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Posts Tagged ‘coal plant’

Peabody Coal, presently the largest Coal Mining Company in the World

Peabody Coal, presently the largest Coal Mining Company in the World

Take a quick look at this article/video. After the showing of a comedic political documentary, a speech is made about mountain-top removal mining and its ill effects. The crowd of enthusiastic movie-goers then canvasses the sidewalks of a nearby JP Morgan Chase bank with coal graffiti. It brings up an interesting point about who’s surreptitiously lurking behind the companies that deal with coal. In a word, banks.

Let’s reflect for a bit on the role of banks in (or rather behind) coal-related issues. For starters, it’s a tricky situation because the banks don’t actually do any of the polluting or emitting, they merely finance it:

One could take one of two extreme standpoints on the environmental impact of banks’ products. On the one hand, all pollution caused by companies who are financed by banks is the responsibility of banks. It is easy to make an estimate of the environmental impact in this sense: it would equate to almost the aggregate pollution of the whole economy in many countries. On the other hand, as the products of banks do not pollute, the users of those products—the clients—should take sole responsibility for the pollution they create. Of course, both standpoints are absurd. The truth lies somewhere in the middle

(taken from a paper on sustainable banking).

As usual, it’s that middle ground which is very hard to find in the real world.

The Rainforest Action Network has put together a very informative pamphlet concerning banks (particularly Citi and Bank of America) and their relationship to coal in the US. Here are just a few numbers taken from this publication:

  1. There are about 150 proposed coal-fired power plant sites in the US currently, with an estimated price-tag of approximately 140 billion dollars for the lot. This might be considered another ‘coal rush,’ and someone will have to finance all of this. You might think of this as adding 100-180 million passenger cars to US roads.
  2. Citi and Bank of America have both been major financiers of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal mining company. Peabody has been involved in mining coal on the Black Mesa (Hopi Indian community land), where they have drained millions of gallons of water from the sole aquifer in the area and left behind a 273-mile coal slurry pipeline.
  3. Both banks have also underwritten numerous loans for other coal mining companies including Massey Energy, Arch Coal, and Alpha Natural Resources. Each of these companies is involved in mountaintop removal, a particularly destructive form of coal mining.

Citi Bank

The World Bank is not setting a very good example, either. The Bank has acknowledged that the developing world should not become locked into the same carbon-intensive infrastructure of the West, yet it still intends to help fund coal-fired power plants in several developing nations. It’s a hard line to walk, that between developmental and environmental issues, however there are more sustainable alternatives available and with the right planning and finance, these could become a reality.

Bank of America

Bank of America

But let’s step away from the blame game. No matter who is the most responsible – the bank or the polluter – the fact is that banks, with their abundant resources, should be clever and forward-thinking enough to see the non-sustainability of coal as an investment. Conversely, there abound investment opportunities in clean, sustainable energy. For example, Lord Browne, former head of BP, has urged the British government to direct government-controlled bank investment into renewable energy resources, such as offshore wind power. Germany has been a leader in sustainable energy investment; look at this report from the Deutsche Bank. In the US there have been proposals for a Green Bank which would, among many other things, help to drive much-needed capital investment into clean-energy technologies and infrastructure.

This isn’t just green tomfoolery, it could be money in the bank (literally).

J Baker.

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I was outraged when I heard Jim Rower’s response to Lesley Stahl’s question on 60 Minutes on Sunday, the 4th: “We shouldn’t get rid of coal,” said the power industry lobbyist. People like him don’t quite understand the risk caused by waste that results from burning coal, or they might just simply ignore it.

This is an issue that has not been addressed and covered much by the media ,which is disturbing when you know how much coal combustion waste impacts our lives. A 2007 report about the EPA’s Human and Ecological Risk Assessment of Coal Combustion Wastes, stresses the fact that waste from coal combustion such as fly ash, bottom ash, and slag do pose risks to human health.

For humans exposed via the groundwater-to drinking- water pathway, arsenic in CCW [coal combustion waste] landfills poses a 90th percentile cancer risk of 5×10-4 for unlined units and 2×10-4 for clay-lined units. The 50th percentile risks are 1×10-5 (unlined units) and 3×10-6(clay-lined units). Risks are higher for surface impoundments, with an arsenic cancer risk of 9×10-3 for unlined units and 3×10-3 for clay-lined units at the 90th percentile. At the 50th percentile, risks for unlined surface impoundments are 3×10-4, and clay-lined units show a risk of 9×10-5. Five additional constituents have 90th percentile noncancer risks above the criteria (HQs ranging from greater than 1 to 4) for unlined surface impoundments, including boron and cadmium, which have been cited in CCW damage cases, referenced above. Boron and molybdenum show HQs of 2 and 3 for clay-lined surface impoundments. None of these noncarcinogens show HQs above 1 at the 50th percentile for any unit type.

This is a risk and a struggle for a lot of people. As it shows in 60 Minutes, people who reside in water areas that are exposed to coal ash, they are advised to not swim or drink from the water. Also, those people are at higher risk of being wiped out by coal ash spills like the one of the Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee.

25sludge2_600
You might think that since many of us don’t live in such areas, it shouldn’t be our concern. But it should be because many companies, in order to spend less on coal waste disposal,  recycle it. Coal waste is used in the manufacturing of carpets, cement, asphalt, tile, sinks and other, as some misleadingly call them, “green products”. All of these products put us in direct exposure to these toxics.

It is time to voice out our opinions against the usage of coal to produce energy. It poses major risks in many areas of the country, especially Texas that has 17 existing coal plants and 11 proposed or already under construction. People’s lives shouldn’t be jeopardized when we know we can use sources of energy that are cleaner and better for us and our environment.

Note: You can watch and comment on the Leslie Stahl’s 60 minutes piece by clicking at this link

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Yesterday marked the end of a State-Wide “Roll Beyond Coal” press tour of Texas coal plants. This tour has seen representatives from Public Citizen of Texas and Sierra Club travel across the state visiting communities which would be impacted by proposed coal plants and meeting with local organizations. This was all in a bid to support recent bold action from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concerning the coal plant permitting process of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and to request that the EPA take further steps to create a moratorium on the permitting or operation of any new coal-powered plant (Texas currently has 11 in either the pending, permitted or under-construction phase).

The crux of the matter is the discrepancy between the TCEQ permitting standards and the Federal Clean Air Act. The TCEQ is responsible for the permitting process of coal plants in Texas. For some time now the TCEQ has been issuing what it calls ‘flex permits,’ which essentially allow individual polluters to emit over the limits of the Federal Clean Air Act, as long as the aggregate pollution of an umbrella of regional sources is below the allowed level. In summation: “EPA ruling claims Texas’ air permitting standards are so flexible and record keeping so vague that plants can circumvent federal clean air requirements [emphasis added].” I suppose these ‘flex’ permits are aptly named.

Here are some of the steps the EPA should take as it reviews the relevant TCEQ policies over the coming months (taken from the Texas Sierra Club web site, where you can take action and contact the EPA):

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1) Halt any new air pollution permits from being issued by the TCEQ utilizing the TCEQ’s current illegal policy.

2) Create a moratorium on the operations of any new coal fired power plants in Texas until the TCEQ cleans up its act by operating under the Federal Clean Air Act.

3) Require companies to clean up their old, dirty plants – no exemptions, no bailouts, and no special treatment by reviewing all permits issued since the TCEQ adopted its illegal policies and require that these entities resubmit their application in accordance with the Federal Clean Air Act.

(Read this blog concerning plans to “grandfather” Texas coal plants, where you can also contact Texas senators about these issues)

The tour visited communities in Waco, Dallas, Abilene, College Station, Corpus Christi, Bay City, Houston, and concluded today in Austin. The travelers included a giant coal plant float and local protestors at each site, attracting much local media attention. I’ve included some of the media links below:

9/23: WFAA (Dallas)

9/29: Corpus Christi Caller Times

9/29: KRIS-TV (Corpus Christi)

09/30: KIII-TV (South Texas)

09/30: Houston Press

10/01: TheFacts.com (Brazoria County)

This is a long-overdue first step taken by the EPA, and it now needs to be followed by some decisive and bold action in the coming months.

J Baker.

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AUSTIN – Saying that climate change must be considered when new coal plants and other facilities are approved, Public Citizen today sued the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in the Travis County District Court to require the commission to regulate global warming gases. This case seeks to extend to Texas law the precedent set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts  v. EPA, which held that carbon dioxide is a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act and that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must regulate it.

“Texas leads the nation in the emissions of global warming gases. If we were a nation, we would rank seventh in emissions among the countries on earth,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “The time has come for the TCEQ to take its head out of the sand and begin the process to regulate CO2 emissions from Texas sources. Because the agency will not do so on its own, we are seeking to have a Texas court order it to do so.”

In the past four years, 11 coal plants have applied for permits under the EPA’s New Source Review program, which requires companies to install modern pollution controls when building new plants or expanding existing facilities. If they were all to be built, they would add 77 million tons of CO2 to Texas’ already overheated air. Six permits already have been granted for plants that will produce CO2 emissions of 42 million tons per year. Another five are in the permitting stages, and they would add 35 million tons of CO2 per year.

The issue of global warming has been raised by opponents in permit hearings in all but one of the six power plant cases, but the TCEQ has said it would not consider global warming emissions in the permitting process. Beginning this month, hearings will begin on permits for the remaining five plants.

Texas law gave the TCEQ the authority to regulate climate change emissions in 1991. In May 2009, the Texas Legislature passed a series of laws that would give incentives for new power plants that capture carbon dioxide, allow the TCEQ to regulate the disposal of CO2 emissions, set up a voluntary emissions reduction registry and develop a “no-regrets” strategy for emissions reductions to recommend policies that will reduce global warming gases at no cost to the state and its industries.

Smith noted that the TCEQ is undermining even the inadequate mitigation strategies that several coal plant builders are proposing. The NU Coastal plant promised to offset 100 percent of its CO2 emissions, but the TCEQ refused to make that promise part of the permit. Tenaska is promising to separate 85 percent of the carbon it emits, but it is not in the draft permit from the TCEQ. The Hunton coal gasification plant will separate 90 percent of its CO2, but the TCEQ classified it as an “experimental technology” so it wouldn’t set a precedent for other coal plant applications. NRG is promising to offset 50 percent of its emissions.

“Without the TCEQ putting these limits in the permits, there will be no guarantee that the power plant builders will keep their promises,” Smith said.

“The TCEQ steadfastly refuses to allow any discussion or consideration of CO2 or climate change issues during permit proceedings,” said attorney Charles Irvine of Blackburn & Carter, who is representing Public Citizen in the case. “The State Office of Administrative Hearings administrative law judges have deferred to TCEQ’s position that CO2 is not a regulated pollutant and therefore not relevant during contested case hearings. As a result, all evidence and testimony submitted on these issues has been repeatedly stricken in multiple coal plant cases. We now ask the court for a declaratory judgment to force the agency to follow the broad mandates of the Texas Clean Air Act and recent Supreme Court decisions.”

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts  v. EPA recognized that CO2 is an air pollutant within the definition in the federal Clean Air Act. Public Citizen contends that the Texas Clean Air Act’s definition of “air contaminant” similarly must include CO2. Specifically, the state law says that:

“ ‘Air contaminant’ means particulate matter, radioactive material, dust, fumes, gas, mist, smoke, vapor, or odor, including any combination of those items, produced by processes other than natural.” [Texas Health and Safety Code § 382.003(2)]

“So any gas created by non-natural processes – including CO2 generated by a power plant – under the plain language of the definition is an air contaminant,” Irvine said.

The lawsuit is can be read in full here.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., with an office in Austin, Texas. For more information, please visit .

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This just in from EPA:

LOS ANGELES – U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson will announce today in a keynote address at the California Governor’s Global Climate Summit that the Agency has taken a significant step to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Clean Air Act. The Administrator will announce a proposal requiring large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of GHGs a year to obtain construction and operating permits covering these emissions. These permits must demonstrate the use of best available control technologies and energy efficiency measures to minimize GHG emissions when facilities are constructed or significantly modified.

The full text of the Administrators remarks will be posted at www.epa.gov later this afternoon.

UPDATED: that text is now available here.

“Wow” would be an understatement.  This on the heels of the release of Senator Kerry and Boxer and their climate bill.  Here’s my statement on that subject:

Sept. 30, 2009

Reaction to Boxer-Kerry Climate Change Discussion Draft

Statement of Andy Wilson, Global Warming Program Director, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

The Boxer-Kerry draft includes some important measures to address climate change and create new green jobs, but it is simply not sufficient to solve climate change or create the green jobs revolution we need. While an improvement in some ways over Waxman-Markey and its billions in giveaways to polluting special interests, the discussion draft put forth by Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) still punts on many of the most contentious issues, such as how and to whom emissions allowances will be allocated or auctioned. Waxman-Markey started off similarly strong and vague but was weakened as it went through the committee hearing process. Sen. Boxer must work to strengthen the bill as she guides it through her Environment and Public Works Committee hearings.

The discussion draft calls for a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas pollution from 2005 levels by 2020. This is a slight improvement over the 17 percent called for by Waxman-Markey, but is far short of the goals our best science tells us we need to make. Specifically, the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tells us in order to avoid the worst of global climate catastrophe, we need to cut our pollution levels 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels.

Japan will cut its emissions 25 percent by 2020; the EU has signaled it may meet or beat that goal. Why would we set ourselves to lag behind the rest of the world? We must win the technology races in manufacturing advanced energy technology so we do not replace importing oil with importing solar cells.

The draft should be applauded for including strong language to protect consumers and protect the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate emissions in the future.

Among the changes we recommend to the draft are alterations to address these problems:

Allowances should be auctioned 100 percent. President Obama’s budget continues to show revenues from a 100 percent auction and EPA analysis of Waxman-Markey found this to be the least regressive method of implementation.

Subsidies for nuclear should be removed. Despite recent findings by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Commissioner Jon Wellinghoff that the United States will never need to build another traditional power plant, the bill spends considerable space on (Subtitle C, Sec 131) and would allocate significant resources to nuclear power. Nuclear is neither as carbon-free nor as safe as the draft language claims. Neither is it cost-effective. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated half of all federal loan guarantees for nuclear loan guarantees will fail, meaning any extension of these guarantees is a pre-emptive bailout of the nuclear industry leaving the taxpayers on the hook for up to half a trillion dollars.

The draft still relies on more than two billion tons in offsets – actually expanding permitted offsets from the Waxman-Markey language. This has huge potential consequences. It means that despite the intent of the draft, we could conceivably end up having failed to reduce emissions at all – and with major questions about whether alleged offsets were even achieved. While the offset oversight language is considerably better than in Waxman-Markey, it still is troubling that we are relying on offsets rather than actually decreasing our pollution.

The draft does nothing to improve vague language in Waxman-Markey, which could effectively grandfather more than 40 proposed coal-fired power plants, including up to a dozen in Texas alone. These proposed plants would be exempted from new performance standards in the bill, while a plant built just three years from now will have to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by half.

With Kerry-Boxer maintaining EPA’s right to regulate CO2 as a pollutant, this sets the table nicely to try to get a bill passed which will both solve climate change and create the new energy economy we need.  We just need to improve the ground of the special-interest-riddled Congress.  Tip of my hat to Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman for their articles on this earlier this week about the severity of the problem that faces us and the relatively lame responses by our government.  As a palate cleanser, please to enjoy this 15 second video from [adult swim] about what the REAL problem may be:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUAUnjhB7l4]

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In 1977 Congress passed amendments to the Clean Air Act that provided exemptions to existing coal plants, allowing them to ignore the new emissions standards any new plants would have to adhere to. It was thought these plants would simply age and be retired quickly, but because these plants suddenly became much cheaper to operate (due to not having to meet stricter standards) the companies who owned them kept them operating for as long as possible. It wasn’t until almost 30 years later, in 2003, that this “grandfathering” loophole was finally closed and all plants had to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act.

Now that global warming legislation is on the horizon, there is a new rush to build an entire new fleet of coal plants throughout the country. The hope is to get similar “grandfathering” provisions into any climate change legislation so that these brand new coal plants (some already being constructed) will not have to adhere to the new CO2 emission standards. Already, language in the American Clean Energy and Securities Act has been added to try and exempt any plants from the new standards if they receive their permit before January 1, 2009. The new standard, as it is now in the pending legislation, would require all qualifying plants to reduce their CO2 emissions by half by 2025. If the current fleet of new plants being built across the country are grandfathered this will result in massive amounts of CO2 added to our atmosphere that would otherwise have been mitigated. The new plants in Texas alone (which has more coal and pet coke plants proposed than any other state), if grandfathered, would end up emitting about 38.5 million tons more CO2 every year that they would if forced to adhere to the new emission standards.

There is no reason why any of these modern plants being permitted and built today should be exempt from modern CO2 emission controls, especially when there are plenty of alternatives such as energy efficiency and renewables that can meet this need. These coal companies are simply trying to slip in under the wire and evade responsibility for their emissions. The people of Texas call upon Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson and John Cornyn to not vote for or allow any provisions in any CO2 or climate change legislation that would allow such grandfathering of this new fleet of coal plants.

Please go to the following sites to email the senators. You can simply copy and past the following brief statement, put it in your own words, or both:

Dear Senator,
The American Clean Energy and Securities Act is intended to address the grave threat of global warming. To do this it is setting new emissions standards for CO2 releases from industrial power plants. There are currently exemptions, however, that would allow new plants being permitted and built today to escape these new standards, effectively “grandfathering” them similar to the way that existing plants were grandfathered under the Clean Air Act in 1977. There is no reason why plants being permitted and built today should not be held to the new emission standards. Please do not vote for, or allow to be added, any provisions or exemptions that would allow grandfathering of these plants.

To email Senator Cornyn go here.

To email Senator Hutchinson go here.

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Rule #1 for being an organization even pretending to be a grassroots movement: Actually have some grassroots supporters.  Even manufactured outrage groups ginned up by Freedomworks or the Tea Bag people or United Health Care actually have people who believe and will regurgitate their corporate PR spin.  But, presumably because the coal industry couldn’t find and photograph any actual human beings who supported their agenda, they have had to resort to buying and using internet stock photos.

As DeSmogBlog had previously reported,

“The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal).” the latest “grassroots” organization to join the public conversation on behalf of the coal industry, appears to be a project of the K-Street public relations firm, the Adfero Group, one of industry’s most accommodating voices in Washington, D.C.

The FACES website, which includes no contact information, is registered to Adfero.

And now the Front Porch Blog from Appalachian Voices has reported that

We’ve touched on the fact that the new coal industry front group “FACES” has yet to come forward with a list of their members.  Well, thanks to a few new media> gumshoes, including our own Jamie Goodman and our friends at DeSmogBlog, we’ve learned that not only is FACES hosted by a K-Street firm called Adfero, but all of the “FACES” of coal are actually just istockphotos. They couldn’t even get real photos of their supporters.

You can see the actual photos and screencaps by going to the Front Porch Blog.

If Big Coal wanted to hire models to be the faces of coal, we could’ve saved them the trouble and recommended these photos:

ZoolanderCoalMine

I think Im getting thwe black lung, pop!

"I think I'm getting the black lung, pop!"

And let’s remember that it is not that far of a drive to get out to coal country even from Washington DC, where both West Virginia and Pennsylvania coal-centric communities are less than a 3 hour drive.  It just must really be that hard for fat cat K Street lobbyists to take time out of their busy schedules wining and dining at $2300 / plate fundraisers and take a camera out to coal country to see the actual faces of coal.

Here’s an example of what they might actually find if they did:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPixjCneseE]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ats3dClc0No]

Real voices from coal country know that coal is killing us.  It kills their local economies and destroys precious landscapes and water supplies and kills workers because greedy mine owners care more about profits than human lives, such as in the case of the Crandall Canyon disaster in Utah last year.  It pollutes our air and contaminates our water when we burn it, so much so that a USGS study this week found that every fish they tested in the US had mercury contamination.  And even after it’s burned, the coal ash waste is a problem.  From when they dig it up out of the ground to when they try to store the ash, coal is dirty, cradle to grave.  And grave here is meant in the literal sense.

Don’t be fooled by expensive-cocktail-drinking, $1000-shoe-wearing lobbyists in Washington and their stock photos.  The real faces of coal are against it, and we should be moving away from it as quickly as possible.

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It has been less than 24 hours since I received a copy of Austin Energy’s Generation Plan recommendation and there’s a lot here to like.  Before I get to the highlights, let me just say that those of you who spoke up, filled out the survey, played the sim game and demanded more renewable energy, energy efficiency, less dependence on coal, your voice was heard!

Here are the highlights:

Energy Efficiency: Goal increases from 700 megawatts to 800 megawatts by 2020, a new study on energy efficiency potential will be conducted and AE will target “baseload” efficiency more (previously they had really gone after peak reduction with an emphasis on load-shifting).

Renewable Energy: Goal increases from 30% to 35%. Doesn’t seem like a lot but it is. By 2020 Austin Energy will have 1001 megawatts of wind, 200 megawatts of solar (double what the previous goal was) and 162 megawatts of biomass.  They had originally thought to seek an additional 100 MW of biomass on top of what AE already has coming from Nagocdoches in 2012, but decided to scale that back to 50 MW. Not a bad idea considering the limited resource in Texas.

Gas: An additional 200 MW of combined cycle at Sand Hill. The expansion of the plant will provide balancing services to variable renewable resources.

Nuclear: Keep STP 1 & 2. Still saying no to 3 & 4 (woo-hoo!). If someone makes them an offer to contract for the power (we hope it never gets built), they’ll evaluate it.

Coal: The increase in energy efficiency and renewable energy should enable AE to reduce the capacity factor of their share of Fayette coal plant to around 60%, “setting the stage for eventual sale or other disposition of Austin’s share of the plant” (from the AE recommendation). At last night’s Electric Utility Commission meeting, Duncan said currently it’s at about 85-90%.

CO2 plan: Emissions would be 20% below 2005 levels by 2020 (Waxman, Markey, you got that?).

Water use: Water use intensity of the utility’s generation sources reduces by 20% from 724 gallons/kWh to 574 gallons/kWh. Most of that would come from running Fayette smaller.

Other notes: AE will heavily go after solar resources within the city. Duncan estimated that there is roughly 3,000-4,000 MW of solar potential in the city (both for electricity and solar water heating). AE also would work to develop energy storage like compressed air energy storage-aka CAES (case).

We have tons of questions and we’re still analyzing the plan. But our first impression is: this is a pretty good plan but it can be improved.  Roger Duncan and his staff deserve recognition. At a time when other utilities in Texas are actually still building new coal plants (CPS Energy, LCRA), Austin Energy recognizes the need to get out of coal. To hear this acknowledged by the utility publicly is very positive, but City Council needs to make this a commitment. The goal should be to see Fayette closed… sooner rather than later.

Obviously, this plan comes with a price tag. Once we get the chance to ask more questions and analyze the plan and possible variations of it we’ll do a more in depth post.

We look forward to a healthy debate on this plan over the next few months. To all you Austinites who want a clean and more sustainable utility, keep urging city council to go beyond coal!

-Matt

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[vimeo 5133131]

Two of the 12 newly proposed coal plants in Texas recently had preliminary hearings for their waste water permits: “Oak Grove” in Robertson County and “Coleto Creek” west of Victoria. In both cases the local groups opposed to the plants got “standing” (meaning they can participate in the actual contested case hearings which will be held near the end of the year). Robertson County Our Land, Our Lives is the local group opposing the Oak Grove plant, and Citizens for a Clean Environment is the group opposed to the Coleto Creek power plant.

Both of these groups received standing due to the fact that they had members who lived extremely close to the plant site, and bordered the water outfall from the plant. In the Oak Grove case, a local ranch (The Rolke Ranch) was denied standing even though the outfall creek ran through about 4 miles of their property. They were denied because they lived more than just a few miles away from the plant – it was estimated they were a little less than 10 miles away.

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For real, we gotta act now before it escalates.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08z-Hw7s54E]

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shockingNEWSFLASH!  Carbon Dioxide emissions may represent a threat to public health or welfare.

Shocking, I know.  But what is old news to the rest of us, released in the form of a proposed endangerment finding by the EPA, is actually a really big deal.  Environmentalists and concerned citizens alike have been waiting years for this announcement.  In 2007, as a result of the landmark Supreme Court case Massachusetts v. EPA, the court ordered the EPA administrator to determine if greenhouse gas emissions could “cause or contribute to air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”  The Bush Administration delayed reacting to this order, but Friday EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed a proposed endangerment finding which identified six global warming gasses that pose a threat to human health.

The finding will now enter a 60-day comment period, and have no immediate regulatory effect, but could give the EPA power to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act.

According to the EPA’s official statement,

Before taking any steps to reduce greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, EPA would conduct an appropriate process and consider stakeholder input. Notwithstanding this required regulatory process, both President Obama and Administrator Jackson have repeatedly indicated their preference for comprehensive legislation to address this issue and create the framework for a clean energy economy.

After years of global warming being the elephant in the room that the government would not address, the EPA’s proposed finding finally gives the agency the ability to take action on climate change — though as stated, everyone would rather Congress take care of business.  Hopefully, this finding will light a fire under cap-and-trade negotiations.

Its kind of like when my mother used threaten that she’d clean my room herself if I didn’t get cracking — which I knew meant she would just come in with a trash bag and clear everything out.  The EPA could straight up regulate carbon dioxide — but few people would really be happy with the result, most environmentalists included.  By creating new policy, Congress is simply better equipped to deal with our greenhouse gas emissions than the EPA.

So sorry Congress — no more reading the comics you found with the dust bunnies under the bed.  Go clean up, or Mom’s going to start vacuuming.

But don’t take my word for it.  Andy Wilson (Citizen Andy, if you will), Global Warming Program Director here at the Texas Office, wrote a statement on how this finding relates to the big picture, and Texas specifically.  Check it out!

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On Wednesday, April 8th, the House Committee on Environmental Regulation will hear testimony on a bill to fast-track coal and other power plants. Issues with the HB 4012 include:

  • It would eliminate the contested-case hearing process – the only significant opportunity the public has to challenge a power plant permit
  • It would fast-track the permit application review process, resulting in lower-quality permits
  • It could be deemed illegal by the EPA which mandates that the public have an opportunity to challenge a permit application
  • It would erode public trust of regulatory institutions at a time when that trust is vanishing nationwide

Come testify in Capitol Extension E1.014 on Wednesday at 10:30am. Without the contested-case process, there could have been no public victory against 8 of the 11 proposed TXU coal plants.

Even when a power plant is permitted, it is almost always a better permit for having endured the contested-case hearing process. The process brings out weaknesses in the application and often helps identify opportunities to lower dangerous emissions from these plants.

Two years ago the state showed its disregard for public interest when Governor Perry attempted to grandfather coal plants and protect them from regulation. That attempt was defeated in court, but now the legislature is resurrecting tired arguments in favor of polluting technologies that hurt our health and our economy.

If you can’t make it in person, call in to the Environmental Regulation committee and voice your opposition to HB 4012!

Rep. Byron Cook (Chair) – 512-463-0646, [email protected]
Rep. Warren Chisum (Vice-Chair) – 512-463-0736, [email protected]
Rep. Lon Burnam – 512-463-0740, [email protected]
Rep. Jim Dunnam – 512-463-0508, [email protected]
Rep. Jessica Farrar – 512-463-0620, [email protected]
Rep. Kelly Hancock – 512-463-0599, [email protected]
Rep. Ken Legler – 512-463-0460, [email protected]
Rep Marc Veasey – 512-463-0716, [email protected]
Rep. Randy Weber – 512-463-0707, [email protected] (Rep. Weber authored the bill in question)

evil-eye-babyRemoving contested case hearings, the public’s only opportunity to challenge power plants, without replacing it with some other mechanism to hear public input is completely ridiculous.  Baby does not approve.

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If you live in the Waco, Sweetwater, Corpus Christi, or Victoria area, you may have seen this op-ed run in your local newspaper under a variety of titles such as “Stop the Dirty Dozen”, “New generation of grandfathered polluters?”, and “Don’t create another generation of grandfathered power plants.” If not, you should give it a read.

smitty-mug2In the early 1970s, when it looked like the passage of the federal Clean Air Act was inevitable, power companies in Texas went on a building boom to construct 12 dirty, old-technology power plants before legislation went into effect. It was more than 30 years before the Texas Legislature addressed pollution from these “grandfathered” plants. Today, just as Congress and the Obama administration are poised to pass a series of tougher air pollution laws and cap global warming gasses, a dozen applications for additional coal fired power plants in Texas have been permitted or are pending. If built, this dirty dozen of coal plants would add an astounding 77 million tons a year of global warming gases to our already overheated air, 55,000 tons of acid rain forming gases, 29,000 tons of ozone forming chemicals and 3,800 lbs of brain damaging mercury. Your call to your state senator this week can help stop another generation of coal plants from being built.

Two years ago, 19 new coal plants were proposed for the state of Texas. Everybody breathed a sigh of relief when TXU withdrew applications for eight of those plants. But other companies are still building their proposed plants, and the cumulative impacts will make it harder to breathe in the DFW, Houston, Tyler- Longview, Waco, Austin, San Antonio, Victoria and Corpus Christi areas. Seven of the plants have already been permitted, but five more are still in the permitting stages and can be more easily stopped.

Sen. Kip Averitt took a strong stand on this issue by adding a provision in his aggressive air qualtity bill, SB 16, to require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to look at the cumulative impacts of any proposed new plant along with any others that have already been permitted or are being proposed. This amendment would have gone a long way to protect our air and climate.

Unfortunately the electric companies out-lobbied him and took a red pen to that provision of the bill. What’s left is too little and too late. (more…)

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Original post found on the Coal Block blog.

white-stallionThis past Monday there was a public meeting to give the local community a chance to voice their opinion about the proposed White Stallion Power Plant near Bay City, Texas. The plant would be approximately a mile south of Bay City off of FM 2668, and construction is scheduled to begin next year.

At the meeting the people of the community took advantage of the opportunity to stand up in opposition to the plant.

“The vast majority of questions and comments were stressing concern about emissions from the plant and the effect it will have on the health of the people, the environment and the wildlife of Matagorda County,” said Public Citizen”s own Ryan Rittenhouse. “Many of the closest folks living near the proposed site were there and all were very concerned at the prospect of the plant.”
The health hazards resulting from burning coal are staggering.

“Old, coal-fired power plants are among the biggest industrial contributors to unhealthful air, especially particle pollution in the eastern United States,” said the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2007 report. “The toll of death, disease and environmental destruction caused by coal-fired power plant pollution continues to mount.”

As of now, nothing will be addressed in regards to the CO2 emissions of the White Stallion plant, which was a top priority of all the opposition at the meeting. The plant would emit approximately 10 million tons of CO2, about 100 pounds of mercury, and about 5,000 tons of sulfur dioxide every year. This undoubtedly would move Matagorda County and Bay City closer to federal air quality non-attainment status, and contribute to the already high levels of mercury in the Gulf Coast region.

Unfortunately though, those concerns were not able to be addressed as thoroughly as we are accustomed to in these public meetings. The questioning was cut short before everyone in the meeting had a chance to have their questions answered. A number of people who gave comments during the official comment period remarked on this and expressed displeasure at not being allowed to ask all their questions.

A request was made by Public Citizen to have another public meeting so that everyone’s questions could be answered. There is no indication as to whether or not this request will be granted.

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This was too funny not to share.

Courtesy of Gardner Selby at the Austin American Statesman’s Postcards blog:

Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, leader of the House Democratic Caucus, stunned observers at a hearing this afternoon by lining up what looked like shots of whiskey on the members’ dais in the hearing room and then gulping down several to buttress a point about the cumulative impact of air pollution.

But rest easy, Temperance League.

Dunnam said after shot three that the brownish liquid in the shot glasses was iced tea.

dunnam

This is such a beautiful analogy.  Chairman Dunnam made this point while explaining HB 2495, “AN ACT relating to the consideration of the cumulative effects of emissions from proposed facilities in actions by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on applications for certain air contaminant emissions permits or permit amendments.”  With a total of 9 lines and less than 200 words, this was very simple.

When permitting new coal-fired power plants, current TCEQ policy does not consider the cumulative effects of the emissions from those plants.  That means that if eight coal stacks were to be built within one county, as they were in McLennan county in 2007, then TCEQ can consider each of the proposals only as an individual entity and its potential to cause harm to health and quality of life.  As Rep. Dunnam illustrated, the effects are cumulative, whether you drink one shot in Waco, one in Houston, one in San Antonio, etc. (more…)

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