March 11, 2007
Texas isn’t doing enough planning for the future. We are, at best reactionary. But Texas isn’t even reacting to threats very well.
About the best we can say is that the state found itself in a defensive and reactive position when TXU, the state’s largest utility, announced two years ago that it wanted to build 11 coal fired power plants. Granted, the defensive posture was exacerbated by the Governor’s effort to “fast track” the permits. But the bottom line is that we’re not prepared from a policy and planning standpoint to deal with these kinds of threats.
Senate Bill 1770, which was not passed by the legislature, would have forced the state to evaluate available capacity and ensure that permits for additional generation sources aren’t granted if they aren’t needed. It would have facilitated communication between the agencies with oversight over energy and environmental policy. In so doing, the bill would have mandated that state leaders evaluate and plan our energy needs so that companies motivated by private profits can’t scare Texans.
And the bill required Texas to consider conservation, efficiency and other ways to impact available demand and capacity, and not just build more plants.
The bill would have helped the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the agency charged with protecting our environment, focus on its job of protecting the environment. Regulators must remain insulated from battles over our state’s energy needs and not consider outside issues when evaluating what’s healthy and what isn’t. TCEQ is charged to implement and enforce the laws designed to protect our environment. It shouldn’t be faced with making permit decisions with political winds blowing.
Knowledge is power. At least that’s what they keep telling me. Let’s make sure we know what we have, what we really need, and what the impact will be on Texans. Let’s plan ahead and stop just reacting.