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Archive for July 7th, 2011

New EPA Safeguard will Improve Health & Lives of Millions of Americans

Earlier today, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  announced a new Cross State Air Pollution Rule designed to protect Americans from dangerous air pollution from coal-fired power plants. The new protections will reduce power plant emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) in 27 states including Texas. SO2 and NOx form soot and ground-level ozone smog which contributes to poor air quality days and respiratory illnesses affecting millions of Americans.   Texas environmental groups Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Environmental Integrity Project welcomed the EPA’s announcement.

Dr. Neil Carman, Sierra Club’s Clean Air Program Director in Texas, a chemist and former Air Control Board investigator celebrated the announcement:

The Sierra Club applauds EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s landmark Cross State Air Pollution safeguard announcement today.  EPA’s actions today will help save lives and reduce dangerous air pollutants from coal-fired power plants.  Air pollution does not respect state boundaries.  As a result, air pollution created in one state can burden surrounding states with harmful pollution.  Texas coal plants are known to produce pollution that has negative consequences for the health of people both in Texas and surrounding states, particularly in eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas.  We are especially pleased with EPA’s decision to include Texas in its proposal and to include sulfur dioxide, as Texas coal plants are at the top of the list of worst polluters in the nation.

According to the EPA, in 2005, 17 Texas coal plants emitted 531,059 tons of SO2 and 134,234 tons of NOx. By 2014, the new safeguard will reduce from 2005 levels — 303,467 tons of SO2 or 57% of SO2 and 49,814 tons of NOx or 29% of NOx.  90% of these reductions will occur at Texas coal plants.  EPA Chief Administrator Lisa Jackson today said that this rule will prevent 670-1000 premature deaths in Texas beginning in 2014.

Carman concluded, “This will result in a leap forward in reducing ozone in Texas non-attainment areas where urban areas have been struggling to clean up the air.  People living near the coal plants will definitely enjoy living with cleaner and safer air.”

TEXAS ENERGY NEEDS COVERED & COST BENEFITS

Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office spoke about the economic implications of the new EPA safeguard saying,

Concerns about meeting Texas energy needs are unfounded.  ERCOT’s most recent state of the market report along with its 2011 Report on the Capacity, Demand, and Reserves in the ERCOT Region show that we have sufficient generating capacity to meet summer peaks.  With cost effective energy efficiency measures, we can meet the electrical demand and clean the air.  Concerns about costs of this protective measure are also unfounded.  EPA found that this protection will result in a less than 1% increase on electricity bills.

We believe – and, the Texas PUC’s own Itron report, the “Assessment of the Feasible and Achievable Levels of Electricity Savings from Investor Owned Utilities in Texas: 2009-2018” shows that we can cost effectively reduce the energy needed in Texas by 23% using energy efficiency measures that are far cheaper than the cost of burning coal.   Today Texans are paying almost $6 billion a year in health care costs resulting from power plant pollution, and the insignificant cost increases that might result to consumers will be more than made up in lowered medical costs for all.  It’s time the utilities do their fair share to clean the air. The emissions controls that the utilities will be required to use are very similar to those put on every new car since the 1970s. Besides health benefits, the EPA’s safeguard supports Texas transition to a clean energy economy and green jobs.

Texas officials should convene a panel to analyze the cost of pollution upgrades at the coal plants and look at whether there are more cost-effective ways to meet our energy needs in the future.

TEXAS TRANSITION TO CLEAN ENERGY JOBS

San Antonio’s public utility, City Public Service recently announced the phase-out of its dirty old coal plant, Deely in favor of clean energy solutions and just yesterday announced a call for bids for a 400 Megawatt solar power plant.

Smith concluded, “The costs of solar are plummeting as this clean renewable energy source comes to scale.  San Antonio is leading the way to Texas clean energy future and the rest of the State should get with the clean energy program.”

A recent report published in March of 2011 by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy found that a significant investment in energy efficiency in homes and businesses and investments in new combined heat and power capacity within the industrial sector found that some 98,600 jobs would be created over the next 20 years in Texas. An American Center for Progress Report study found that a 25% renewable energy standard by 2025 coupled with increased spending in energy efficiency through the monies earmarked for Texas through the ARRA would produce some 150,000 jobs in Texas by 2030, while a 2009 Blue-Green Alliance study found that a nationwide Renewable Energy Standard would create 60,000 new jobs in Texas over the next 10 years, including 20,000 in solar energy.

Next week, Texas environmental groups will release new data that details pollution problems at existing coal plants and underscores the importance EPA’s inclusion of Texas in this new Cross State Air Pollution rule.. 

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A dream deferred

The Southwestern U.S. has dominated the world of utility-scale solar projects over the past few years, with news of deals being signed for solar-power plants as large as 1 gigawatt or more.  But now the Southeastern U.S. looks like it will soon be home to one of the world’s largest solar projects, a 400-megawatt photovoltaic farm being built by National Solar Power, LLC.

The next question is where.  The company has vetted a total of seven sites in three states, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, as potential hosts for the ambitious project.  They say the sites must meet certain criteria:

1

Having enough undeveloped land to put this farm in (ideally 4,000 acres contiguously) but because the Southeast doesn’t have the same relatively unused land resources as the Southwest, the company is looking at a different approach.  Creating the world’s largest solar farm that could be made up of as many as 20 different fields.  

2

Appropriate economic development strategies, such as tax incentives that could include federal, state and local incentives, and financial partners.  

3

Community support, and  

4

A qualified work force.  

The five-year build out project is projected to cost roughly $1.5 billion.

The 1,000 megawatt Blythe Solar Power Project in California that broke ground last month is projected to create 1,000 direct jobs during construction phases and 200 permanent positions. It will also create 7,500 indirect jobs throughout the country.

So many of these opportunities are passing Texas by because the state had failed to provide incentives for them to come here.  Fortunately, Texas has some large cities with municipally owned utilities that are seeing the advantages to their communities both in terms of jobs, the ability to lure other associated industries (like PV manufacturing) to their cities, and the stablelization of their peak electric demand by investing in rooftop and utility scale solar and other renewable sources of power.

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