Thursday, December 22, 2011

Two Christmas presents for the environment

Texas environmental regulators have rejected Valero Energy Corp.'s request for a tax break that cities, counties and school districts feared would lead to devastating cuts to their budgets.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality denied the request because the San Antonio-based oil giant could not show an environmental benefit at its six Texas refineries from the equipment at the center of its application for the tax break.

Texas law provides property tax exemptions for equipment that reduces pollution at the refinery. Valero, however, sought a tax break for hydrotreaters, which are used to produce low-sulfur fuels. In this case, the lower emissions come at the tailpipe.

If TCEQ had granted the exemption, Valero stood to gain up to $130 million a year in property tax relief from cities, counties and school districts, officials said. The company earned $1.2 billion in profits for the most recent quarter, its best quarterly results in four years.

"It's a nice Christmas gift to many cities, counties and school districts around the state that would have had to shell out millions to a rich oil company," said Matthew Tejada, executive director of Air Alliance Houston. "Justice and logic can still prevail in the state of Texas."

One more excerpt from that.

Hydrotreaters account for more than $1 billion of taxable property value in Harris County alone. That is nearly $7 million a year toward county services and about $2 million a year for the Houston Independent School District, according to the Harris County Appraisal District.

TCEQ is not renowned for doing the right thing in favor of our environment and against Big Oil, so they deserve credit here for a good call.

And there's this:

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced (yesterday) an important new rule that finally sets limits on mercury, arsenic, and other toxins released into our air. For 21 years, coal-fired power plants were allowed to unleash unlimited mercury and other toxic pollution, poisoning the air. Today’s rule requires power plants to update their pollution-control technology to keep 90 percent of mercury produced by burning coal from being released.

Click that link and read more about the health impact...

Mercury especially endangers children and pregnant women, damaging young brain development. But children in communities of color suffer most from a delay in cleaner air — African-American and Latino children are 60 percent more likely to have asthma attacks than whites. Nationwide, mercury pollution alone causes up to 11,000 premature deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, and 130,000 asthma attacks annually, while coal power plants produce 2.5 pounds worth of airborne toxins for every American each year.

...and that the wailing about the lights going out from conservatives is, as usual, false:

Coal defenders like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have rallied around inaccurate assertions that the EPA rule is a threat to electric reliability because they claim it will force many existing power plants to close. An Associated Press survey of power plants has debunked this claim. AP could not find a single plant operator that solely blamed EPA rules for a plant closure. Instead, it found the average age of plants that could be mothballed is 51 years. A number of utilities executives agree there will be little impact on reliability as the industry moves to meet new standards.

A very Merry Christmas to Texans' -- and Americans' -- lungs.


Matt Bramanti said...

I can see why you'd applaud the Valero decision on budgetary grounds. I can see why you'd applaud it on stick-it-to-Big-Oil grounds.

But on environmental grounds? The decision made pollution control more expensive, and so we'll see less of it.

PDiddie said...

And a Merry Christmas to you too, Mr. Grinch!

Matt Bramanti said...

Really, Perry, can you explain how this is good for the environment?

The price of reducing emissions just went up, and demand curves slope down and to the right.

PDiddie said...

What is that you don't understand about TCEQ's decision, Matt? I'm not at all sure there's any explanation I can provide that you will either understand or agree with anyway.

This is one of the more fruitless endeavors you have attempted to engage me in. Your quarrel is with TCEQ, or Valero's attorneys for failing to do their job, or someone -- anyone -- besides me.

Have a happy holiday!