West Texans Question How Proposed Tenaska Coal Plant Would Affect Water Availability and Water Quality

Citizens aware of extreme drought conditions point to potential serious conflict over water if coal plant were built

(Abilene) – The Multi-County Coalition, Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and individuals from the West Texas areas of Sweetwater and Abilene raised questions about how a proposed Tenaska coal plant would affect water availability and water quantity in the region.

Water Availability

The Tenaska coal plant project, still in the early permitting stages, would obligate between one million to ten million gallons of water per day for a cooling process.

“Particularly in West Texas, we are aware of how any period of drought puts great stress on our basic water resources,” said Professor Jeff Haseltine. “The city of Abilene is taking extraordinary steps to ensure a safe and reliable water supply far into the future, and it simply makes no sense to tie up massive amounts of water to cool a coal plant. We need to continue to find ways to use all of our water resources for the direct benefit of our own community, not for the profit of an out-of-state corporation.”

Next to municipalities, power plants – both coal and nuclear use the largest volumes of water in the state.

Water Quality

The groups at Thursday’s Abilene City Council hearing spoke about mercury that the proposed Tenaska coal plant would emit if built.

“The Tenaska plant would pump 124 pounds of mercury per year into the atmosphere and that mercury from Tenaska would fall onto the rivers, streams, and lakes in the region,” said Ryan Rittenhouse of Public Citizen. “West Texans do not want to stand by and allow that fate for their vital water resources and wildlife.”

According to chemist Neil Carman with Sierra Club, “Mercury is a highly potent neuro-toxin. It only takes one gram of mercury to contaminate a twenty-acre lake and make the larger fish unsafe for people to consume. Mercury most seriously effects pregnant women, young children, and the elderly. Mercury ingestion causes developmental disorders, delays and other brain diseases in fetuses and young children. We can avoid putting more mercury in our environment by refusing to build more coal plants in Texas including Tenaska.”

Mercury is one of the ‘criteria’ or major pollutants that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will consider in an upcoming contested case hearing brought by the Multi-County Coalition, Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund protesting the Tenaska coal permit application before the State Office of Administrative Hearings.

Other criteria pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter would seriously affect air quality.

“I moved with my family to enjoy the clean air of West Texas and now this company wants to build a coal plant here,” said Sierra Club member Elaine Root. “Two members of my family have conditions that would worsen if this coal plant is allowed. My entire family is praying that they won’t build Tenaska and I’m making my voice heard.”

Background Information

Tenaska is one of five proposed coal plants in Texas that Sierra Club is challenging this Winter.

No other state in the nation has near so many new proposed coal plants as Texas. New coal plants have been rejected in other states that are avoiding water conflicts, the rising costs and risks of coal-fired electricity in a carbon and pollution-constrained environment and the health risks and costs from coal plant pollution including ozone and smog-forming gases, acid gases, mercury, and the global warming gas, carbon dioxide.

For more information, see http://sierraclub.org/coal/tx/

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