HAPPY Start in 2012 for America in their Fight Against EPA’s U.N. Regulations

Happy new year to report the voluntary UN Kyoto Protocols are on hold so 2 coal plants can keep in operation.  Keep up the pressure America.

Luminant to keep units online as court halts EPA rule

Luminant Generation Co. will continue operating two coal-fired electricity units it had previously planned to close now that a federal court temporarily halted a pollution regulation from being implemented, the company said Friday.

In September, Luminant said it would idle two units that provide 1.2 gigawatts of capacity at its Monticello power station in Titus County this coming Sunday to comply with the EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule.

A federal three-judge panel on Friday granted some utilities’ and states’ request for a temporary stay on the rule, which would have required power plants in 28 states, including Texas, to cut smog- and soot-forming emissions that can cross state lines starting Sunday.

The Dallas-based company, Texas’ largest electricity generator, said in a statement the stay “allows Luminant’s Monticello units 1 and 2 to continue operating and providing needed generation for the Texas electric market.”

Luminant said it can also prevent an unspecified number of worker layoffs and continue operating some lignite coal mines it had planned to shut down.

But since the stay is temporary, Luminant “intends to continue closely evaluating business and operational decisions,” it said.

In early December, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s main grid operator, projected that power reserves would fall below its desired minimum target in 2012 because several power-generating units would be absent and power demand would tick up.

ERCOT’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

But President Trip Doggett, who has long expressed concerns about the rule’s compliance timeline, said recently ERCOT would meet its minimum power-reserves target if Luminant’s units were indeed operating.

Some of Texas’ U.S. lawmakers also blame the cross-state rule for raising the risk of blackouts on the state’s main grid. EPA and environmental groups reject those concerns, saying the agency’s clean-air rules have never caused power reliability problems.

The court didn’t rule on the merits of the regulation, the EPA said in a statement. “EPA firmly believes that when the court does weigh the merits of the rule it will ultimately be upheld,” the agency said.

Additionally, the EPA said it was disappointing that the stay was granted in light of the agency’s recently proposed tweaks to the rule.

The agency has said the proposed increase in allowed emissions for 10 states, including Texas, and a two-year delay in a cap on interstate emissions trading would help ease utilities’ transition into the rule.

A number of utilities and states including Texas and Luminant challenged the cross-state rule in federal court. Texas’ suit alleges that the state wasn’t given enough notice and comment on its inclusion for certain pollution reductions.

The court’s decision to stay the rule “is a prudent one that now gives the court time to review the regulation and its burdensome effects on Texas,” state Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.

The EPA, defending its rule, has said Texas was part of a similar George W. Bush-era rule that a court sent back to the agency to rewrite; the cross-state rule is the Bush-era regulation’s replacement.

While Texas was included only for smog-season emission cuts when the new rule was proposed, the agency put the Lone Star State into the full rule when it was finalized on the basis of comments and feedback from state utilities and officials, said Gina McCarthy, EPA assistant administrator.

For now the EPA will transition back to the Bush-era rule “as seamlessly as possible,” the agency said.

The Environmental Defense Fund, an environmental group, said it was disappointed with the ruling but vowed it “will continue to vigorously defend these vitally important reductions of harmful smokestack pollution against the legal attacks brought by large power companies and states such as Texas.”

“The pollution reductions at stake are some of the single most important clean air protections for children, families and communities across the eastern half of the United States,” Vickie Patton, general counsel for the EDF, said in an emailed statement.

The EPA has said the cross-state rule would save up to 34,000 lives a year starting in 2014 and have annual benefits of up to $280 billion versus annual costs of less than $1 billion. Environmentalists say the rule would help address non-attainment of U.S. smog and particulate-matter air standards in the downwind states where the power-plant pollution drifts.

Luminant and other utilities had plenty of time to prepare for the EPA’s recently finalized environmental regulations because they were years in the making, Jim Marston, head of the Texas office of the EDF, said earlier this month.

The EPA and some analysts also have said Luminant could have switched fuels, bought emissions allowances and ramped up pollution controls to comply with the cross-state rule instead of idling the two power-generating units.

The environmental group’s Texas branch didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

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