Railroad Commission Chairman Smitherman Comments on U. S. Supreme Court Action Today


AUSTIN- Today the US Supreme Court in a 6-2 decision (Justices Thomas and Scalia dissenting) dealt another blow to the time-tested concept of using a broad portfolio of resources to generate electricity.  By upholding the EPA-written Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (“CSAPR”) and overturning a lower court decision, the Supreme Court has made it increasingly difficult to burn coal to produce electricity.  Coupled with proposed CO2 and other Greenhouse Gas regulations from the EPA, the Court in tandem with the EPA, have made good on President Obama’s campaign pledge to wage a “War on Coal.”

Going forward, natural gas, renewables, and nuclear energy must shoulder an even bigger load in order to ‘keep the lights on’ cheaply and reliably in Texas, and throughout America.  

Fortunately, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have brought us an abundance of clean burning natural gas.  Texas is leading the way in recovering this incredible resource; however, irrational attempts to limit or eliminate recovery of hydrocarbons through fracking present an ongoing challenge and must be vigorously resisted.  

Today in Texas we have a very balanced portfolio of resources from which we make electricity:  approximately 40 percent coal, 40 percent natural gas, 10 percent nuclear and 10 percent renewables.  Removing coal and restricting fracking will jeopardize electric reliability and increase costs.  While Texas has done a better job than most to prepare for this day (we have more wind energy and better demand response than other states), today’s US Supreme Court decision unnecessarily limits our resource options.  

Texas argues the EPA exceeded its authority under the federal Clean Air Act, and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, when it promulgated the CSAPR.  The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed with the State of Texas and vacated the EPA-created CSAPR in 2012.  

CSAPR, which originally did not effectively include Texas, now forces 28 states, including Texas, to significantly reduce power plant emissions that models indicate may cross state lines.  Texas relies extensively on electricity generated by lignite its citizen’s mine, the regulation of which resides at the Railroad Commission of Texas.  The expansively written CSAPR threatens the viability of the Texas lignite mining industry, good paying jobs, and potentially stems our US leading economic growth.  As a result of today’s holding, some coal-fired power plants may be forced to limit or shut down operations.

Below, please find a link to the letter, whereby the Railroad Commission of Texas initiated the legal action to seek a stay of CSAPR:


Chairman Barry Smitherman was appointed to the Railroad Commission of Texas in July 2011, and was elected Chairman in February 2012. In November 2012, Chairman Smitherman won a statewide election to the Commission with 74 percent of the vote, receiving more than 4.5 million votes. Chairman Smitherman currently serves as Texas’ representative on both the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Southern States Energy Board, and as Chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Gas Committee. He is on the Visiting Committee of the Bureau of Economic Geology with the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas School of Law Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law, and the Eanes Education Foundation Advisory Board.