NRG makes a breathtakingly bad proposal

NRG makes a breathtakingly bad proposal

Copyright 2012: Houston Chronicle | Wednesday, October 3, 2012

“We like open markets – even when the market in question involves smog. So there’s a lot we like about the Texas “cap and trade” system that allows companies to trade pollution credits.

A decade ago, Texas limited the total amount of ozone-forming gunk that companies in the Houston region can emit, then divided credits for that total among the companies in question. Companies that made big cuts in their emissions got to sell credit for some of the pollution they saved to a buyer that wouldn’t meet the standards otherwise. Both companies gained flexibility. And our air is now dramatically cleaner.

Of course, “cleaner” doesn’t mean “clean enough” or “with cleanliness to spare.” Houston, which ranks among the smoggiest cities in the nation, still has a long way to go.

That’s why we’re outraged by a cap-and-trade deal that NRG Energy is proposing. As reported last week by the Chronicle’s Matthew Tresaugue (“NRG asks for smog offsets at new plant,” Page B1, Sept. 27), NRG would like to build a power plant that would release 53 tons of volatile organic compounds into Houston-area air each year. But in Houston, the company is not able to buy enough credits to create that much smog-producing gunk. Our region is already in violation of federal ozone limits. We have no clean air to spare.

So what does NRG propose? It’s asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for permission to buy the credits it needs from the Dallas area, which has credits and clean air to spare.

Deals like this would mean that Dallas’ air, already cleaner than ours, would become cleaner still. And Houston’s smoggy air would grow even smoggier.

We hope that the TCEQ and the EPA have the good sense to reject that breathtaking proposal.

Clean air can’t be outsourced to other cities. We breathe where we live.”

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Until next time,