Posts Tagged ‘grandfather’

Public Citizen Texas and the Sierra Club just closed out their first week on the Texas State-Wide Coal Plant Tour. After a quick break, the tour’s fight against grandfathering will continue next Monday, September 28 in College Station.

So far, the media tour has brought awareness to communities in Waco, Dallas, and Abilene in regards to nearby coal plants that are flying under the legal radar.  These districts have been negatively impacted by the failure of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality(TCEQ) to enforce the law and control pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) recently rejected key aspects of the TCEQ’s air permitting plan, and called for proper enforcement of the Clean Air Act in Texas.  The goal of Public Citizen Texas and the Sierra Club has been to stop the development of any new coal plants in Texas, as well as those that are currently being constructed.  The proposed moratorium would last at least until the TCEQ cracks the whip and strictly enforces Clean Air regulations.

According to a clause under the American Clean Energy and Security Act, plants that are already under construction, near construction or were permitted before January 1, 2009, may escape new regulations.  Around 43 new coal plants will be built on American soil within the next five years, with about a dozen of those in Texas alone.  These provisions—which have come to be called ‘grandfathering’ clauses—and others like it, could allow all of these plants to escape recently set performance standards.

To put things into perspective, let’s take a minute to reflect on the original grandfather clauses.  Birthed during the segregationist Jim Crow period that followed the Civil War, grandfather clauses restricted voting rights in several southern states.  It stated that men, or descendents of men, who had voted before 1866 did not have to meet the educational, property, or tax requirements for voting then in existence; however, slaves could not legally vote before or during the Civil War.  Therefore, most individuals were deemed ineligible.  The Jim Crow laws were inevitably struck down, but the idea of the grandfather clause remained.

What’s the phrase?  Oh, yes.  It’s merely history repeating itself.

Congress’ initial decision to exempt existing coal plants from the stipulations listed under the Clean Air Act was to avoid causing any economic disruption.  They assumed the older plants would be replaced with newer, cleaner ones; but instead, the grandfathering clause has encouraged utilities to just extend the lives of the old, high-polluting plants.

There is no reason why plants being permitted and built today should not be held to the new emission standards. The first step to combat this problem should begin at the state level.  If you live in College Station, Corpus Christi, Bay City, or Houston, our clean energy trailer is coming to a venue near you.  The remaining dates and times of the Texas State-Wide Coal Plant Tour are listed in a blog below.


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

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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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