Jul 1, 2022 - News

How global warming just became Austin's problem

Illustration of a hand circling the earth with a marker
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday imposed major constraints on the breadth of the EPA's authority to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

Why it matters: By making it harder for the White House to take aggressive action on climate change, the challenge of global warming is expected to be taken up by progressive cities, like Austin, that have limited control over major emissions.

Case in point: As part of its commitment to slash fossil fuel emissions, city-owned Austin Energy had planned to retire its share of the coal-fired Fayette Power Project by the end of this year.

  • But talks stalled with the plant's co-owner — the Lower Colorado River Authority, a state-formed utility — over future liability and other matters last fall.
  • Austin Energy told City Council members last week that it will reduce the amount of coal it burns — but not stop altogether.

Between the lines: For more than a decade, Austin has had the Office of Sustainability, which aims to ratchet down emissions from the city's vehicle fleet, promote bicycling and find ways to cut down on landfill waste, among other things.

Meanwhile: Green-minded legislation is a non-starter with the state's Republican leadership.

  • The SCOTUS decision is "a big win for Americans who worry about skyrocketing energy costs due to expensive federal regulations that threaten our energy industry," Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday.
  • Still: Market forces related to the cheap cost of natural gas have been the key factor in coal plants shuttering in Texas, per industry experts.

The bottom line: Without the muscle of the federal government, greenhouse gas emissions will be tough to rein in.

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