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Posts Tagged ‘jessica farrar’

Anybody catch this article last week in the Houston Chronicle? An important issue to think about: how coal plants will not only affect the surrounding air quality, but that of communities down wind. If the White Stallion coal plant is allowed to be built: Houston, we will have an even worse smog problem. Look for Ryan’s quote to close it out!

City’s smog concerns may choke power plant

Pollution near Matagorda could drift to Houston

By MATTHEW TRESAUGUE

HOUSTON CHRONICLE

A proposed coal-fired power plant in mostly rural Matagorda County, 90 miles from the traffic-choked freeways and smokestacks of Houston, has moved to the center of the debate over the big city’s air.

Some federal regulators, Houston lawmakers, and environmentalists say the proposed White Stallion Energy Center would only exacerbate the city’s stubborn smog problem as tougher nationwide limits for the widespread pollutant come into play.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for one, wants Texas regulators to prove that pollution from the coal plant would not make Houston’s smog worse before issuing permits. Critics also want the state to require the power company to consider new technology that might slash emissions of smog-forming pollution.

The push comes amid a review of the proposal by the State Office of Administrative Hearings, which will soon recommend whether the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should grant the plant’s air permit.

The plant would be built less than 20 miles from the boundary of the eight-county Houston region that was long in violation of federal limits for smog or ozone. Rules on industrial pollution — in particular, new sources — are tighter inside such areas than outside, even though smog ignores county lines. (more…)

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Public Citizen and Area Legislators Urge State to Deny Air Pollution Permit

HOUSTON – Area legislators joined Public Citizen this week in urging environmental agencies to deny the White Stallion coal plant its air permit because if built, the facility would degrade air quality in Houston.  The emissions from this proposed power plant would exacerbate the problem of smog in the Houston-Galveston-Beaumont region, which already is in violation, or “non-attainment,” of federal ozone standards and may soon have to meet higher standards as the result of a new proposal to strengthen the federal ozone rule

“The proposed White Stallion coal plant would harm the health of the people of Matagorda County, degrade the environment, and stifle economic development and tourism throughout the region,” said Ryan Rittenhouse, coal energy analyst with Public Citizen’s Texas office. “We are pleased to see Texas legislators step up to protect our citizens, the environment and Texas’ economic future.”

White Stallion’s air permit hearing before the State Office of Administrative Hearings begins today and will last through Feb. 19. That office will make a recommendation to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).

The air pollution permit is the first step; the project still will need a wastewater permit from the TCEQ and an additional permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.

If granted an air permit, White Stallion will increase emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx), the principle component of ozone, by more than a third in Matagorda County, where the plant will be located. That translates to more than 4,000 tons per year of NOx that would blow into the Houston area, dramatically increasing ozone levels in the non-attainment region.

“The proposed White Stallion coal plant will be less than 17 miles from the Houston/Galveston non-attainment region. Coal plants such as this one are one of the largest, individual sources of smog-forming pollutants,” said State Rep. Ana E. Hernandez (D-Houston). “Particularly in light of new EPA ozone standards, why should we allow a coal plant to be built on our doorstep? It will only make it that much harder for us to clean up Houston’s air pollution.”

Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that the TCEQ has not been adhering to the Clean Air Act in its issuance of new air permits, but the TCEQ has failed to change its permitting process.

For this reason, Texas legislators, including Reps. Hernandez, Jessica Farrar (D-Houston) and Kristi Thibaut (D-Houston), sent appeal letters this week to Dr. Al Armendariz, regional administrator of the EPA, urging the agency to step in and provide much needed guidance and oversight to the TCEQ. Their letters asked that the White Stallion power plant not be given an air permit to begin construction until the EPA ensures that constituents will receive the full public health protections of the federal Clean Air Act.

“I urge TCEQ and the EPA to deny the permit authorizing the White Stallion coal plant to be built in Matagorda County. Texas’ air quality must be improved for the good health of every Texan. The goal of clean air and clean water can be obtained by a commitment to reducing air contaminants,” Farrar said.

Despite the fact that a new coal plant could hinder Houston’s ability to meet federal regulations, the TCEQ refuses to predict or consider air impacts that are outside the non-attainment region. In fact, the TCEQ executive director filed legal briefs arguing that evidence showing White Stallion would contribute to ozone problems in the Houston area is irrelevant to the decision of whether to grant the White Stallion air permit. The TCEQ similarly refuses to consider cumulative impacts when granting an air permit, such as the fact that the 30-year-old Parish coal plant is only 50 miles northeast of the White Stallion site and also within the Houston/Galveston non-attainment region.

White Stallion would also pull 36,000 acre-feet of water from the Colorado River every year. Increased activity from the two barges required to deliver coal every day would contaminate the water with toxic runoff and erode the embankments.

The proposed plant would be located along a 100-year floodplain and would store coal ash waste on site. In the event of extreme weather, that toxic waste could easily wash into public waterways.

“The proposed White Stallion coal plant would dump thousands of tons of toxic pollutants into our air and water every year, when this region is already in non-attainment for clean air,” Thibaut said. “Furthermore, construction of this plant would remove 36,000 acre-feet of water each year from the Colorado River, which serves many drought-stricken areas of our state. As the elected representative for thousands of my constituents who would be affected, and as the mother of a small child, I cannot stand by as our air and water quality are further eroded.”

If the project is granted its air permit, advocates still have a chance to challenge the permit in state court and to reform the TCEQ through the sunset review process.

“The TCEQ is one of a number of state agencies that are about to undergo sunset review at the Texas Legislature. The sunset commission has the power to reform this agency and insist that any permits issued in the future adhere to the Clean Air Act,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “With this process, Texas has the opportunity to ensure that the health of Texans and their environment are protected more than the profits of energy corporations.”

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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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Rep. Lon Burnam’s bill, HB 3423, will be heard on Wednesday, April 1st, in the House Committee on Environmental Regulation hearing at 10:30 AM or upon adjournment, in E1.014. If you are able to come, we’re trying to get as many people as possible to register their support of this bill (by filling out a witness affirmation form). That’s right, officially registering your opinion on a bill is as simple as filling out a card.  The bill closes the Compact Loophole, and requires other states who want to send radioactive waste here to get legislative approval first.

The Compact Agreement was originally between Texas, Maine and Vermont.  Maine pulled out of the Compact, and now Texas and Vermont are able to send their radioactive so-called “low-level” waste to be stored at the Andrews County dump in West Texas. A loophole in the Compact Agreement allows any state to send radioactive waste to Texas. We don’t need to be the nation’s nuclear dump!

The license for that dump was recently issued by the TCEQ, and the agency wrongly denied the opportunity for a contested case hearing (read: locals were not allowed to voice their opposition in any formal environment). Three long-term scientists at TCEQ recommended denying the permit — and actually left their jobs for ethical reasons once the permit was approved. The science is NOT solid for the Andrews County radioactive waste dump – and there are concerns that radionuclides could come in contact with underground water. It is possible that contamination could spread to the Ogallala Aquifer, which underlies eight states, including the nation’s wheat growing region.

96% of the radioactive waste slated  for the site would be from nuclear reactors — everything except the fuel rods. Radionuclides in the waste are dangerous today and remain dangerous for thousands of years. A recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission ruling reclassified depleted uranium from reprocessing, putting it into a less hazardous (Class A) category. Now up to 1.4 million tons of depleted uranium could go to the West Texas site and/or Clive, Utah sites.

If you can’t make it in person, calls to the Environmental Regulation committee in support of Burnam’s bill are needed! If you are a constituent, please let them know that.

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, (it’s his bill, give him a call to say thanks.)
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]

For further background on the Andrews County dump, check out Forrest Wilder’s article from the last Texas Observer, Waste Texas: Why Andrews County is so eager to get dumped on. Or if you’re more the auditory type, listen to the podcast.

Check out the press release after the jump.

(more…)

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