What do new EPA regulations on carbon dioxide emissions mean for Houston?

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Houston is the energy capitol of the world, and new regulations could trickle down and affect you (KTRK)

The Obama administration on Monday unveiled strict new rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions. And here in Houston, the energy capital of the world, the news is getting mixed reaction, all depending on who you talk to.

In Ft. Bend County, the WA Parish plant is one of the largest coal-fired power plants in the country.

Run by NRG, the company says it doesn't know yet what impact the new rules will have on the plant, industry or your pocketbook.

But the EPA says the goal of reducing carbon emissions from existing plants by 30 percent and regulating new plants is for the health of the planet and each state has two years to figure out how to do it.

Texas is the largest producer in the country of these targeted emissions. It is also among the more efficient in the energy those emissions produce.

Regardless, environmental groups are heralding the the EPA's announcement.

"We're understanding now that we're not just talking about future impacts," says Adrian Shelley of Air Alliance Houston, an air quality environmental advocacy group in Houston. "There are current impacts of climate change here in Texas and elsewhere; rising temperatures, drought, changing weather patterns.

"This rule is the first significant step," says Barry Lefer, an earth science professor at the University of Houston.

He says the climate is changing and coal-fired power plants are a big reason.

"What we're really doing, changing where it rains and how much it rains and it's going to have a big impact on Texas," he said. "The western part
of Texas is going to get drier."

But what about the financial cost?

Proponents suggest there will be new jobs in emerging energy markets and while NRG may not know the impacts yet, there are those, including Governor Rick Perry, who issued a critical press release Monday and who contends the cost of energy will go up and jobs will go away.

Bob Tippee is the editor of the Oil and Gas Journal.

"This is the EPA very aggressively regulating a large part of the economy," he said.

NRG released the following statement on the story Monday afternoon. It reads:

    NRG views achieving significant GHG emission reductions - domestically and globally - as essential for creating sustainable businesses and a sustainable economy. These GHG reduction objectives can only be met by responsible businesses and informed consumers aggressively deploying innovative, clean technologies while systematically reducing emissions from fossil fuels - objectives that we are vigorously pursuing. Well-conceived federal and state policy is important to support such private sector innovation, investment and transformation. Policies that focus on moderate, near-term emissions reductions, coupled with more aggressive out-year targets, will allow NRG and the rest of the power sector to continue to deploy a wide variety of clean energy solutions.

    Based on our initial reading of the EPA's proposed GHG rule for existing power plants, we have concerns that EPA's dramatically varying state emission targets may derail these objectives by adversely impacting electricity reliability and consumers in certain states and introducing excessive uncertainty and legal risk around the important objective of reducing GHG emissions. We are carefully reviewing the proposed rule and we look forward to working with the EPA and state regulators to create reasonable, practicable guidelines for achieving substantial emission reductions.
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politicsenvironmental protection agencyHoustonFort Bend County
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