How the Supreme Court’s EPA Ruling Makes Global Warming Austin’s Problem

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday imposed major constraints on the scope of the EPA’s authority to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

Why is this important: By making it harder for the White House to take aggressive action on climate change, the challenge of global warming should be taken up by progressive cities, like Austin, that have limited control over key emissions.

Example : As part of its commitment to reduce fossil fuel emissions, city-owned Austin Energy had planned to retire its share of the Fayette coal-fired power project by the end of this year.

  • But talks with the plant’s co-owner — the Lower Colorado River Authority, a state-formed utility — stalled future liability and other issues last fall.
  • Austin Energy told city council members last week that it would reduce the amount of coal it burns, but would not stop altogether.

Between the lines: For more than a decade, Austin has had the Office of Sustainability, which aims to reduce emissions from the city’s fleet, promote cycling, and find ways to reduce landfill waste, among other things.

Meanwhile: Green-minded legislation is a non-starter with the Republican leadership of the state.

  • The SCOTUS decision is “a big win for Americans who are worried about soaring energy costs due to costly federal regulations that threaten our energy industry,” Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday.
  • Still: Market forces related to the low cost of natural gas were the key factor in the shutdown of coal-fired power plants in Texas, according to industry experts.

The bottom line: Without the muscle of the federal government, greenhouse gas emissions will be difficult to control.

Teresa H. Sadler