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Texas sues while EPA maintains cross-state pollution rule won’t cause blackouts

The Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees surface coal mining, asked Attorney General Greg Abbott back in August to step in and sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as he’s done before, over its latest controversial-in-Texas regulation, the cross-state air pollution rule, which would cut sulfur dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Wednesday, Abbott obliged them, filing a petition in a Washington appeals court for a review and a stay of the rule. (While the rule takes effect next January, requirements for the sulfur dioxide standards won’t kick in until March 2013, a distinction that has become a point of contention on its own.)

The state’s largest electric provider prompted a fresh wave of anti-EPA outrage earlier this month after announcing it’ll have to close power plant and coal mining operations to keep its emissions under the new threshold, costing 500 jobs.

In his petition yesterday, though, Abbott said the rules “threatens to disrupt the provision of reliable electricity” in Texas, raising economic and public health concerns beyond job losses at power plants.

The attorney general “is deeply concerned about these new federal regulations’ impact on the State of Texas, its electric grid and the Texans whose access to something as basic as electricity is threatened,” Abbott said in a statement to the Houston Chronicle’s FuelFix blog. (Read the full petition there, too.)

“Inexplicably, the [Obama] administration is determined to advance its aggressive agenda despite the risk of power outages in the heat of the Texas summer and unemployment for hard-working coal miners and power plant employees,” Abbott said in a statement quoted by the Associated Press.

While the state’s power grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has said the rule could cause power outages, the EPA has consistently disagreed.

Before a congressional subcommittee Thursday, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson gave more assurances that companies would be able to work with her agency to avoid blackouts, though U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville) was skeptical, FuelFix reported.

“What if you’re wrong? Are you infallible?” Burgess asked.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis) heightened the discourse further. “It’s if there’s some evil genie at the EPA bound and determined to put every regulation possible on the books as soon as possible, regardless of the economic consequences,” he said.

It’s not the first time Abbott’s sued the EPA’s Texas-messin’ tendencies. In February, the attorney general, received a warm reception from some of the same congressional Republicans in his testimony on the state’s still-pending challenge of the EPA’s move to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

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