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Texas Takes Obama's Clean Power Plan to Court

Todd Wiseman
Texas Tribune

Texas and 25 other states will be at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals today to lay out their case against the Clean Power Plan, the Environmental Protection Agency’s initiative to slow global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. The court's decision could have longstanding implications on the future of the plan. 

At a press conference in DC, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gave his take on what the legal challenge is all about yesterday. He said he's fighting the Clean Power Plan to ensure “access to affordable reliable power,” and to not “allow the federal government to intrude on our constitution and states’ rights.”

Supporters of the plan counter that it is constitutional, and that the plan’s the country’s best hope to start combating climate change. 

While many say the future of the world depends on quickly reducing carbon emissions, David Spence, a professor of energy regulation and law, says the courts decision will likely hinge on more prosaic matters like how the rule is written versus of what's written in government statute.

“There’s quite a series of arguments, I think, they scheduled four hours of arguments," he says. "But, for people familiar with the case, you almost wonder if that’s enough, even though that longer than usual.”

Spence says the Clean Power Plan could affect Texas in a couple unique ways. For one, unlike other states, Texas has a standalone electric grid. That presents challenges and opportunities to reducing carbon dioxide. 

“The other sort of odd part of this is that many analysis argue that Texas could be a winner under this plan,” Spence says.

The reason: Texas is rich in non-coal energy resources that will ramp up if the plan is implemented. That’s why some energy companies in Texas actually support the plan, even as many state politicians oppose it. 

Brett Kerr is a lobbyist and spokesperson for Houston-based Calpine Energy. Earlier this year, he told KUT earlier this year that the plan could benefit Texas’ energy-producers.

“The more gas that we can burn here, the more wind that we can capture here and get all that to market. We think it's better for the State of Texas and, of course, we wouldn’t support it if we didn’t think it was better for Calpine,” he said. 

The DC Circuit Court that is hearing the arguments may have even more power than usual over the fate of the Clean Power Plan. The death of Justice Antonin Scalia earlier this year brought the Supreme Court down to eight judges. If the Supreme Court ultimately deadlocks in its ruling on the Clean Power Plan, whatever the Circuit Court rules could stand.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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