February 22, 2021 1:01 pm
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biden energy department used environmental regulations to block texas increasing available power before storm

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An order issued by the Biden Administration’s Acting Secretary of Energy David Huizenga reveals that the Department of Energy limited the amount of power Texas could use to combat the power crisis the state is facing.

The power crisis began when Texas was hit by two winter storms, stressing the limits of the state’s ERCOT power grid. The crisis has left millions of Texans without electricity, and over 30 civilians have died of various causes, including hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning, as a result.

The order, dated to Feb 14, noted that Texas Governor Greg Abbott “declared a state of disaster in all 254 Texas counties due to severe weather posing an ‘imminent threat of widespread and severe property damage, injury, and loss of life due to prolonged freezing temperatures, heavy snow, and freezing rain statewide.'”

“The order specified increasing the priority of gas supplies to ERCOT generators. ERCOT’s application also noted that the ‘Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has indicated that it will provide enforcement discretion to generators in the ERCOT region that may exceed state emissions requirements during emergency conditions.'”

However, while ERCOT was given permission to increase the amount of power generated, the Department of Energy placed environmental regulations as a top priority ahead of maximizing power generation.

“To minimize adverse environmental impacts, this Order limits operation of dispatched units to the times and within the parameters determined by ERCOT for reliability purposes,” the order reads. “Consistent with good utility practice, ERCOT shall exhaust all reasonably and practically available resources, including available imports, demand response, and identified behind-the-meter generation resources selected to minimize an increase in emissions, to the extent that such resources provide support to maintain grid reliability, prior to dispatching the Specified Resources.”

The Department of Energy also refused to waive environmental restrictions which would have allowed the state generate more power. The order “does not provide relief from an entity’s obligations to purchase allowances for emissions that occur during the emergency condition or to use other geographic or temporal flexibilities available to generators.”

“ERCOT anticipates that this Order may result in exceedance of emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon monoxide emissions, as well as wastewater release limits,” the order continues. “To minimize adverse environmental impacts, this Order limits operation of dispatched units to the times and within the parameters determined by ERCOT for reliability purposes.”

The order also significantly hiked the price of power being sold to the state, stating that an “incremental amount of restricted capacity would be offered at a price no lower than $1,500/MWh,” a significant increase over the $18.20 that Texans typically pay for the same amount of energy.

Texans have since complained that the price of power has skyrocketed, with some Texans having power bills tower up to over $10,000.

The Department of Energy order adds more questions to the debate over the use of “clean” energy. It has been noted that Texas’s power generation relied greatly on wind turbines, which froze during the cold snap and worsened the power situation in Texas. Proponents of fossil fuels have argued that such energy generation is simply more reliable than using renewable energy.

Most Texans affected by the power outages have since seen power return to their homes.

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