Texas' rapidly expanding renewable energy industry owes much of its success to, of all people, a Republican state senator from Horseshoe Bay, one who is now trying to stop cities from banning fracking. Ten years ago Senator Troy Fraser authored legislation that required that Texas get 10,000 megawatts of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025. The program was a success, as far as the renewable industry was concerned. By 2013, Texas had far more wind turbines than any other state.
But now Fraser is the author of a new bill, SB 931, that would end Texas' renewable energy requirements. "His assessment is that the programs worked and, his words, he keeps saying 'mission accomplished,'" says Jeffrey Clark, the executive director of trade group The Wind Coalition.
Or as the bill explains: "Today Texas leads the nation in renewable generation with over 12,800 megawatts of installed wind, solar and biomass generation capacity ... the targets, mandates and exemptions associated with RPS [renewable portfolio standard] and CREZ [competitive renewable energy zone system] are now irrelevant and should be eliminated or phased out."
If the requirement that Texas get a percentage of its power from renewables suddenly ends, "about a third of the market would just disappear overnight," says David Power, deputy director of Public Citizen. And Fraser's bill "would make it more difficult and expensive for Texas to comply with the carbon pollution reduction goals of the [EPA's] Clean Power Plan," writes Texas Sierra Club director Cyrus Reed.
Fraser's proposal to dismantle the renewable credit program he helped build up has the support of the local oil and gas industry, "which is a real shame," says Clark, from The Wind Coalition, "because we support energy development generally, we don't attack them on their incentives." The Texas Oil and Gas Association, the Texas Chemical Council, Exelon Power and the apparently not-so-competition-loving Texas Competitive Power Advocates have all registered in support of SB 931, while environmental groups are against it.
But when has the oil industry ever cared what local environmentalists have to say? The industry is offering tons of support for SB 1165, another Fraser bill. This one is more controversial because, in the bill's own words, it "prohibits cities and other localities from banning or otherwise regulating oil and gas operations." Like its companion HB 40, the bill is part of the oil and gas industry's attempt to rein in cities like Denton, which has famously banned fracking in city limits, or Dallas, where the setbacks in our ordinance have made the industry decide that fracking here isn't worth it.
The irony of oil-loving state lawmakers trying to limit local oil-regulating authority has been pointed out by opponents here and elsewhere. Dallas city officials have a press conference scheduled today to officially denounce the state's pro-fracking proposals. "We had stakeholder input and went through a long, deliberative process before our City Council voted on its drilling ordinance," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings says in a press release. In other words, Dallas' fracking ordinance took goddamn forever to get passed, please don't tell us all that work was for nothing.
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.