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July 2, 2015

PUC quietly approves $325 million in electric discounts

Low-income Texans to get $50 monthly break till August 2016

The Texas Public Utility Commission quietly approved $325 million in electricity discounts Thursday that are expected to benefit more than half a million low-income Texans for one more year.

The action, thanks to the passage of House Bill 1101 by Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, is expected to result in estimated discounts just over $50 a month through August 2016, according to the PUC.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

July 2, 2015

Abbott: BP settlement would send $750 million to Texas

Gulf Coast environmental and economic health to benefit

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that Texas would receive more than $750 million in damages from BP under a preliminary agreement compensating Gulf States for damages arising from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill disaster five years ago.

“After five years, I’m proud to announce that Texas, along with the other Gulf States, has reached an agreement in principle with BP to resolve all the state’s claims. This settlement will allow Texas to reinvest in the Gulf community and reinvigorate the economic and environmental health of the region,” Abbot said in a statement.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

July 1, 2015

Supreme Court delay of mercury rule might stall Clean Power Plan

CPP assumed other regulations could force coal retirements, says consultant

The Supreme Court’s indefinite delay this week of the EPA’s mercury and air toxics standards could gum up implementation of President Barack Obama’s key climate change initiative, the Clean Power Plan, according to a global energy-consulting firm.

The CPP assumed a certain number of coal-generation retirements would result from a combination of clean air requirements – the now-delayed Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS), the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule and the Clean Power Plan, notes Olof Bystrom, one of 2,500 energy experts at DNV GL, advising global clients on traditional and sustainable electric generation.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

June 30, 2015

Texas No. 1 in coal-fired power affected by Supreme Court

16,500 MW of power at stake in mercury emissions case

Texas tops the list by far of states with the most fossil fuel-generating power plants not yet in compliance with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS), which suffered a setback yesterday when the Supreme Court sent the rules back to the agency and a lower court to consider $9.6 billion annually in cost concerns.

SNL Energy reports that Texas power companies have been granted up to an extra year to come into compliance with MATS for nearly 16,500 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. The time extensions are mostly to install mercury controls.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

June 29, 2015

Supreme Court rebuffs EPA’s mercury rule for coal-powered plants

EPA didn’t consider cost up-front; kids, pregnant women to suffer, say some

Five Supreme Court justices on Monday rebuked the EPA’s pricey mercury and toxic air pollutants rule for coal-fired power plants, sending the agency back to the drawing board for not considering high costs of the regulations up front.

Depending through which lens one views the high court’s action, this means owners of Texas’ aging and mercury-emitting coal fleet are the nation’s No. 1 beneficiary or that Texas pregnant women, infants, children and asthma sufferers are the ruling’s biggest losers.

The case, which pits protecting human and environmental health against industry complaints of  $9.6 billion annually in compliance costs, could prove a stumbling block for the Obama Administration’s overarching agenda to fight climate change by forcing old coal plants to retire. Still to come, the EPA is expected to issue its sweeping and final Clean Power Plan this August, under which Texas would need to slash its carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by nearly 40 percent.

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By Polly Ross Hughes

June 29, 2015

Supreme Court deals setback, 5-4, of EPA’s power plant mercury rule

Says agency can’t ignore costs, estimated at $9.6 billion annually

By Polly Ross Hughes

June 25, 2015

RRC Chairman Porter on Milton Rister retirement announcement

Announces nationwide search to replace retiring executive director

“The Railroad Commission will immediately begin a nationwide search for a new executive director, following Milton Rister’s announcement he will retire later this summer. This search will focus on a candidate with strong leadership capabilities and technical expertise, so that we may continue building on our legacy as the nation’s preeminent energy regulatory agency. I want to thank Milton for his service and wish him the best in the future.”