from surprising. Texas is the biggest consumer of coal and electricity in the nation and has a long history of clashing with the EPA—a trend that its governor, Rick Perry, loves to boast about on the campaign trail.   Its home to an astounding 19 coal plants—the most of any state.

Sadly, the state’s air quality reflects its dirty habit. Texas air is among the worst in the nation—seven of its metropolitan areas are ranked as among the “smoggiest” cities in the U.S.   Due to the state’s refusal to enact effective air quality protections, the EPA has been forced to repeatedly intervene. Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston already have been found out compliance with Federal Clean Air Act.

Austin is likely to become a third metropolitan area to meet that fate, with the city’s smog at the worst levels since 2006. The region has recorded 8 high ozone days thus far this summer—and that’s only based on current standards set in 2008 that scientists have said are much too weak to adequately protect public health.

Meanwhile, with 9 more coal plants slated for the state in the coming years, Texas’ addiction only seems to deepen.

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