November 26, 2008
Federal caps on greenhouse gas carbon dioxide emissions would suffocate Texas’ economy, Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday as the state tries to fend off such limits.
The caps are a threat that could “run this nation’s strongest economy right off the tracks and into the ditch,” Perry said at a news conference.
The news conference came as Perry submitted a report to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is considering placing regulations on the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
The report says that by slapping costs on businesses, such regulations would “create extreme economic hardships, regulatory uncertainty, and immeasurable standards.”
But some state environmentalists and lawmakers say Texas, the state with the highest carbon dioxide emissions, should start working with federal regulators to help its businesses before Washington decides what steps to take.
Tuesday’s news conference, during which state leaders took several shots at Washington, highlights how the upcoming change of presidential administrations has transformed the relationship between Austin and Washington. With President George W. Bush in power, Texas and federal environmental regulators were in step, keen to limit rules. But President-elect Barack Obama, supported by Democratic majorities in Congress, has signaled that he wants to cap greenhouse gas emissions.
“The idea that just because there’s been an administrative change and some would say the inevitability of these types of regulations does not change our attitude or change our effort to bring some reality and truth to the issues here,” Perry said.
Washington could learn from Texas, which leads the nation in wind power, said Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Public Utility Commission and an author of the report.
“Washington should be following our lead, rather than the other way around,” he said.
The state has long resisted regulations on carbon dioxide emissions, arguing that they would unfairly burden the state’s businesses, ratchet up energy costs and wrap Texans in red tape.
“Reductions in CO2 will likely be achieved by reducing coal-produced electricity, resulting in less fuel diversity, higher reliance on natural gas, decreased electric reliability, and higher prices for consumers,” the report says.
In 2006, Texas supported the EPA as it argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that the greenhouse gas is not a dangerous air pollutant. But the Supreme Court sided with Massachusetts and a host of other states challenging the EPA’s interpretation, leading to the possibility of regulations.
Perry has questioned the link between human activities and global warming.
“I’ve heard Al Gore talk about man-made global warming so much that I’m starting to think that his mouth is the leading source of all that supposedly deadly carbon dioxide,” Perry told a gathering of California Republicans in September 2007.
The report that Perry is submitting to the EPA as his official comment was authored by Railroad Commission Chairman Michael Williams, an elected official who counts coal and energy companies among his chief campaign donors; Smitherman; and Bryan Shaw, a commissioner at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
With the change in Washington, Texas should work with regulators to get credit for its wind power and acknowledgement of its energy work, said state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin.
“We should be very careful that we don’t set up Texas to be in opposition in Washington,” he said, “so that a state that is a leader in terms of energy production isn’t unduly penalized for what it does for the rest of the country.”