Is Texas Cleaning Up Its Act?

by Daniel Farber | February 21, 2017

At a national meeting of state utility regulators, the head of the group recently said that the Clean Power Plan was basically dead, but this might not matter because "arguably, you're seeing market-based decarbonization" due to technological changes. Case in point: Texas.

Market trends are pushing Republican stronghold Texas toward a cleaner grid. ERCOT, which operates nearly all of the state's grid, recently projected that in the next fifteen years, Texas will add almost 20 gigawatts of solar, equivalent to 15-20 new nuclear reactors. In fact, under virtually every scenario ERCOT considered, the only new capacity is solar, with no new fossil fuel plants expected. ERCOT also expects to retire about a third that amount in coal generation along with some older, inefficient natural gas plants. Regulatory changes could nudge these numbers upward or downward. Both the use of renewables and the fossil fuel retirements would just about double with stronger environmental mandates. On the other hand, coal retirements would decrease without federal haze limits that are now in litigation.

You might be wondering why wind power doesn't play a greater role in these projections. The reason is probably that Texas is already #1 in the nation in terms of wind; in fact, if it were a country, it would be #6 in the world. So there's more potential for growth in the comparatively small solar sector.

Another modeling effort provides a reality check on ERCOT's projections, reaching comparable ...

Why the REINS Act Is Unconstitutional

by Bill Funk | February 14, 2017
The so-called Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny Act (REINS Act) has already passed the House this year, as it did in previous sessions. The current version, which amends the Congressional Review Act (CRA), differs somewhat from previous versions but still suffers from a fatal flaw – it is unconstitutional.  The current REINS Act has three parts. One part essentially reflects the recent Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs, except that the REINS Act only ...

The Cabinet and the Rule of Law

by David Driesen | February 06, 2017
To carry out their duty under the Constitution, senators must ask themselves the following question when considering a president's cabinet nominee: Will this person faithfully execute the laws, even if the president wishes to ignore them and carry out a contrary policy? Unless the answer to that question is a clear "Yes," they must reject the nominee.  Alexander Hamilton explained in The Federalist Papers that the Constitution authorizes the Senate to disapprove of presidential nominees to discourage the president from ...

Some Good News: Recent Indicators Show More Progress in the Chesapeake Bay

by Evan Isaacson | February 02, 2017
This week, the Chesapeake Bay Program released its annual Bay Barometer report. Along with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's annual State of the Bay and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Bay Report Card, the Bay Program's report closes out the assessments of the Bay for 2016 (for what it's worth, CPR Member Scholar Rena Steinzor and I released our own assessment last year). The Bay Barometer is chock full of charts describing the progress (and lack thereof) ...

Trump's Latest Executive Order: Scrap Two Regs for the Price of One

by Amy Sinden | January 31, 2017
Remember how Donald Trump bragged he was going to run the country like a business? Imagine if before Trump could open a new casino, he was bound by a rule to close two existing casinos, and the costs of the new casino couldn't exceed the cost savings from no longer operating the old ones. Would this make sense as a business strategy? Of course not. Unless, of course, you were secretly trying to sabotage the business and run it into the ...

You Can't Always Get What You Want

by Matt Shudtz | January 31, 2017
As long as Donald Trump is in the White House, progressives should harbor no delusions that the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is going to be a wool-socks-in-Birkenstocks tree hugger. Scott Pruitt is certainly no such individual. But nor is he a person with the experience, depth of understanding of the agency’s programs, or temperament to run the agency. The job of EPA Administrator under President Trump will surely prove to be the most thankless cabinet-level job. Trump ...

Tax Credits and Public Spending on Infrastructure

by David Driesen | January 30, 2017
Donald Trump based his candidacy on the claim that he would serve working-class people who established politicians have neglected. He promised $1 trillion of infrastructure investment over 10 years, which could generate a lot of blue-collar employment while potentially repairing crumbling bridges and roads, replacing antiquated wastewater treatment systems (in Flint and elsewhere), and creating a mass transit system that could move us into the 21st century in that realm. A sound infrastructure program, unlike anything else that Trump has ...

Andrew Puzder Should Not Be the Next Labor Secretary

by Katie Tracy | January 30, 2017
The Senate Labor Committee will hold a confirmation hearing Feb. 7 on President Donald Trump's nomination of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor. If confirmed by a vote of the full Senate, Puzder will oversee all of the agencies and departments within the Department of Labor, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). This is troubling, to say the least, because a look at Puzder's ...

Distracter-in-Chief

by Matthew Freeman | January 25, 2017
Only a few days into the Trump administration, and a “gang that doesn’t shoot straight” narrative is taking root in the media. From outright lies about crowd numbers at the inauguration, to fictionalized accounts of millions of illegally cast votes, to hashtag-ready assertions about “alternative facts,” it’s been a rough start, and the media is covering it all, exposing the dishonesty. That, at least, is how I imagine the conversation is going in Washington, D.C., news bureaus. But while all ...

CPR Statement: Rep. Mick Mulvaney Should Not Be Confirmed to Lead the Office of Management and Budget

by Brian Gumm | January 24, 2017
NEWS RELEASE: Rep. Mick Mulvaney Should Not Be Confirmed to Lead the Office of Management and Budget                                                                                                              Today, the Senate Committees on Budget and Homeland Security ...

Health for Women, Health for All

by Catherine O'Neill | January 24, 2017
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently updated their nationwide consumption advisory on mercury contamination in fish. The advisory, which focuses on women of childbearing age and children, aims to "make[] it easier than ever" to determine which fish species to eat and which to avoid. It seeks to ensure that women and children don't have to forgo the health benefits of eating fish in order to avoid consuming the potent neurodevelopmental toxin.    Despite ...

Uninformed and Unqualified: A Brief Run-Down of Rick Perry's Energy Department Nomination

by Alexandra Klass | January 23, 2017
There are few reasons for the Senate to confirm former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and many reasons to oppose his confirmation. He famously vowed to abolish the DOE when he ran for president in 2012 (along with several other federal agencies) but then could not even remember the name of the agency when asked about it during the Republican primary debates. One might have guessed at that time that he knew ...

Ryan Zinke's Troubling Road to Interior Secretary

by Robert Glicksman | January 19, 2017
Rep. Ryan Zinke, a congressman from Montana and Donald Trump's pick for the next Secretary of the Interior, said some encouraging things in his Senate hearing on January 18. First, he acknowledged that the climate is changing and that "man has had an influence," disavowing Trump's notorious statement that climate change is a hoax. Second, he stated in strong terms his opposition to divestiture of the lands and resources owned by the federal government, declaring that "I am absolutely against ...

The Owls in the Vineyard

by Daniel Farber | January 19, 2017
It's smart to take precautions against climate change. More can be done, even in the Trump era. At night, you can hear the hooting of owls in the vineyard. The owners have deployed owls and falcons to control the pests that threaten the Kendall Jackson vineyards due to milder winters. But birds of prey aren't the only things flying above the vineyard. There are also drones, which are used to observe small differences in the color of the vines that ...

A Win-Win Energy Law in Illinois

by Daniel Farber | January 11, 2017
It went pretty much unheralded by the national media, but in December, Illinois adopted a major new energy law – and with strong bipartisan support. Each side had some things to celebrate. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner touted the impact of the law on utility bills. According to the governor, the law "contains a guaranteed cap that energy prices cannot increase more than 25 cents on the average residential home, and cannot increase more than 1.3 percent on commercial and industrial ...

For 2017: Grit, Hope, and Cher's Feathers

by Robert Verchick | December 31, 2016
My, but the year 2016 has been a humdinger, a whopper, a real sockdolager. Donald Trump is measuring drapes for the White House. His allies in the Republican Party hold both chambers of Congress. At the state and local levels, Democratic influence is at historic lows. Did I mention there are more than a hundred vacancies on the federal court to be filled by a soon-to-be President Trump, including an open seat on the Supreme Court?  I will not lie. ...

The Plagiarism Caucus

by Matthew Freeman | December 21, 2016
My wife is a high school history teacher, and pretty much every year, she has at least one story to tell about a student lifting some significant chunk of text from a website and using it in a paper without attribution. The kids get caught by those nifty anti-plagiarism search engines teachers use, which are about as heartless and automatic as those unmanned, and frankly, unsportsmanlike, speed cameras that dot my neighborhood streets. I suppose it’s easier to accidently plagiarize ...

GOP Mayor: Let's Talk About the Octopus in the Room

by Daniel Farber | December 19, 2016
Jim Cason, the GOP mayor of Coral Gables, Florida, wants us to talk about climate change: "'We're looking to a future where we're going to be underwater, a great portion of South Florida,' Cason said. 'For all of us down here, this is really not a partisan issue. We see it. We see the octopus in the room, not the elephant.'" (E&E News) An octopus in the room? It's a striking image. If you're wondering what prompted that unusual metaphor, Rob Verchick ...

Is Texas Cleaning Up Its Act?

Farber | Feb 21, 2017 | Energy

Why the REINS Act Is Unconstitutional

Funk | Feb 14, 2017 | Regulatory Policy

The Cabinet and the Rule of Law

Driesen | Feb 06, 2017 | Good Government

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