The Obama administration's proposed cap on carbon dioxide for future power plants isn't likely to have much of an immediate impact on Texas because the state's booming natural gas production has that fuel cheaper to use than coal.
Draft regulations released Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provide the first national limits on heat-trapping pollution for power plants built going forward — potentially reshaping energy generation nationwide away from coal power plants and toward sources that produce less carbon pollution.
Texas has more coal-fired power plants than any other state. And, in previous years, nine new such plants were planned and in various stages of development statewide.
But the number of projects has dropped steadily and even fallen to zero over the past year, said Robbie Searcy, a spokeswoman for Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages 85 percent of the state's electric load. Searcy added, though, that one coal plant did go online last summer.
The drop is largely because of the low price of natural gas and the fact that so much of it is produced in Texas — making natural gas power plants a better option.
Terry Clawson, a spokesman for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said no coal-fired power plant permits were "in house" or pending with the agency.
But he also added of the new proposed federal rules: "Coal-fired power generation remains a critical part of our energy portfolio in Texas" and that TCEQ would review the hundreds of pages of new regulations to "point to any additional restriction that could harm potential current or future electricity investments."
Jenna Garland, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, said the low prices and abundance of natural gas was already delaying plans to move forward with coal power plants in Texas regardless of any new EPA regulations.
"In Texas, building a very large capital-intensive coal plant doesn't make economic sense and that's why we haven't seen any of those lingering proposals move forward," Garland said.
Dallas-based Luminant Generation Co. released a statement saying: "These rules dictate unworkable standards for new coal plants and reflect the Environmental Protection Agency's picking of winners and losers among fuel sources."
Luminant has long expressed concerns about federal overregulation threatening the state's energy supply.
"Customers in the Texas power grid, who relied on coal for one third of total electricity generation in 2012, should be justifiably concerned that today's proposal and EPA's future rules will lead to higher power prices from less reliable fuel sources," it said.