NRG Coal Plant Hearing Protest

nrgprotest10Last Friday two administrative law judges refused to hear testimony on the impact of carbon dioxide emissions during the permitting process for the NRG Limestone coal-fired power plant. The contested case hearing for NRG’s air quality permit application will be going on all week long, but testimony on the proposed plant’s contribution to global warming will not be allowed.  The judges decided that the TCEQ has adopted clear policies that they would not consider testimony on the issue, even though the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 (EPA vs Massachusetts) that the EPA had the authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. If built, the plant will emit 7.4 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.

NRG has acknowledged that climate change is a serious environmental issue, and has agreed to offset a portion of its greenhouse gas emissions from the proposed new plant. Yet, lawyers for the company maneuvered to strike all references to CO2 or climate change from the week-long hearing.

nrgprotest4In protest, local environmentalists gathered for an 8:30 a.m. protest Monday Feb 22 outside the State Office of Administrative Hearings. Groups supporting the protest included: Public Citizen, SEED Coalition, Environment Texas, Clean Water Action, Re- Energize Texas, and the Texas Climate Emergency Campaign.

Some of the protest’s participants made the following comments in a press release:


Scientists from all over the world are saying that the fastest way to stop global warming is to stop building coal plants. The US Supreme Court has said global warming is a pollutant, and should be regulated.  Governors of states from Kansas to Michigan have put a moratorium on permitting coal plants until global warming emissions are regulated. The EPA’s Appeals board has rejected several plant applications because they didn’t look at global warming emissions. The Texas Clean Air Act requires that man-made gases be addressed. Yet here in Texas, our environmental agency is still pretending that polar ice isn’t melting, drought isn’t occurring, and that the Supreme Court has not spoken.  We will call on the legislature and the Governor to protect the climate and stop permitting coal plants.

Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition:

Texas has become a state of outlaws. Last we knew, Texas was still part of the United States and the Supreme Court was the law of the land. This decision by the State Office of Administrative Hearings, backed by Governor Perry and his gang at the TCEQ flaunts the law of the land as well as flaunting the laws of nature. We need to stop these climate criminals from harming people and the planet

The global warming issue was last studied by the TCEQ in 2000-2002, when an extensive report on the quantities of global warming gasses was produced, including estimates of the CO2 reductions that could be made. Activities and plans developed by other states were reviewed. However, the TCEQ decided the state should join in with efforts to develop a voluntary emission reduction plan proposed by the Bush administration, and almost nothing has been achieved as a result.

Said Luke Metzger from Environment Texas,

The TCEQ has programs to reduce carbon dioxide, but then turns around and supports permits for coal burning plants that spew millions of tons of global warming gasses. The TCEQ can’t have it both ways. You can’t give credit for reductions but keep still permitting new sources of global warming gasses.

Hear, hear!  My question is this: the EPA recently posted a proposed rulemaking on the Bonanza case and for EPA administrator Stephen Johnson’s notorious midnight memo.  If the EPA were to make a new rule that coal plants should include carbon dioxide emissions or control techniques in their permit application, would we be able to re-open cases like this where CO2 testimony was specifically denied?

For more photos from Monday’s protest, check out our Flickr photostream.