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Posts Tagged ‘Carbon Dioxide’

Back in the 1990s, the EPA introduced rules to stop acid rain by cutting the emission of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Critics thought it couldn’t be done, but inventive engineers came up with new and better ways to scrub the pollutants out of the smokestacks.

Now the same is believed for the newly proposed EPA regulations on carbon emissions, but there are many reasons to disagree with the skeptics. Many opposed are saying that the new regulations will bring elevated electricity bills and even plunge the nation into blackouts. But, in reality, emissions cuts have already been achieved in some states and those states are faring better economically than many other parts of the United States.

The new EPA carbon rules in a nutshell:

  • EPA logoBy 2030 the EPA seeks to reduce America’s carbon dioxide emissions 30% from 2005 levels.
  • States will have until June 30, 2016 (with the potential for some extensions) to come up with a plan on how to implement the rule and reduce their average emissions per megawatt-hour of electricity. If they refuse the EPA says it will impose its own plan.

Success Stories:

One way that some states have got a foot up on meeting the emissions standards is by joining the Northeastern cap-and-trade program known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which first put in a carbon cap in 2009. In the cap-and-trade system, the participating state governments placed an upper limit on total carbon emissions and issued permits for those emissions, which companies bought and sold from one another.

Nine northeastern states have already entered the program and have substantially reduced their carbon emissions in recent years. At the same time, those states have had stronger economic growth than the rest of the country.

Since 2009, the nine states have cut their emissions by 18 percent, while their economies grew by 9.2 percent. By comparison, emissions in the other 41 states fell by 4 percent, while their economies grew by 8.8 percent.

The states in the program reduced emissions faster and more efficiently than was previously assumed, and this gives a ray of hope to the rest of the United States. The sharp cut in emissions in the Northeast did not inhibit the economy there from doing just as well as elsewhere.

What’s the Problem, then?

Martin_LakeSome of the biggest opposition to the new regulations comes from heavily coal dependent states. However, many of them have been given more moderate goals to meet with the new regulations due to their reliance on coal and their limited renewable energy resources. But even in states that have made big cuts, the Obama plan is inciting some wariness with officials in those regions, who are pointing out that the plan would burden them with rigorous targets requiring them to go further in reducing emissions.

There are many different options that states can choose between when determining how to cut carbon emissions though. While cutting emissions in general is the goal, the ways of achieving those cuts can either push progress forward even more or just do what little needs to be done in order to meet the requirements. By choosing to rely on energy storage and renewable energy sources states will be able to not only cut emissions but help the world to move forward in a more sustainable way, with economic benefits for those states.

Why is Energy Storage a good option?

Energy storage has the potential to not only cut costs, but also allow us to keep energy in reserves for the future and times of emergency. Energy Storage systems are also fuel neutral, which means regardless of how the energy was generated the storage systems can save it.

Energy storage cuts costs primarily by lowering the overall cost of electricity. It also allows customers to avoid premium pricing when demand for electricity is highest. But most importantly, energy storage helps to reduce the amount of power outages and equipment failures that take place as well as limiting the amount of time the power is out. This not only helps to save time and money but it also can help to save lives.

Why are renewables a good option?

solar installationRenewable resources are inexhaustible. They can be utilized without any fear of depletion. Unlike the burning of fossil fuels, which spew dangerous greenhouse gases that lead to global warming, wind and solar farms are emissions free. That is just one of the many reasons to convert to renewables. By switching there is also a great increase in job creation. In total there were 142,698 solar workers in the U.S. as of November 2013. This is a 20 percent increase over 2012 figures and ten times higher than the national average employment growth rate, which was 1.9 percent. Veterans also make up about 9 percent of the solar workforce compared with 7.5 percent of the national economy. These numbers are all very optimistic, but while the U.S. could see million of new jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, this will only happen with the necessary leadership, research, development, and public policy at the federal and state levels. The new EPA regulations took that first step.

The potential ways of meeting the new EPA emissions regulations are in abundance, but the only way we will start seeing change is if we begin to implement those solutions. By turning to renewable energy sources and supporting energy storage we can make sure that our country is not only able to meet the EPA regulations but goes above and beyond and to help clean up and protect our earth to make it safe for our children and their future. It is already evident that states can cut emissions and still see economic growth, so what are we waiting for?

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“Human interference with the climate system is occurring, and climate change poses risks for human and natural systems.” IPCC WGII AR5

IPCC

The opening session of IPCC meeting in Yokohama.
Photo by Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP, Getty Images

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently released Part 2 of its Assessment Report showing that work to limit the effects of climate change must begin now.  Part  1 came out in September 2013 and showed indisputable evidence that climate change is real, it is happening today, and human influence is the root cause. The report is the fifth such report that has come from the UN.

This week, government officials and top climate scientists are meeting in Berlin to review a 29-page draft from working group 3 of the UN’s IPCC. This third document is expected to be released later this month.

The scope of the second report takes a broad look at how climate change is impacting the Earth’s oceans, coasts, atmosphere, animals, humans and human societies. The report then examines how we must adapt to manage risks associated with climate change.

This is a stern warning coming from the world’s scientific community, and there is little doubt from the experts about the solution: cut pollution from fossil fuels and prepare for the risks associated with a warming world.

The document warns of side effects from a warming world over the next century. There is a high level of consensus from the scientific community that there will be a rise in sea level from melting glaciers, which threatens coastal cities and low-lying nations. There will also be an increase of drier areas, resulting in increased wildfires and drought.

Part of the problem with climate change is that scientists don’t have a crystal ball to predict how the environment will respond to a rise in temperatures. They are trying to predict effects of climate change over the course of decades. Scientists are anticipating that forests ecosystems could collapse and wetland ecosystems could disintegrate. They are expecting that water systems worldwide will be effected from more flooding in many places and drought in drier regions. Of course, the effects won’t be uniform everywhere.

Scientists are also noting that there could be some localized positive effects from climate change. They say that there will be fewer deaths from severe cold, but scientists are also anticipating more deaths due to heat. Some parts of the planet may become better suited for agriculture, especially in higher altitudes, but lower crop yields in other areas will outweigh those benefits. Also, scientist predict that fish and aquatic life will move around as ocean temperatures rise. However, there could be effects, both good and bad, that scientists are not expecting.

The experts are warning the world’s leaders that in order to prevent the worst consequences of climate change we need to reduce pollution, and inaction today will reduce the world’s options for managing the worst effects of climate change.

The level of carbon dioxide is up 41 percent since the Industrial Revolution nearly 200 years ago, and it could double in a matter of decades if the present trend continues.

Unfortunately, here in the US, climate deniers have hijacked the Republican Party and have stalled any meaningful debate about what we are going to do to combat climate change.

“There are those who say we can’t afford to act,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “But waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic.”

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Just before Earth Day, the House of Representatives once again demonstrated its commitment to protecting the fossil fuel industries that fund many of the members campaigns instead of protecting the people of our state from the devastating impacts of climate change by passing HB 788. The bill requires the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to permit greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change, but would remove the agency’s authority to limit such emissions.

You might wonder “what’s the point?”  The point is to take control of greenhouse gas permitting for Texas facilities from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and place it in the hands of our state environmental agency – which has a much cozier relationship with industry.  While EPA may ultimately prefer that states take responsibility for such permitting, we hope they wouldn’t support such a ineffective system as is proposed in HB 788.

Adding insult to injury, the author of the bill, Representative Wayne Smith, took advantage of the opportunity to spread misinformation.  Smith stated, “…the terms ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ are based on an unfounded science,” claiming this language was struck to remove the politics from the bill.  His remarks epitomizes a legislature that continues to threaten the health and safety of the people it should protect through weakened environmental regulations.

In fact, removing language which has been in Texas’ Health and Safety Code for 22 years which gives TCEQ the authority to limit greenhouse gases put the politics in the bill and took the science out of it.  Governor Rick Perry is an avid climate change denier and may have influenced the drafting of HB 788.

This type of misinformation does a disservice to Texas citizens who must endure the harmful impacts of climate change, such as drought, wildfires, sea-level rise and more volatile weather patterns. These changes have already cost our state billions of dollars and numerous lives.  Climate change is happening now and given the big jump in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions last year, we’re probably in for more harmful impacts than many predicted just a few years ago.

Image

This graph compares increasing CO2 levels (dark line) to increasing average global temperature over the last century (blue and red bars).

Although our efforts to stop or amend HB 788 in the Texas House were unsuccessful and it was disheartening to hear Representative Smith’s comments, Earth Day brought a refocusing on facts.

The Committee on International Trade and Intergovernmental Affairs held a hearing on Global Climate Change and Trade.  Attendance was sparse in the audience, but a stellar line-up of scientists, delegates, and business representatives took the witness stand to testify on the fact of climate change.

HB788 was mentioned in anonymous fashion as a bad greenhouse gas bill on several occasions.  But, the most glaring comments were directed at Texas’ lack of policy to address climate change.  Cynthia Connor, the Resource Security Policy Adviser for the British Consulate General in Houston spoke in serious tones.  Her message was that Texas has a responsibility to adopt climate change policies to protect $20 billion in Texas investments by UK-owned business, which are responsible for  70,000 jobs.

Almost all of the witnesses addressed Texas’ policy of climate change denial.  To their credit, most of the Representatives on the committee asked questions to confirm the scientific findings, how climate change affects Texas, and how our climate change policies compare to the rest of the modernized world.  The general consensus is that Texas lags far behind the rest of the world.  Texas fails to acknowledge the potential harms of climate change and ignores its responsibility to lead the nation in ethical energy policies as the top producer of oil and natural gas.

While these weren’t messages of hope, at least they were based in scientific facts and observations.  At least for a brief time, science was recognized in our state capitol.

We must each do what we can to reduce our personal impact and we must convince our elected officials that the time for climate change denial is over.

HB 788 is now being considered in the Texas Senate.

Email your Texas state senator to oppose HB 788 and protect Texas’ climate, economy and people.

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algae-open-pondChlorella sp. is a species of algae that has a significant proportion of fatty acids to its body mass. For humans, this can be a problem. But, in a world needing more clean energy, fatty biomass is considered a promising option by many scientists and engineers.

Why algae? Algae can grow in a body of water almost anywhere. We don’t need to use any of our precious farmland to grow it. Water conservationists may initially be concerned, but a group of scientists found that Chlorella sp. thrives in our waste water. Not only that, it cleans up the water, removing ammonia and a host of toxic metals. According to their report, the algae could be used to help clean up waste water at municipal water treatment plants then harvested for biofuels.

graph_algaeI had a chance to speak with Dr. Martin Poenie, Associate Professor in Molecular Cell & Developmental Biology, at The University of Texas at Austin. The Poenie Lab is helping to develop a technique for harvesting the oils from algae that could greatly reduce cost. Dr. Poenie also told me algae can be a significant source of phosphates, which we use in fertilizers. One of the most significant things about algae biofuels, is their small carbon footprint and high energy content. CO2 is sequestered during the growth phase of the algae and it is not released until the fuel is burned. On the whole, biofuels from algae look promising, and the variety of products that can be derived from it will make algae farming even more profitable.

Texas could do more to capture the energy and job benefits from this home grown energy source. Texas Legislature should act to strengthen renewable energy goals. HB 303, SB 1239, and HB  723 would all be good steps in the right direction.

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MSNBC reports that a scientific paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature on Wednesday concluded that during the end of the last Ice Age (12,000 years ago), global temperatures rose after carbon dioxide levels started to rise.  This provides even more scientific evidence that there is a connection between warming temperatures and rising carbon dioxide.

For this study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, researchers reconstructed temperature records from ice and soil cores at 79 sites around the world from around the same time period.

Earlier studies postulated that changes in Earth’s orbit may have triggered the warming trend by causing ice sheets to melt, but the new study suggests CO2 played a more important role.

Click here to read the MSNBC story that also includes comments by skeptics.

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Today, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants.

“Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement announcing the limits. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow.”

This rule has been years in the making and was approved by the White House after months of review.  The rule will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt which could essentially end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.

The rule provides an exception for coal plants that are already permitted and beginning construction within a year. There are about 20 coal plants pursuing permits; two of them would meet the new standard with advanced pollution controls.  The proposal does not cover existing plants.

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Election season is imminent and advocates for environmental welfare and public health need not look very far for the hyper-political red tape and drawbacks to pollution legislation. Like many of her colleagues in the Democratic Party, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson has been campaigning nationwide for the regulation of toxins such as mercury from coal burners which, in effect, could prevent thousands of related deaths and stimulate the job market. Just two weeks ago, Jackson even made an appearance on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” encouraging viewers to exercise vigilance in the fight against toxic emissions and to demand personal protections for clean air and water.

Her sentiments were met with grand applause due to their pertinence in 2011 where it is estimated that 72% of all toxic mercury air pollution in the United States is attributable to coal plants in violation of the Clean Air Act. Just to add some perspective to this statistic, such a figure indicates that 386,000 tons of hazardous compounds are being emitted into the atmosphere per year at an unprecedented rate.

Jackson’s apparent support for tightened environmental regulations was short-lived however, when just one week following her Comedy Central interview the EPA halted essential protections for controlling exposure to air-borne mercury, arsenic, lead, and a plethora of acid gases. The basis for these laws were established in 1990 when President H.W. Bush signed Clean Air Act amendments into law thus making it the EPA’s responsibility to establish emission standards for industrial facilities. Originally, these plans operated on a permit system designed to pinpoint power plants, factories, and additional sources of ground level ozone that had exceeded allowable limits for what was deemed “requisite to protect the public welfare.”

One of these statutes created under H.W. Bush’s administration, called Boiler MACT, monitored emission caps from boilers that produced power sources specifically like those found in large to small coal plants. As of February 2011, under a court issued order, the EPA was also charged with the task of enforcing this body of legislative action. And now, a mere two years after the Obama administration vowed to protect the interests of public health and respect the law, this regulation is one of many that Jackson’s post at the EPA has indefinitely delayed.

Historically, the EPA has acted as an outspoken critic of the industrial “Powers that be” and their habits of ignoring Clean Air Act restrictions with economic impunity. In fact it was the EPA’s records that first indicated that more than 4,000 non-fatal heart attacks, 1,600 cases of acute bronchitis and an excess of 313,000 missed work and school days could be avoided if these laws were enacted properly- and this doesn’t even account for the upwards of 6,600 toxic related deaths. But the EPA strayed its course due to the fast-approaching 2012 elections. They managed to place re-election aspirations above environmental necessities on the hierarchy of political agendas, caved to industry pressures, and watered down many of their contingencies to begin with.

In lieu of this regressive blow to mandatory emission guidelines, Lisa Jackson and the EPA as a whole have endangered countless vulnerable Americans by casting a blind eye to the Boiler MACT legislation. Not only are these steps in reverse potentially (almost certainly) disastrous, people living near industrial giants and coal-fired power plants are now at serious odds with their own health and well-being.

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Could your trip down to the neighborhood meat market, or your favorite burger joint be contributing to the demise of the Amazon rainforest?  Cattle ranching in Brazil is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon. This is old news though.  Cattle ranching has been the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest since the 70s.  The cattle industry in Brazil is responsible for 80% of the deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon region to be exact.  This means that the ever growing cattle sector in Brazil is also a huge contributor to the greenhouse effect.  According to Greenpeace, statistics show that 2.5 acres of the rainforest is destroyed every 18 seconds.  To compound the situation, the number of cattle in Brazil has nearly doubled since 1990.  Back in the 90s, Brazil only produced enough beef to feed its own population.  Today, the cattle production industry, located in the heart of the Amazon on a territory known as Mato Grosso, has increased by at least 50 billion.  Here in Mato Grosso, pasturelands have been cleared for cattle grazing the size of Portugal!

Pie chart of deforestation in the Amazon

Recently, Brazil has also just earned itself the title of largest beef exporter in the world, exporting everywhere from Hong Kong, the European Union, and even to the United States (primarily fast food restaurants).  According to the Center for International Forestry Research, ‘between 1990 and 2001 the percentage of Europe’s processed meat imports that came from Brazil rose from 40-75 percent’ and by 2003 for the first time ever, ‘the growth in Brazilian cattle production—80% of which was in the Amazon—was largely export driven.’

The United States has recently been in dispute with Brazil over the cotton production industry, and (thank heavens!) placed a ban on the import of Brazilian beef…but hold on folks:  that ban is set to expire at the end of this year.  Another important note to consider: this ban on Brazilian beef imports is not a complete ban, in fact, many restaurants and other fine dining businesses in the US continue to partake in the destruction of the Amazon.  The ban only pertains to grocery stores, and is currently in debate as to whether or not it will be lifted.  The ban depends upon the dispute over cotton production industry between the two countries.  The ban was originally instated in the US due to the high levels of foot and mouth disease prominent in Brazilian beef. (more…)

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Americans tend to think of climate change as a ‘down the road’ future phenomenon. But the fact of the matter is that although the world isn’t coming to an end tomorrow, we are being impacted by climate change, and much more than we may think.  We may feel like we don’t know anyone dealing with the repercussions of climate change, but the effects are closer than we think. In fact, think of that cattle ranch down the road, it’s probably dealing with the effects of climate change, like drought, and extreme heat waves, and most of us don’t even know it.

Climate change can affect livestock, especially here in Texas, aka the cattle country.  This occurs principally through variations in appetite, and distribution in energy between maintenance and growth.  The potential for disease incidence becomes increased as well. Does this become worth the cost for those who raise cattle? Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that it is not.

Cattle during a roundup session

My family has owned a working cattle ranch for as long as I can remember.  The cattle were left to openly graze through the pastures and wander about the ranch, to the fishing pond and beyond.  I can remember countless times driving in only to be stopped by a cow standing blatantly in the middle of the road munching on some mesquite.  A few months ago, the decision was made to slowly get rid of the cattle on the ranch.  Why you ask? For one, the expense it costs to maintain such a production is becoming more than the profit.  The cattle are eating everything in sight, not allowing the wild game to acquire enough to eat to reach their full mass potential.  This essentially decreases the amount of hunting leases the ranch receives, since the game isn’t at its full potential, size wise.  As long as the cows continue to eat, they’ll also continue to erode everything in sight, especially since they’ve been grazing for so long out in the pastures.  And specifically speaking of extreme heat waves, I can remember a few times in my lifetime when we’ve had cows die right in the pastures as a result of the brutal Texas heat.  That seems to be a pretty clear indicator of the serious catastrophic risks that the effects of warming have on the hard-working cattle ranchers. (more…)

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The next time you bite into that double quarter-pounder with cheese, you may want to think twice about it.  Literally though, once for your health and once for Mother Nature dearest.

The livestock and agricultural industry is the single largest producer of methane, one of the biggest contributors to global warming.  In fact, 100 million tons of methane is produced each year by the animal agricultural business alone.

About 85% of the people I’ve talked to, had no idea that eating meat had such a big impact on the environment.  It’s understandable that the general public cannot cease use of all fossil fuels, electricity, and gas-guzzling SUVs, but altering your diet toward a more plant-based focus is both one of the easiest things to do to decrease your carbon footprint, as well as quickest.  You may not be in a position to trade in your car for the latest electric vehicle, but you can be aware of the choices you make at the grocery store. (more…)

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The new Nissan LEAF, or (Leading Environmentally-friendly Affordable Family car), will be availible in the U.S. in 2011.

In the coming weeks you might notice a sleek, new Nissan LEAF or Chevy Volt cruising past you on the road. Many of the major car companies are introducing electric, plug-in vehicles (EVs) designed for the American family market. They range in cost from about $20,000-$45,000 and are small and practical. Not all EVs run completely from electricity, some are hybrids with electric-assisted engines, like a Toyota Prius. Others, like the Volt, are propelled exclusively by electricity, but include batteries and generators. These differences affect the amount of carbon emissions your car produces. All-electric vehicles, like the LEAF, have the potential to emit no carbon at all, from their own engines, or at the power plant where your electricity is generated. As Austinites, we can choose the green energy option from Austin Energy, in which 100% of the electricity we buy is generated from renewables.

Gas may still be necessary to run your EV, depending how it’s engine uses electricity, but the new EVs are becoming quite efficient at using minimal fuel. It’s important to consider that the majority of Austin’s air pollution comes from vehicles. Purchasing any EV is a step you can take to make a positive impact on our environment.

EVs can also make a positive impact on your wallet. An EV averages 100 miles per charge cycle in the city. Comparatively, this costs about $1 or less/gallon in terms of the gas you would have used in a conventional vehicle. As efficiency improves, these costs will also fall, while gas prices are always volatile. If you’re interested, please contact your dealership about buying an EV; they will be fully available in 2011.

What else do you need to know after purchasing an EV? Concerned consumers have contacted the Public Citizen office worried about potentially expensive charging stations. An EV powers up at a charging station that’s a higher voltage than your normal wall plug. It looks something like the plug for an electric washer/dryer. This unexpected expense can naturally cause worries right after purchasing a new car, but Austin Energy has a program to encourage consumers to buy EVs.

All you need to do is contact Austin Energy and let them know you’ve ordered an EV. They will come and provide assistance and incentives to install a charging station in your house. For more information about Austin’s Energy’s charging station incentive program please contact Larry Alford at larry.alford@austinenergy.com.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Today the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) continued their decades-long campaign of ineptitude and inadequacy as they approved the air quality permit for the White Stallion Coal Plant proposed for Matagorda County on the Texas Gulf Coast. Their ruling was unanimous despite the fact that the administrative law judges, who spent weeks presiding over and then deliberating the aspects of this case, recommended that this permit should not be issued. On top of that the TCEQ’s own staff at the Office of Public Interest Council (or OPIC) reiterated their position that this permit should be denied.

"Clean coal" is about as realistic and honest as this image.

It seems simple things like common sense and logic are completely absent from the regulatory fantasy world the TCEQ commissioners live in. It is their opinion that the thousands of tons of toxic pollution they have permitted this coal plant to emit are “acceptable,” even though they are likely to lead to the deaths of over 600 Matagorda County residents over the plant’s estimated lifetime, at a price tag of over $5.4 billion in health care costs (according to a report from MSB Energy Associates). Also “acceptable” to these TCEQ commissioners is an air monitor White Stallion used for their air modeling report (a vital part of the air permitting process), despite the fact that it is located outside of Corpus Christi, 100 miles downwind of the proposed site. They may as well have used a monitor in China, as the emissions from White Stallion would likely never head in that direction.

TCEQ commissioners have also completely ignored the fact that the EPA has set new standards for National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and they are not requiring White Stallion to adhere to them, despite the fact that this plant would be on the doorstep of the existing Houston non-attainment region. In fact, once the new EPA ozone standards come into effect, Matagorda County is slated to be included in the Houston non-attainment region. By that time, however, thanks to the expedient and enthusiastic permitting approval by the TCEQ, White Stallion will be “grandfathered” and its effects on a non-attainment region will stand.

The most egregious assault on common sense and logic, however, is this plant is completely unnecessary and dangerous to all of Texas, and in fact the entire world. At a time when we need to be shifting our infrastructure and development to renewable and sustainable forms of energy generation, a CO2 and toxin-belching coal plant is the last thing we should be permitting in Texas. This plant represents not only an assault on the health of Matagorda County citizens, but a furthering of reliance upon these dirty, old methods of power generation. We have the technology now to be shifting to responsibly generated electricity. To fail in this is not just a failure by the TCEQ towards the people of Matagorda, but the failure of the state of Texas to lead this country in the direction we desperately need to go.

In the end, however, we can all take heart in the fact that the ultimate decision on whether this plant gets built or not is not only in the hands of the TCEQ.  That power lies in the hands of the people – both those who are opposing the project and those attempting to build it. This plant still requires a waste water permit from TCEQ, a water contract from LCRA, and another permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before it can operate. It is also expected that this decision from the TCEQ will be challenged at the state courts. Ultimately, as long as the people of Matagorda continue to say “NO” to this plant, and as more and more people rally to help them in their cause, this plant will be defeated.

Go to NoCoalCoalition.org for more information and to get involved in the fight against White Stallion.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Yesterday the TCEQ remanded the air permit for the proposed Las Brisas petroleum-coke plant back to the State Office of Administrative Hearings. What they didn’t do is require the facility to do what’s called a case-by-case analysis of MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) for Hazardous Air Pollutants. In effect, TCEQ (the agency tasked with protecting people and the environment from pollution) is not going to require Las Brisas to do a proper analysis of their pollution control!

This is outrageous. A permit which should have been denied outright, or at the least sent back to the beginning of the process, is instead being temporarily remanded on a number of less significant issues. Below is the proceeding in its entirety. The first video covers the first part of the process when the applicant and the opposition’s representation were allowed time to make comments to the commissioners. The second video shows the commissioners’ decision which is then followed by a press conference which includes responses from local residents in Corpus Christi who would be directly affected by the pollution TCEQ is failing to properly address.

For more information contact Public Citizen’s office at 512-477-1155.

[vimeo 13008393]

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas

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This footage is of the town hall event that was held in Bay City in April. Though invited, White Stallion representatives refused to show up to answer questions from the public. Some Bay City officials, including Mr. Owen Bludau of the Matagorda Economic Development Corporation and Judge Nate McDonald did attend to voice their positions and to answer questions that pertained to them. This footage is for public/educational use and may be duplicated and distributed freely by all.

[vimeo 11720643] (more…)

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Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

We are thrilled – but not surprised – that because of a growth spurt in the development of wind energy, Texas has met its renewable energy goal 15 years ahead of schedule. Each time Texas has set a renewable energy goal, the state has achieved it far in advance of the deadline set by the Texas Legislature. That’s because Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) policies are incredibly effective at stimulating new technologies and economic growth.

RPS policies are also remarkably successful at reducing air pollution and global warming gases. This program has resulted in 9 million fewer tons of carbon dioxide and reduces emissions of nitrous oxide, or NOx, by 15,000 tons per year and as such should be heralded as one of the state’s most effective environmental programs. The success of this initiative goes to show the positive outcomes that can be reached when environmentalists and business communities work together.

In 1999, the Texas Legislature created a Renewable Portfolio Standard that required all utilities to get at least 3 percent of their energy or a statewide total of 2,000 megawatts from renewables by 2020. In 2005, that goal was increased to 5,880 megawatts by 2015, with a target of 10,880 megawatts capacity created by 2025, which is the target that has been met. At the time of its implementation, this legislation was the most aggressive in the country. Similar policies have proven successful at creating demand for renewable energy throughout the United States, but nowhere have they been as successful as Texas. In Texas, these policies have resulted in the creation of as many as 83,000 jobs, according to Public Citizen studies.

Texas should adopt the same policies to encourage the growth of non-wind renewable energy such as solar, geothermal, biomass, agricultural methane and landfill gas. Texas has become a leader in wind as a result of carefully crafted policies like the RPS, but there is no reason we can’t do the same and become a leader in non-wind renewable energy as well. The Public Utility Commission and the Texas Legislature have the opportunity to develop other sources of renewable energy and thereby bring economic growth to Texas. This is happening elsewhere, but not in Texas, because we lack the specific incentives for non-wind renewables that other states have jumped to adopt.

The current success would not have been possible without the hard work of environmentalists, large wind producers like the Wind Coalition, the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA), environmental groups, church groups and rural county officials who worked together on what has become one of the state’s largest job creation programs and boon, through increased property taxes, to educational services in rural communities. Our thanks go out to these parties, and we certainly hope that in 10 years, we can applaud the similar success of solar and geothermal energy due to a non-wind RPS.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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