You Can't Believe Everything You Read

As valuable as the internet can be in helping to spread information, most people know that you can’t believe everything you read, and they should check the source before relaying every alarming story they read.  One such story is going around the internet over the past two days claiming that the Obama Administration is somehow responsible for the rolling blackouts in Texas that have caused terrible hardship for so many Texans.  The source is questionable and the story is unquestionably false.

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, these blackouts were actually the result of extreme cold temperatures and high winds, which led to a variety of mechanical failures at more than 50 power plants around the state.

Anytime communities experience major outages, it is a cause for concern, and major utilities and regulators are investigating steps that can be taken to decrease any weather related vulnerability of power generating plants in the state that, unlike their northern counterparts which experience extreme cold every winter, are often not designed to withstand such rare weather conditions.

Some are trying to blame these blackouts – which the industry has already provided explanation for – on Clean Air Act standards under consideration to curb dangerous pollution, including carbon pollution. While these claims gained traction on the internet, there is a major problem with this theory – no power plant in Texas has yet been required to do anything to control carbon pollution. 

In December the EPA announced its intent to update important Clean Air Act standards that for decades have decreased harmful pollution and protected public health. In the coming months the EPA will work closely with key stakeholders, including industry, to develop a commonsense standard for currently unchecked, dangerous carbon pollution. Any standard, which will leverage existing technologies and only apply to the largest polluters, will not be proposed until later this year, allowing an extensive public comment period, and following that additional input no final rule is scheduled to be in place until late 2012.

Despite these modest steps, many continue to mischaracterize this process – making unsubstantiated claims about the impact this will have on everything from industry to energy prices. This most recent effort simply underscores a willingness to ignore the facts to further an agenda that seeks to stop the EPA from sensible updates to the Clean Air Act. 

Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

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