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Posts Tagged ‘Clean Energy’

Freight ShuttleOn September 9th, Adrian Shelley and I went to Bryan, Texas, to watch the unveiling of the Freight Shuttle System (FSS), a technology  currently being built and tested by Freight Shuttle International. Dr. Stephen Roop, chief scientist at Freight Shuttle International and and professor at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, opened the unveiling with a press briefing sharing his vision. The FSS is an electric, autonomous shuttle powered by a linear induction motor, providing low friction to the steel wheels running on steel lines, similar to train tracks. The FSS combines elements of truck and train transport – single shuttles run on a track similar to a train track, and according to Dr. Roop’s vision, those tracks would be elevated from other modes of transportation to reduce congestion, provide a strong level of predictability and non-stop service, and reduce infrastructure damage often associated with truck transportation. 

Dr. Roop noted the emissions of the FSS are tied to the source of power. What that means is that the FSS itself would generate no point-of-source pollution like the cancer-causing pollution created by diesel engines currently on the road. Furthermore, because the FSS would operate under DC voltage, it could be tied easily to renewable energy. In that way, the FSS could take advantage of the increasing access to renewable energy in Texas and potentially be net zero in terms of carbon pollution.

Adrian and Stephanie with Freight Shuttle

Adrian and Stephanie with Freight Shuttle

The FSS is not designed to transport hazardous or toxic materials, and although it could possibly be used to transport people, it is intended now to be separate from people – that is to be contained within a separate line so that the roads and highways can be used for people, not cargo.

The Port of Houston Authority signed a memorandum of understanding with Freight Shuttle International and is planning to use the FSS to transport cargo between its container terminals, Bayport and Barbour’s Cut. Freight Shuttle International stated that the FSS line could be operational within 3 years.

 

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SAN ANTONIO – The newly formed Re-Energize San Antonio Coalition called on CPS Energy to meet a set of conditions before following through with an October rate hike.

Describing the hike as an increase that will “unfairly burden residential taxpayers,” coalition members called on CPS to take steps to reduce pollution, waste and costs for consumers.

The coalition presented its demands in a petition handed off to the utility during the Monday, Sept. 9 CPS Rate Case Input Session held at the TriPoint Grantham Center.

“We oppose the rate hike because it promotes unsustainable growth, driven by dirty energy, on the shoulders of the poor and working class folks who already pay the most for energy costs relative to income and quality of housing stock,” said Dr. Marisol Cortez, scholar-in-residence at the Esperanza Peace & Justice Center.
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The newly formed Re-Energize San Antonio Coalition put its opposition to CPS’s proposed rate hike on the record during a Sept. 9 citizen’s input meeting. Coalition representatives presented the utility with a plan of action that they want addressed before an increase goes into effect. Here’s the petition.

PETITION FOR CPS ACTIONS PRIOR TO PROPOSED RATE INCREASE

Submitted to CPS Energy during the CPS Rate Case Input Session, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013.
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Texas is a state that is abundant with clean and renewable sources of energy. From the booming wind industry, to the emerging solar sector, Texas is primed to be a clean energy leader. And now thanks to the SMU Geothermal Laboratory, Texans have one more reason to go green.

Research from SMU has shown that there are substantial geothermal resources all along the East I35 Corridor. Geothermal power stations work by harnessing the heat trapped deep within the Earth, and would utilize the ample number of active and plugged wells from the oil and gas industry. “There are currently over 200,000 active wells in Texas. That is 200,000 potential sources of cost-competitive, renewable, baseload, clean energy to Texans.”

Given that geothermal in Texas would most likely be small distributed generation systems of 250 kw to 1 MW per well, a realistic Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) potential for Texas is 318,652 exajoules (EJs). To put that in perspective, that is enough to power the entire industrial sector for over 500 years at the 2008 Texas electrical consumption rate of 32,525 thousand megawatt-hour (MWh).

Tapping into these resources would provide a clean source of energy, while invigorating rural economies with jobs growth and investments. And since geothermal uses existing wells, it could be rapidly deployed to create a clean energy boom for East Texas.

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Texas Capitol - north viewWith the regular session behind us and energy and environmental issues not likely to find a place in the special session, it’s a good time to look at what we accomplished.

Our wins came in two forms – bills that passed that will actually improve policy in Texas and bills that didn’t pass that would have taken policy in the wrong direction.

We made progress by helping to get bills passed that:

  • Expand funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) by about 40%;
  • Create a program within TERP to replace old diesel tractor trailer trucks used in and around ports and rail yards (these are some of the most polluting vehicles on the road);
  • Establish new incentives within TERP for purchasing plug-in electric cars; and
  • Assign authority to the Railroad Commission (RRC) to regulate small oil and gas lines (these lines, known as gathering lines, are prone to leaks); and
  • Allows commercial and industrial building owners to obtain low-cost, long-term private sector financing for water conservation and energy-efficiency improvements, including on-site renewable energy, such as solar.

We successfully helped to stop or improve bad legislation that would have:

  • Eliminated hearings on permits for new pollution sources (the contested case hearing process is crucial to limiting pollution increases);
  • Eliminated additional inspections for facilities with repeated pollution violations;
  • Weakened protections against utilities that violate market rules and safety guidelines;
  • Eliminated property tax breaks for wind farms, while continuing the policy for other industries;
  • Granted home owners associations (HOAs) authority to unreasonably restrict homeowners ability to install solar panels on their roofs; and
  • Permitted Austin City Council to turn control of Austin Energy over to an unelected board without a vote by the citizens of Austin.

We did lose ground on the issue of radioactive waste disposal.  Despite our considerable efforts, a bill passed that will allow more highly radioactive waste to be disposed of in the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) facility in west Texas.  Campaign contributions certainly played an important roll in getting the bill passed.

We were also disappointed by Governor Perry’s veto of the Ethics Commission sunset bill, which included several improvements, including a requirement that railroad commissioners resign before running for another office, as they are prone to do.  Read Carol’s post about this bill and the issue.

With the legislation over and Perry’s veto pen out of ink, we now shift our attention to organizing and advocating for a transition from polluting energy sources that send money out of our state to clean energy sources that can grow our economy.

We’re working to:

  • Promote solar energy at electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities;
  • Speed up the retirement of old, inefficient, polluting coal-fired power plants in east Texas;
  • Protect our climate and our port communities throughout the Gulf states from health hazards from new and expanded coal export facilities;
  • Fight permitting of the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines in Texas;
  • Ensure full implementation of improvements made to TERP; and
  • Develop an environmental platform for the 2014 election cycle.

Our power comes from people like you getting involved – even in small ways, like writing an email or making a call.  If you want to help us work for a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable future, email me at [email protected] And one of the best things you can do is to get your friends involved too.

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Texas Capitol - north viewTwo bills have now been filed in the Texas House that would expand the state’s goals for renewable energy.  Representative Rafael Anchia‘s bill, HB 723, would establish goals for growing renewable energy installations other than large-scale wind through 2022.  Similarly, Representative Eddie Rodriquez‘s bill, HB 303, would establish a goal for solar installations and increase the existing goal (which was met 15 years ahead of schedule) for all renewable energy for 2020.

We applaud these efforts and the leadership that Rep. Anchia and Rep. Rodriquez are showing by filing these bills.  These proposals recognize that success is a good thing and something we want more of.  You wouldn’t think that would need saying, but when a state agency recommends tossing out a successful policy, I start to wonder.  Texas’s renewable energy goals have been extraordinarily successful.  Not only have the goals been met ahead of time, but they have spurred development of the wind industry in Texas, bringing economic benefits to rural parts of West Texas, as well as to manufacturing centers.  On top of that, wind energy is helping to keep electric bills lower.

A carpenter doesn’t throw away her hammer just because she finished building her first book shelf and Texas shouldn’t repeal it’s renewable energy policies, just because we’ve met some of our goals (remember, the non-wind goal was never enforced).  Wind energy does now makes a substantial contribution to meeting the state’s electrical needs – it contributed a record 26% this past Christmas day, but solar energy is still very underutilized (accounting for less than 1% of energy on the ERCOT grid, which serves 85% of the Texas population) and the geothermal energy industry is still getting off it’s feet.  As Rep. Anchia and Rep. Rodriquez’s bills show, this successful policy tool can be adjusted to keep moving Texas forward.

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Orbach: $1 billion for energy storage research could launch state’s next energy era

Watch for the University of Texas at Austin to soon make a $1 billion pitch to lawmakers aimed at unleashing the state’s vast potential to lead the nation and even the world in renewable energy production.

Ray Orbach, director of UT’s Texas Energy Institute, has compiled what he considers a compelling case for a large public investment in battery storage research meaningful enough to launch Texas into a new energy economy that taps the state’s enormous potential capacity for solar, wind and geothermal power generation.

“I really would like to have a crash program. My thought is it could be comparable to the cancer initiative,” he told Texas Energy Report. “I would like to see it in the billion-dollar range. My point is the potential is there. I just think it’s crazy not to sit down and optimize it for Texas.”

Orbach said a new study found that Texas has the potential to lead the nation in nearly every form of renewable energy. In concentrating solar alone – which allows for fluctuations that make it more economical – tapping just one percent of Texas’ total capacity could generate electricity equivalent to the entire needs of the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) power grid, he said.

“We have as much energy potential above ground as we do below ground,” Orbach said this week to an audience attending a symposium sponsored by the Texas Public Utility Commission called “Renewable Solutions for Energy Prosperity in Texas.”

Citing a just released July study called “U.S. Renewable Energy Technical Potentials: A GIS-Based Analysis,” Orbach laid out what’s in it for Texas if the state’s leading scientific minds solve the energy storage puzzle:

Urban utility-scale photovoltaics:  Texas has the highest estimated potential (13 percent of the U.S.)

Rural utility-scale photovoltaic: Texas has the highest estimated potential (14 percent of the U.S.

Rooftop photovoltaic’s: Texas has the second-highest estimated potential (9 percent of the U.S.)

Concentrating solar power: Texas has the highest estimated potential (20 percent of U.S.)

Onshore wind power: Texas has the highest estimated potential (17 percent of U.S.)

Offshore wind power: Hawaii has the highest estimated potential, while Texas has 6 percent of U.S.

Enhanced geothermal systems: Texas has the highest estimated potential (10 percent of U.S.)

“The opportunities are so enormous. I was stunned,” Orbach said of his reaction when he read the study that takes into account environmental and land-use constraints, and topographical limitations.

Because each of the renewable capacity calculations is based on the same total land, Orbach said Texas leaders need to determine how to best optimize the state’s renewable resources with decisions about which fuel mix to pursue and where. In an interview, he acknowledged that political and economic considerations would pose major challenges, but he suggested a planning commission appointed by the governor and legislators could help navigate those.

Think of the planning concept as akin to the Texas Railroad Commission’s early history in setting production limits to ensure that oil and gas resources would last longer with conservation measures such as adequate well spacing, he said.  And think of state’s commitment to building CREZ (Competitive Renewable Energy Zones) transmission lines to transport wind energy as a parallel to the research commitment needed to solve the problem of energy battery storage for wind and solar.

With its federal production tax credits, Orbach said wind has posed pricing issues for ERCOT’s wholesale competitive market. But he insisted he’s a free-market advocate who does not think wind or solar would need any subsidies to compete. As for kick-starting research to solve energy storage issues, he said Texans should think of that as an investment that would repay itself many times over.

“Our future will depend on our ability to store base load electricity from fluctuating sources. We are truly blessed with intellectual and energy sources. It’s time for a zoning, an optimization of how we use these wonderful resources for the benefit of citizens in this state,” Orbach said. “This is not just a Texas issue. The market for what we produce in Texas is global. You can think outside the boundaries of our state for these opportunities.”

In addition to the big picture, some of Texas’ energy opportunities have hardly been discussed, he said. The potential for enhanced geothermal energy alone, he said, is 384 gigawatts. That’s equivalent to five times the total ERCOT load.

Geothermal energy taps into underground heat, and fracturing underground rock is one way to release the heat. He points to natural gas wells hydraulically fractured in the Barnett Shale of North Texas and their future to be repurposed in 10 to 20 years for renewable energy production. The wells have already fractured rock at a depth of 8,000 to 10,000 feet where temperatures range from 200-300 degrees Fahrenheit, he noted.

“What happens when those wells are played out? Do we just cap them and walk away? They are a source of potential enhanced geothermal energy. We have the sources now that we’re using for liquids and gas and oil that in fact may well be available in the future for enhanced geothermal,” Orbach said.

Meanwhile, the price of solar panels is dropping sharply as China floods the market with panels at 80 cents a watt, he said. Consequently, solar installations in the first half of this year doubled to 1,254 megawatts over the 623 installed in the first six months of 2011. That’s the size of a nuclear reactor, he said, and this year it will amount to two.

“It’s a revolution,” he added. “It’s a sign for those of us interested in solar and wind and renewable energy that there’s an opportunity here for Texas to be mined.”

By Polly Ross Hughes

Copyright September 14, 2012, Harvey Kronberg, www.texasenergyreport.com, All rights are reserved.  Reposted by TexasVox.org with permission of the Texas Energy Report.

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Yesterday, Clean Energy Works for Texas – a coalition consisting of Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Texas BlueGreen Apollo Alliance, Progress Texas, Clean Water Action, Environment Texas, North Texas Renewable Energy Group, North Texas Renewable Energy Inc., SEED Coalition, Solar Austin, Solar San Antonio, Texas Campaign for the Environment and  Texas Pecan Alliance – filed a petition with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) asking for a rule-making to implement the non-wind renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

A law passed by the Texas Legislature in 2005 established that at least 500 megawatts (MW) of the electricity used in Texas would come from renewable energy sources other than wind by 2015.  The PUC, however, has failed to establish rules to ensure that this goal is reached.  Clean Energy Works for Texas calls on the PUC to fulfill its statutory duty and create rules to ensure that the goal is reached.  The petition also proposes and expansion of that goal to 3,000 MW by 2025.

The non-wind RPS would provide a level of certainty for investors considering Texas for clean energy projects.  While the wind industry has thrived in Texas, thanks, at least in part, to the RPS, other renewable energy industries have lagged behind.  Implementation of the non-wind RPS would send a signal to investors that Texas is open for business.   At at time when nearly a million Texans are looking for work, developing 21st century industries here in Texas should be a priority.

Texas has immense solar resources, as well as substantial geothermal resources that, if developed, could be providing the State with additional electricity that it needs.  Electricity market regulators and policy-makers have had numerous discussions about electricity generation shortages over the past year.  The petition filed by Clean Energy Works for Texas offers a solution – and it’s one that can be expanded upon in the coming years.

Please visit www.CleanEnergyWorksForTexas.org to learn more and send an email to to the PUC in support of the non-wind RPS.

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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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TCEQ is broken. It’s not working in the public’s interest, and there are direct costs that all of us in the state of Texas are paying as a result.  But there is an opportunity for us to fix some of the problems with this broken state agency by participating in the Texas Sunset process.

The Alliance for a Clean Texas kicked off a series of town hall meetings across the state on the sunset review of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on September 15 th.  Last night in Corpus Christi, residents criticized the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, saying it holds too much power and ignores public concerns in the interest of business. (more…)

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Come close together, cats and kitties, and gather ’round, while the Powerman gets his story-telling hat- the one with the fine white brim- slips it on and talks about what’s going down with a happening riff:, with a tip o’ the hat to Lord Buckley for those yet to be hip to the flip, we are not talking bout sound. 60.000 cycles per second 60 hertz or one sixtieth of a second, precisely, exactly, over and over, up and down, positive to negative and back again, round and around. You- over in the corner, the group that seems in tune, go ahead and hit an Ohm- I know that you want to. Now don’t that sound mighty fine, but take it down real low, just a hum, the cats might have to carry this tune ’cause it’s down kinda a low, around 60 cycles or so. Now there’s a Ohm that’s fine to hear and hum that travels, it’s nice and it’s clear, and kitties don’t worry if the tone hunts around, that’s fine, it’s how it works, now I’ll tell you what’s going down.

Back in the day, not so long ago, there were wizards walked the earth mighty and proud. They worked with lightning, electricity we say, with sparks and bolts that could knock you down, pick you up and smack you around and kill a cat if you didn’t know the rules, it wasn’t nothing to play round with now, can you dig it? I knew that you could. (more…)

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The concert is FREE to the public and welcomes all ages.
The Sierra Club and Texas Environmental Justice are rolling out the Great Texas Clean-Up Festival, from 4-10 at the Discovery Green in Houston, an event expected to kick off a larger campaign to clean up Texas. Public Citizen is a coalition partner and will be there! Check out our booth!

Headlining the event is Dallas native Ray Johnston with the Ray Johnston Band, a groovy, rock soul act with plenty of attitude. Rounding out the event are Los Pistoleros de Texas, bluesman Mrs. Glass, and country western singer songwriter Robert Ellis.

Expect keynote speaker State Senator Rodney Ellis of Houston to give a rip-roaring speech, flanked by the impassioned Ana Hernandez, three term representative from district 143 of Houston.

About a dozen Houston-based artists are expected to showcase, including Lizbeth Ortiz, who created this piece, “Nurturing Hands”.

There will be a Kids’ Corner and plenty of political activism.

Check them out at www.cleanuptexasnow.org

Hope to see ya’ll there!

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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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The Great Texas Cleanup: Outdoor Art & Music Festival

July 24th in Houston at Discovery Green

On July 24th, the Sierra Club and Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Service (TEJAS) will host The Great Texas Cleanup: A Rally & Concert for Clean Energy and Clean Air. Environmental and community groups from Houston, Texas and around the country will join local, state, and national businesses in taking a stand to cleanup Texas now!

The concert is FREE to the public and welcomes all ages.

Local musicians will play an eclectic variety of music that will unite youth, students, young professionals, families, and different communities in the fight for a future we all share. Community leaders and distinguished speakers will talk about urgent issues that have culminated into our best opportunity to cleanup Texas now. Artists, businesses, and local nonprofits will share with you what they are doing to help and how you can get involved!

Hope to see ya’ll there! CleanupTexasNow.org


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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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Video footage of a public meeting back in March for the Dallas, TX region. EPA has proposed a new NOx attainment standard, and this meeting was held during the comment period. Though an official EPA meeting had been held in Houston, there was no official meeting for Dallas (where Region 6 offices of EPA are located) so a number of environmental groups got together to host and sponsor this event. The last video is of some folks who didn’t speak at the event itself but who wanted to submit video comments to the EPA. The event was sponsored by Public Citizen, Sierra Club, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Downwinders at Risk, and other individuals and environmental organizations. Rep. Lon Burnam presided over the entire meeting and was joined throughout by Mayor Cluck of Arlington, TX and other representatives and officials, including one from the TCEQ.

Press Conference

[vimeo 11089828]

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For those of you following our work organizing citizens in the Bay City area against the proposed White Stallion coal plant, there is a new chapter to add to the saga. You may remember that we were down there recently speaking with rice farmers concerned about the plant’s potential (huge!) water use. Turns out not everyone in the county was happy with this turn of events, especially Judge Nate McDonald, who thinks the project will be “great” for the county and the state of Texas.

Clearly, we’re going to have to part ways on that one. Judge McDonald fired the first shot with an op-ed in the Bay City Tribune, but the paper gave us a forum to respond. You’ll find our answer below, and can find the rice farmer’s response here.

No such thing as ‘clean coal’

by Tom “Smitty” Smith

Recently, County Judge Nate McDonald expressed his concerns that rice famers met with Public Citizen, a national consumer and environmental group, to discuss the negative impacts of the proposed White Stallion coal plant, particularly the amount of water the plant will use. Unfortunately, he got his facts wrong about both the plant and our organization.

The judge says he welcomes development and that his requirement for White Stallion is “that it be the cleanest coal plant there is and do no harm to our environment and air quality,” but the facts show that this plant is not the “cleanest coal plant there is” and will do substantial harm.

There is no such thing as “clean coal.” Even if there were, White Stallion would certainly not qualify.

This coal plant would be, by far, the largest source of pollution in Matagorda County. (more…)

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