Posts Tagged ‘Coal’

Today, the US Appeals Court in Washington, DC struck down an important pollution rule that would have protected up to 240 million Americans who live downwind from power plants that dump life-threatening pollution into our air like dangerous smog and soot.

The divided ruling to block the Cross State Air Pollution Standard is a setback for EPA’s efforts to protect the public health by implementing clean air standards.

EPA should appeal this decision. The Clean Air Act clearly provides the EPA authority to address this dangerous pollution. A higher court would likely overturn this dangerous decision that puts lives at risk.

EPA estimates that the Cross State Air Pollution Standard would have saved thousands of lives, improved air quality for more than 75 percent of Americans in 2014 alone, and provided vital clean air protections for millions of Americans across the Eastern United States, including:

  • Preventing states from allowing dangerous pollutants which are linked to heart and respiratory illnesses, to enter downwind states.
  • Saving up to 34,000 lives each year
  • Preventing 15,000 heart attacks each year
  • Preventing 400,000 asthma attacks each year
  • Providing $120 billion to $280 billion in health benefits for the nation each year

“Pollution from power plants is killing Texans and our climate,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, the director of the Texas office of Public Citizen.  “This decision doesn’t mean that we don’t need to reduce power plant pollution and take action promptly.  In the end, failure to act will mean higher medical costs and continued reliance on out of state coal.”

The Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) was designed to address smog pollution.  The federal court sent the rule back to the agency for revision and in the interim, told the EPA to administer its existing Clean Air Interstate Rule.  Oddly enough, the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule was ruled unlawful in 2008 by the same court that just overturned the new rule.

“Today’s decision only delays for a year at most a new transport rule. Smart utilities will use the temporary delay to develop plans to transition to renewables,” Smith continued. “The days of dirty coal are numbered and today’s ruling does nothing to change that fact.”

More about the Cross State Air Pollution Standard

The Cross-State Air Pollution Standard reduces the sulfur dioxide and oxides of nitrogen pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants across 28 eastern states. That pollution drifts across the borders of those states, contributing to dangerous — and sometimes lethal — levels of particulate (soot) and smog pollution in downwind states.

EPA issued the standard under the “Good Neighbor” protections of the Clean Air Act, which ensure that the emissions from one state’s power plants do not cause harmful pollution levels in neighboring states. While no one is immune to these impacts, children and the elderly are especially vulnerable. The Cross-State Air Pollution Standard would have provided healthier air for 240 million Americans in downwind states.

Nine states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont), five major cities (District of Columbia, Baltimore, Bridgeport, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia), the American Lung Association, the Clean Air Council, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), NRDC, Sierra Club, and major power companies (Calpine, Exelon and Public Service Enterprise Group) have all intervened in support of these vital clean air protections.

The litigation was brought by power companies, including AEP, Southern, DTE, GenOn, and Luminant. The state of Texas, the National Mining Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers supported their effort in parallel cases.

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The Dallas Observer is reporting that there is a good chance that Energy Future Holdings (EFH) (or TXU for most of us) the state’s largest power generator, will go broke – click here to read their story.

The question now becomes – are Texas ratepayers going to have to pay for EHF’s bad bet?  Two weeks ago, in an op-ed by Public Citizen’s Texas director, Tom “Smitty” Smith, and its policy and outreach specialist for coal and renewable energy, Kaiba White, they wrote about this question.  We have published that op-ed below.

Energy Future Holdings is going broke because of coal and it may be time to pull the plug on the old and dirty coal plants that are bankrupting the company.

Utility after utility has looked at the future of coal and made the decision to retire more than 100 coal plants rather than to retrofit them. If we wait for them to go bankrupt, the choice will be made by the courts, who will sell the plants to the highest bidders and you’ll pay the price in higher costs and unrelenting air pollution.

Energy Future Holdings bet on the wrong fuel when it bought the old TXU. The company got smoked.

TXU was worth about $32.3 billion; EFH paid $45 billion at a time when the price of natural gas was high and the cost of coal was lower than it is now. Today, the costs are reversed. Natural gas prices are at a 10-year low and it’s now cheaper to generate electricity with gas or wind than it is with older, inefficient coal plants. EFH’s generating subsidiary Luminant is very dependent on coal and, as a result, EFH is losing money quarter after quarter, and is losing customers as well.

The losses can’t go on much longer. The big Wall Street analysts and even Warren Buffet, a major EFH investor, are predicting that this company will fold unless natural gas prices rise.

We have known for years that pollution from the big coal plants to the south and east of the DFW area affect air quality in North Texas. Pollution from Big Brown, Martin Lake and Monticello, all owned by Luminant, was estimated to cause 136 early deaths; 204 heart attacks and 149 asthma hospitalizations a year, according to an Abt Associates study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force in 2010. These three plants are the largest sources of sulfur dioxide emissions in Texas and are some of the worst in the country. They also graced the EPA’s top 10 list for nitrogen oxides emissions in Texas.

For more than 20 years the EPA worked on the recently announced rules to reduce pollution from power plants. In order to meet the lower emissions limits, EFH estimates it will have to spend $1.5 billion on pollution controls. The Sierra Club estimates those controls could cost as much as $3.6 billion.

EFH doesn’t have the cash or credit to retrofit these plants. So it has gone on a PR warpath, claiming that the new pollution rules will make the lights go out. Officials are just blowing smoke. We predict they will ask the Texas Legislature to bail them out. Lawmakers shouldn’t rescue these Wall Street slicksters who made a bad investment.

Other Texas coal companies have begun to invest the money and add the pollution control devices needed. CPS of San Antonio looked at the cost to upgrade one of its old coal plants and decided to retire it and invest the money in renewable energy projects, rather than sink the cash into an outdated technology.

Just two weeks ago, GenOn Energy announced it was closing eight coal plants in three states between June 2012 and May 2015 because it would be less expensive to shut them than to fix them up to protect public health.

So what do we do to keep the lights on in Texas? CPS in San Antonio has a plan to replace its old coal plants and create local jobs with energy efficiency, solar and wind energy, and a new natural gas plant. Utilities across the country are doing the same because it’s cheaper than fixing up their old coal plants, reduces healthcare costs and creates local jobs rather than ones at Wyoming coal mines.

The Texas Senate will be studying this issue over the next several months and should develop a plan to reduce air pollution and the risk of bankruptcy while developing new cheaper ways to meet Texas’growing energy needs. But money talks, and EFH has long learned it’s cheaper to invest in politicians and lobbyists than pollution controls. Texans should call their senators and tell them not to let EFH’s smoke get into their eyes. Your tax dollars shouldn’t be used to bail out Wall Street bankers

We’d like to know what you think.            [polldaddy poll=6090363]

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Here’s some great news! With EPA tightening the standards for coal plant emissions, Energy Future Holdings, the parent company of Luminant (formerly TXU) and the major electric power provider for much of North and West Texas, is considering how to respond to new federal clean-air regulations.  Yesterday they announced they will mothball 3 coal plants in Northeast Texas.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it was looking at all options including other shutdowns or slowdowns, as well as seasonal or temporary shutdowns, and the option of installing scrubbers to remove sulfur dioxide from plant emissions, or even switching fuels to fire the furnaces that generate the steam used to generate electric power.

This will significantly improve air quality and the health of people that live near the plants and downwind.  The company is concerned about the expense of controls that would be needed for these old and dirty plants.

CPS Energy in San Antonio is already planning to mothball and then retire Deely 1 & 2 coal plants for the same reasons.

Blue skies smiling at me,
Nothing but blue skies do I see

Ozone days, all of them gone
Nothing but blue skies from now on

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Data on Dangerous TXU-Luminant Pollution Underscores Need for Strengthened Environmental Safeguards

The Sierra Club released new reports indicating that three large, North East Texas coal-fired power plants owned by Luminant, formerly TXU, are single-handedly causing violations of federal air quality standards.  The three East Texas coal plants addressed in the reports — Big Brown, located in Freestone County, Monticello, located in Titus County, and Martin Lake, located in Rusk County, have a history of environmental problems.  The new reports indicate that sulfur dioxide emissions from the troubled coal plants are causing air pollution in nearby areas that exceeds the federal air quality standard for sulfur dioxide (SO2).  The reports come a week after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule that requires coal-fired power plants in 28 states, including Texas, to cut dangerous SO2 emissions.

“TXU-Luminant’s coal plants have been a problem for public health and the environment for a long time now.  Big Brown, Monticello, and Martin Lake top the list of the nation’s worst polluters,” said Neil Carman, Sierra Club’s Clean Air Program Director.  “These reports reveal that the TXU-Luminant coal plants’ emissions of dangerous SO2 pollution are more than double the allowable amount of that pollutant.  

The new EPA safeguard is designed to protect public health by setting a maximum amount of SO2 considered to be safe for Americans to breathe. The reports by Khanh T. Tran of AMI Environmental, show that the three coal plants are each modeled to emit SO2 pollution at levels that are predicted to far exceed the federal standard – even without taking into account other background sources.

SO2 is linked to asthma, other respiratory illnesses, and heart disease.  SO2  is especially harmful to those with existing conditions, such as asthma, and is associated with increased emergency room visits, according to the EPA.

In 2010, TXU-Luminant’s three coal plants emitted the following tonnage of SO2 into the air:

Martin Lake                ~76,000 tons of SO2
Big Brown                    ~63,000 tons of SO2
Monticello                   ~58,000 tons of SO2

TOTAL in 2010      ~ 197,000 tons of SO2

Ilan Levin, attorney with Environmental Integrity Project, said “Despite lots of promises, TXU-Luminant continues to be the poster child for dirty coal-fired power plants.  The levels of dangerous contaminants being put into the air and water from just these three coal plants is staggering.”   

Highlights From the Reports:

  • Big Brown, Monticello, and Martin Lake are the top three emitters of sulfur dioxide emissions in Texas
  • Martin Lake coal plant was modeled to exceed safe limits by over 189%, and the area of exceedances is up to 10 miles away from the coal plant.
  • The report’s modeling shows that each coal plant is causing exceedances of sulfur dioxide air quality standards independently, without taking into account other sources of SO2 pollution.


“A series of additional EPA environmental safeguards  are pending that will require  coal plants to install a series of retrofits to meet toughening clean air and water  standards. We estimate these retrofits  could cost  as much as $3.6 billlion for all three of the plants,” said Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith of Public Citizen’s Texas Office.  “TXU-Luminant should consider retiring these aging coal plants and replacing them with cleaner energy options such as energy efficiency and renewable energy including geothermal, wind, and solar power. TXU-Luminant has already made some clean energy steps, however they could create many more jobs by transitioning away from dirty coal toward clean energy.”

An earlier report released in March 2011 by the Sierra Club, The Case to Retire Big Brown, Monticello and Martin Lake Coal Plants details financial issues at the North East Texas TXU-Luminant coal plants which are the subject of today’s air modeling reports.  The financial report’s author Tom Sanzillo found, “The bottom line investment decision: should $3.6 billion, and possibly more be invested into plants that are nearing the end of their useful life (usually fifty years) in a regional economy that is not conducive to coal plants. Throughout the United States coal plants are being retired because the market in mid and late stage plants are no longer profitable.”

Neil Carman, Clean Air Program Director with the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter summed it up this way, “TXU-Luminant should begin phasing out and retiring the dirtiest coal plants – these plants are public health hazards and that is not acceptable — nor financially viable.  TXU-Luminant would do much better to strongly transition to clean energy.”

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Last week,  Governor Rick Perry issued a proclamation certifying that certain counties in Texas are currently threatened by exceptional drought conditions and an extreme fire hazard due to a continuing disaster in several counties in Texas, including Jones and Haskell Counties, which the small town of Stamford straddles.

Water Restrictions in Texas at the beginning of July

Located 40 miles north of Abilene with a population just over 3,000, Stamford’s city council voted today to sell water to the proposed Tenaska coal-fired plant. It is expected that Stamford would provide about 780,000 gallons (or roughly three-quarters of the minimum amount of water needed by the plant) daily from Lake Stamford, a reservoir formed by Stamford Dam with a storage capacity of 51,573 acre·ft.  The average depth of Lake Stamford is only 11 feet. The 2011 Brazos G Water Plan (Vol. 1, p. 4A-7) projects Stamford will have a deficit of nearly 3,000 acre-feet a year by 2030 without the Tenaska contract.

There was no public hearing before the City Council voted, and there were some people present who disagreed with the decision.

Last night, Tenaska hosted an open house.  Over a hundred people showed up, the majority of whom were opposed to the water contract, and while some members of the city council and the mayor were present, they still chose to approve the water contract.


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There are two main causes of air pollution—diesel engines and coal-fired power plants—both of which are prevalent in Texas.  And these neighborhood contaminants are having grave consequences, particularly on Hispanics in Texas and the rest of the country. 

Because of work or housing availability, Hispanics across the country tend to live near some of the most polluted areas of the country.  In both urban neighborhoods and rural areas, 65 percent of Hispanics live in areas where the air fails to meet federal standards.   According to the Clean Air Task Force, Hispanics take in approximately one-and-one-half times the levels diesel exhaust of the average American, resulting in anywhere between 2,000 to 5,000 premature deaths in the Hispanic community annually. Additionally, Hispanics are 3 times as likely as whites to die from asthma.

Coal-fired power plants are among the biggest polluters in the country and 15 percent of Hispanics live within 10 miles of one.  But it is not only poor air quality that threatens Hispanic neighborhoods.  A recent report released by the Sierra Club indicated that mercury—emitted from coal-fired power plants—is present in high levels in rivers and streams that Hispanics fish. Pregnant women are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of eating contaminated fish because mercury poisoning contributes to babies being born with learning disabilities, developmental delays and cerebral palsy.

A 2007 University of Texas study revealed that children who lived within a 2 mile radius of the Ship Channel in Houston had a 56 percent higher chance of having leukemia than those living elsewhere, and this area of Houston has a large Hispanic population.

The impact on health translates into increased pressure on families juggling caring for a sick family member and their jobs, increased costs to the family from emergency room visits and medication for chronic conditions, all these things are a tremendous burden on families and workers.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets air quality standards by setting maximum levels of common air pollutants, which include ozone, particles, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead, which can be present in the air over a set period of time. They also measure for other contaminants that the EPA calls toxic, such as mercury.  States then enforce these standards by issuing permits and

Currently in Texas, when a polluter applies for an air quality permit, the state environmental agency (the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality – TCEQ) looks only at projected air emission levels from that specific plant.  There is no requirement that they look at the cumulative impacts on air quality and efforts to address cumulative impacts failed to pass in the Texas legislature this past session.  This leaves communities dealing with the cumulative impacts of air pollution from several different sources with little recourse, because without one specific polluter, individual families can’t take legal action against companies.

From coast to coast, Hispanics are banding together in a growing environmental justice movement insisting that not only should the earth be protected but also people should be treated equally around environmental issues.  Industry threatens that increasing regulation to protect citizens will cost jobs, but jobs are a poor exchange for the loss of a loved one.  One way to address the current inequities is to VOTE YOUR INTERESTS.  Keeping local, state or federal candidates’ stances on environmental issues in mind when election time rolls around can impact air pollution in your community.

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CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal utility, has announced plans to shut its two-unit, 871-megawatt JT Deely coal station down by 2018. The utility estimates this move could save as much as $3 billion in environmental upgrades needed for these aging coal-fired units to comply with pending federal regulations.

CPS Energy is the nation’s largest city-owned utility and supplies both natural gas and electricity to the nearly 1.4 million residents of 9th largest city in the US.  San Antonio is on a path to reduce its reliance on fossil-fueled generation and boost its use of renewable resources, such as wind and solar power, to 20 percent, or 1,500 megawatts, by 2020.

Stricter regulations being formulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to reduce air and water pollution as well as to control coal waste are expected to force retirement of between 30,000 and 70,000 megawatts of coal generation in the next few years, according to industry studies and San Antonio’s efforts to get ahead of these regulations is pushing them to the forefront of a new energy future here in Texas.

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Lake Travis Levels Plummeted During 2009 Drought

Today the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Board of Directors delayed a vote on providing water to the “White Stallion” coal plant proposed for Matagorda County. Though White Stallion’s Chief Operation Officer, Randy Bird, was expecting and asking for approval of a contract today, the board chose to delay action until August 10. This makes sense considering that they were confronted with more than 30 people who signed up to speak against the coal plant, some driving from as far away as the Gulf Coast (some taking off work) in order to be there. This delay is a victory for those opposing the coal plant and a step in the right direction in convincing the LCRA that this project is not a beneficial or responsible use of water from the Colorado River Basin.

Key concerns included the general aspect of this project and the negative effects it would have on the people, environment (and watershed) of the region. There were also, as expected, many concerns regarding the current drought and many agreements that the last thing LCRA should consider is adding more, firm water commitments particularly when LCRA is already asking customers to conserve and scale back their water use. Concerns about how global warming would further worsen dry conditions in the region over the next 55 years (the length of the proposed contract) were also voiced by many of the speakers.

“Even though they haven’t denied it yet, we’re glad they’re taking their time to look into the serious implications of this coal plant request” said Lydia Avila with Sierra Club.  “We’re confident that when they look at the facts they will realize this is a bad deal for Texans and reject it.”

Only one or two people spoke in favor of granting the contract, one of whom was Owen Bludau, Executive Director of the Matagorda County Economic Development Corporation – one of the original entities that worked to bring the White Stallion proposal to Bay City. Those speaking against the contract included Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald, Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger, David Weinberg (Executive Director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters), Doctor Lauren Ross (who recently released this report on how White Stallion would affect water in the Colorado watershed), and many others including concerned residents throughout the LCRA region and landowners located right next to the proposed plant site.

Public Citizen applauds LCRA’s decision to table this vote. It shows that the LCRA takes the concerns of their stakeholders seriously. The next two months should prove to the LCRA that this coal plant is both unnecessary and a waste of our most precious and dwindling resource: our water.

Update and thank you!

Public Citizen wants to thank all of you who responded to our emails, blogs, tweets and phone calls and either called, mailed, or emailed comments in, and to those who showed up and packed the meeting room today.  This decision would probably have been very different if you had not made your concerns know to the board.  You are all awesome!

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Towards the end of January an independent panel of judges, the Office of Public Interest Counsel, and the EPA all recommended that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality deny the proposed permit for the Las Brisas petroleum-coke burning plant based on its multiple deficiencies and clear violations of the Clean Air Act. The Perry-appointed commissioners approved it anyways. According to its permit, Las Brisas will emit 220 pounds of mercury, 100 pounds of lead, 8,096 pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 1,767 tons of particulate matter every year.

Communities in Corpus Christi are left with few options: the ultimate authority of the EPA, and the leadership of their elected officials.

“This is my hometown, and I love it,” Rebecca Lyons, a graduating honors student at TAMU Corpus Christi, told Matt Tresaugue of the Houston Chronicle back in January, “But I don’t want to raise a family here because of the health risks…There has to be a better way.”

After hundreds of letters, petitions, and phone calls made to the EPA, Corpus Christi residents are taking their fight to the online world. Join us!


Take Action Online!

Copy and paste this status and video to the EPA’s Facebook pages!

Corpus Christi doesn’t want Las Brisas. Stop the air permit now! http://bit.ly/merA7n

EPA’s Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/X4FYe

EPA Region 6 Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/lBXW9C

Administrator Lisa Jackson’s Facebook Page: http://on.fb.me/130rQ6

Are you on Twitter? Tweet with us!

@epaGOV @lisapjackson I want clean air! Stop the Las Brisas air permit in Corpus Christi, TX!

Ready to go the distance?

Ask your elected officials if they support responsible growth, or Las Brisas. Copy and paste this to their Facebook pages:

I’m a voting constituent, and I don’t want Las Brisas. Do you?

US House Rep Blake Farenthold: http://on.fb.me/f2XnkP

State Rep Connie Scott: http://on.fb.me/jj0qJv

State Rep Todd Hunter: http://on.fb.me/mpSG5d

Mayor Joe Adame: http://on.fb.me/km137a

State Senator Judith Zaffirini: http://on.fb.me/lbxOW5

State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa does not have a Facebook page.
Send his office an email instead!

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The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has agreed to close 18 coal units over the next 6 years. This is a major victory in the battle for clean air, particularly in regards to TVA, who has been sued many times for their air pollution violations as well as being responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters in history: the TVA Kingston Coal Ash spill. Hopefully this signifies a shift overall throughout the country, and throughout the world, away from coal and towards an energy system based on renewables instead of fossil fuels.

My favorite quote so far comes from this Time article:

If there is a war on coal, environmental forces may have just won the Battle of Midway.

You can also read more about this accord at The New York Times.

For those of you around Texas and throughout the United States, take this to heart: we are winning the fight against coal and we will continue to win as long as we keep up the pressure. Our best thoughts go out to all the folks gathered at Power Shift 2011 (going on all weekend) – you all have something to celebrate tonight!


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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Robert Redford, who has been a major figure in film in this country since the 60s (as an actor, director, and producer), is once again in the limelight for the release of his new film The Conspirator.  But as much of note in Mr. Redford’s life is his lifelong commitment to positive social and environmental change through the arts, education and civil discourse.  We’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Mr. Redford’s contribution to clean air in Texas through his support of a documentary film about the Texas coal wars.

[vimeo 22308397]

Released in 2008, narrated by Robert Redford and co-produced by The Redford Center at the Sundance Preserve and Alpheus Media, Fighting Goliath: Texas Coal Wars, follows the story of ordinary Texans – mayors, ranchers, farmers, CEOs, community groups, legislators, and lawyers – that came together to oppose the construction of 19 conventional coal-fired power plants that were slated to be built in Eastern and Central Texas and that were being fast-tracked by the Governor.  Click here to watch the entire documentary.

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Today, the Senate Natural Resources Committee passed out a state energy policy bill that no longer calls for the closure of the state’s worst air polluting power plants

According to committee chair Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), Senate Bill 15 would create a 12-member Texas Energy Policy Council to advise legislators on “strategic, market-based” energy and environmental choices over the next 20 years.  We all know how well favoring market-based energy has worked since deregulation here in Texas.

The committee substitute for the original bill that was filed clearly favors coal-fired electric plants even though Fraser sold the committee on the idea that it was not intended to give a competitive advantage for one type of generation over another.

The bill, also directs the Texas Railroad Commission, to conduct a study projecting reserves and future prices of coal and natural gas.

The bill, as filed, directed the Public Utility Commission to identify the heaviest air polluting power plants and recommend closure of at least 4,000 megawatts worth of electric generating capacity.  The bill, as substituted and passed out of the committee, removes that language and instead would only require identification of the 10 percent of electric generating capacity that would be “most impacted by compliance with environmental regulation” and “barriers to retirement” of those plants.

The new energy policy council created by the bill would consist of officials from the Texas House and Texas Senate, the Public Utility Commission, Texas Railroad Commission, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, General Land Office, Electric Reliability Council of Texas, State Energy Conservation Office and academia.

So chalk up another win for fossil fuels, at least so far this session.

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In a New York Times piece, they report on a study by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies in Chattanooga, TN, which takes an in-depth look at the promises of jobs made by builders of new coal plants.

No one should be surprised to learn that when wooing a community, developers in just about every industry tend to overestimate the number of jobs they expect to create when they they build that new shopping mall, industrial park, widget factory or coal plant.

The Ochs Center findings  suggest that the trade-off that many cash-strapped communities make — specifically, accepting the health and environmental risks that come with having a new coal-burning power plant in their midst, in return for a boost in employment — is not what it’s cracked up to be.  In all cases they studied, what these communities were promised, isn’t what was delivered.

The analysis looked at the six largest new coal-fired power plants to come online between 2005 and 2009, including facilities in Pottawattamie County, IA; Milam and Robertson Counties, TX.; Otoe County, NE.; Berkeley County, SC; and Marathon County, WI.  All of the plants had capacities that exceeded 500 megawatts.

Researchers looked at each project’s initial proposals and the job projection data, from public statements, published documents and other material. They then looked at employment — before, during and after construction — in the areas where the projects were built, relying chiefly on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.

The results: only a little over half, or 56 percent of every 1,000 jobs projected, appeared to be actually created as a result of the coal plants’ coming online. And in four of the six counties, the projects delivered on just over a quarter of the jobs projected.

So communities are left with fewer jobs than promised and a plethora of  harmful emissions like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, mercury and planet-warming carbon dioxide.  These emissions contribute to a long term legacy of  thousands of deaths over the lifetime of a plant, according to an estimate by the Clean Air Task Force.  Hardly a bargain in our estimation, but what a good deal for the coal plants.

Click here to read the New York Times blog: Coal, Jobs and America’s Energy Future by Tom Zeller.

Click here to read the report, A Fraction of the Jobs, by the Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies.

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World News with Diane Sawyer is airing a segment tonight on the Bokoshe fly-ash dump in Oklahoma. Public Citizen first worked with the people of Bokoshe and others throughout Oklahoma back in 2008 to oppose the expansion of the Shady Point coal plant in Poteau, OK – the plant that dumps its coal ash in Bokoshe. In one of the swiftest coal plant battles in US history the expansion was defeated, but the people of Bokoshe continue to deal with the problem of toxic coal-ash from the existing coal plant.

The main problem is that coal ash is almost completely unregulated despite the fact that coal ash contains heavy, metallic neurotoxins like mercury and lead as well as other toxins like selenium, cadmium, arsenic, and can even contain radioactive isotopes. Though the EPA is attempting to initiate new, stricter regulations on this toxic and hazardous waste product there is a large push back from the coal industry to weaken these standards, and the implementation of those standards has been continually delayed. (more…)

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According to Bloomberg, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu is calling for a national energy policy that will promote the use of clean-energy technologies.  This would include U.S. investment in advanced battery technologies, biofuels and efficient high-voltage transmission systems.  Secretary Chu went on to say they are expecting wind and solar power may be able to compete with fossil fuels, without aid from government subsidies, within the next decade, rather than the three decades the U.S. Department of Energy was projecting earlier.

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