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Luminant's Big Brown plant near Fairfield, TX.  Photo by Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News.

Luminant’s Big Brown plant near Fairfield, TX. Photo by Tom Fox/Dallas Morning News.

We released a new report today that shows that shifting from coal power to alternative energy sources could save utilities – and indirectly their customers – several billion dollars in capital and annual operating expenses. The switch also would save the Texas public as much as $2.5 billion in pollution-related health care costs and economic losses due to premature mortality.

Using data from government, academic and industry studies, the report demonstrates that renewables like solar, wind and geothermal power are cheaper than coal, once the costs of upgrading plants to control pollution are factored in.

Renewables are a clean, safe and financially smart alternative to coal. Our report shows that replacing our oldest, dirtiest coal plants with alternative energy sources could save 21 to 24 percent in capital and annual operating costs. It’s no longer clean energy that’s expensive. Now coal is too costly to continue.

In coming years, six new or amended U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules will take effect, including the EPA’s tougher ozone standard for Texas, which was discussed during a January EPA hearing in Arlington. The EPA’s Clean Power Plan, proposed in June, will require Texas coal plants to reduce climate-change inducing carbon dioxide emissions, and other new rules will reduce levels of highly toxic mercury, make sure coal ash is disposed of safely and cut down on haze, which obscures views at national parks such as Texas’ Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains.

But while the long overdue rules will protect the climate and dramatically reduce health care costs, outdated coal plants will have to spend billions in capital and operating costs for pollution-control technology. We compared the cost of alternative energy sources to the price of coal power, once the expense of upgrading to meet new pollution rules is included.

The upshot: A blend of wind, solar and geothermal power, along with some natural gas, could easily replace the power generated by coal plants – and for less money.
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China's worsening air pollution has exacted a significant economic toll, grounding flights, closing highways and keeping tourists at home. Photograph from STR/AFP/Getty Images

China’s worsening air pollution has exacted a significant economic toll, grounding flights, closing highways and keeping tourists at home. Photograph from STR/AFP/Getty Images

Back in November 2014, America and China joined hands to fight global climate change, including a plan to decrease China’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Although there has been a lot of doubt about their plan, China has shown results. According to the China Coal Industry Association, China’s coal production decreased by 2.5% last year, marking the first reduction that the country has seen in years.

As the world’s primary emitter of greenhouse gases, the Republic of China’s decision to create new environmental policies allows China to be a global example in leading the way to reduce CO2 emissions. The global negotiations are also receiving praise because of their economic benefits. The solar power market has seen increases since November, further strengthening industrial market growth and enhancing public health.

However, a recent measure of Beijing’s Air Quality Index brings concerns about the toxic air the Chinese are breathing. Despite the country’s efforts to fight pollution, the consequences of being the world’s number one consumer of coal has caused Beijing to experience another airpocalypse just a few weeks ago. The city reached smog-levels that were, literally, off the charts.

A recent Greenpeace study stated that most cities in China are “failing to meet China’s own national standards”, regardless of the country’s initiatives to combat pollution. Additionally, a Peking University and Greenpeace study shows that more than 200 thousand Chinese could die from pollution-related diseases if there is no further caution taken by the Chinese government. The recent “airpocalypse” further raised the concerns of the Chinese government, who are more driven to push the country to continue its initiatives to combat climate change.

The city’s Air Quality Index of over 600 and new Greenpeace studies should stand to be an example to the rest of the world. The high levels of coal consumption, power plants, and fracking that China has experienced in less than a decade has proved to be dangerous. Although the country is taking action now, the effects evidently will linger for a long time. As the United States continues its high consumption of coal, building of power plants, and fracking, it is important to look at China as an example and as a reminder that we need to start taking action before it is too late.

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The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) released a report yesterday titled “ERCOT Analysis of the Impacts of the Clean Power Plan” regarding the costs, benefits, and concerns of Texas’ compliance with Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan, put forth by the EPA on June 2, 2014, would set new national carbon pollution standards, in an effort to combat the effects of climate change and air pollution. ERCOT, which operates the electric grid of Texas and manages the deregulated market for 75 percent of the state, concluded that there are reliability concerns and high costs associated with the changes necessary for the electric grid infrastructure and the shift to alternative low-carbon energy sources.

Environmental advocacy organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, the Sierra Club, and Public Citizen have begun commenting on this report, which they claim overstates the costs of compliance while understating the benefits of solar and energy efficiency. Not only does ERCOT’s report fail to take into account the affordability of solar energy and energy efficiency, it also neglects the steps that electric utility companies have already taken towards clean energy. Various electric utilities in Texas have been retiring inefficient coal plants and gas units in favor of adopting solar and wind energy projects. ERCOT’s own monthly interconnection report shows that more than 30,000 MW of solar and wind projects are in development stages. Texas’ energy storage and demand response capacities are also missing in the report. These two resources provide real-time reactive power when there is turbulence in wind and solar inputs, which would maintain a reliable power grid as Texas transitions to renewable energies.

The Clean Power Plan is a crucial step in reducing climate pollution and our dependency on dirty coal and other fossil fuels. The benefits of clean and affordable energy in Texas cannot be overstated. ERCOT should take the time to reevaluate the role of renewable energies in Texas’ future.

Download our presentation on our view of the plan here update New ERCOT Cost Estimates 

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A coal plant outside of Buffalo, NY was issued one of the largest fines ever imposed criminally on a company for violating the Clean Air Act.

sign for Tonawanda Coke PlantOn Wednesday, March 19th, Tonawanda Coke Corp. was fined $12.5 million for knowingly and illegally releasing hundreds of tons of the carcinogen benzene into the air for five years and improperly conducting hazardous sludge on the ground. The company will also pay for two separate environmental studies with a price tag of $12.2 million. These two 10-year studies will look at emissions and examine soil samples.

On top of that, the Tonawanda Coke Corp. environmental controls manager faces a year and a day in jail, 100 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine. He was also found guilty of obstruction of justice for covering up the pollution during plant inspections by regulators.

Community Outrage

2013 community meeting on the problems the citizens of Tonawanda are dealing with

2013 community meeting on the problems the citizens of Tonawanda are dealing with.

Residents have complained about the black soot from the coal plant for a decade and many are worried about the health implications to the community.

In 2005, local residents concerned for their health joined together to form the Clean Air Coalition. They began sampling air quality by using buckets and plastic bags. They also petitioned state and federal agencies to investigate the plants operations. After finding elevated levels of benzene in the community, federal agencies raided the plant in 2009 when levels were 75 times higher than state and federal law permit.

A three-year health study completed last year by the State Health Department and Department of Environmental Conservation found elevated rates of lung and bladder cancers in men and women, and elevated esophageal cancer in men and uterine cancer in women.

Jackie James-Creedon, of Citizen Science Community Resources, said she was very pleased that the plant will fund a soil testing project she has been working on for years. - Photo by Don Heupel

Jackie James-Creedon, of Citizen Science Community Resources, said she was very pleased that the plant will fund a soil testing project she has been working on for years.
Photo by Don Heupel

“Back in 2005, we just wanted a clean environment for us to live. We wanted our air to be cleaner. We wanted to know why everyone was sick. We had no clue they were breaking the law,” Jackie James-Creedon said. James-Creedon is a resident fighting this case, suffers from fibromyalgia and is a resident that submitted one of the 10-year studies.
Repeat Offenders

This is not the first time Tonawanda Coke Corp. has been in the hot seat for environmental violations. Last March the company was found guilty of 11 violations of the Clean Air Act and three counts of violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
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While we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing the words “natural”, “healthy” and “environmentally-friendly” thrown around in advertisements for a variety of consumer goods, it’s important to remember that household items are not the only things capable of being greenwashed – case in point, natural gas.

The word “natural” has been used to connote things such as ‘green’, ‘healthy’, ‘non-toxic’. Many people’s cursory understanding of natural gas is that if it’s “natural”, it must be good, right? Unfortunately the truth about natural gas is more complicated. While it is true that natural gas emits far less CO2 than coal upon combustion, there are a host of other ‘fine-print’ problems that come along with the switch, most notably, fugitive emissions.

Leaky pipes and valves allow methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, to escape into the atmosphere.  Photo by Kevin Moloney, NYT

Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, escapes from wells and leaky pipes and valves into the atmosphere.
Photo by Kevin Moloney, NYT.

Fugitive emissions are the emissions not intended to take place and that usually result from pressurized equipment leaks. While these leaks are relatively tiny, when expanded to a large enough scale the amount of methane being leaked into the atmosphere can have a large impact on climate. While the EPA originally reported that average leakage rate in natural gas production was somewhere around 1.5%, a collaborative study by scientist from several universities and government agencies released this past October revealed that the figure should be much closer to 3%. Even worse, there have been reports of methane leakage upwards of 12% at some production sites.

Many climate change mitigation plans focus on reducing CO2 emissions, but methane and its effects should not be overlooked. The IPCC has reported that over a 100-year period, methane is 35 times more potent of a heat-trapping gas than CO2. When looking at the effects of methane over 20 years, this figure jumps to 87. Suddenly, that comparatively small amount of methane being leaked out of wells, pipes and valves is incredibly important. In other words, 1 ton of methane being released into the atmosphere has the same heat-trapping effect over a 20 year period as releasing 87 tons of CO2.

20 Year Climate Impact of Natural Gas vs CoalWhile the CO2 emissions from burning natural gas are about half what is produced by burning coal plant to produce the same amount of power, after accounting for fugitive emissions and converting leaked methane into CO2 equivalent (using the IPCC 87x factor referenced earlier), natural gas climate change impact is almost as bad as coal.

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NBC news reports a spike in air pollution readings over 20 times the recommended exposure levels suggested by the World Health Organization (WHO) in Beijing on Thursday, cloaking China’s capitol in a thick, gray haze .  Click here to read the NBC story.

The resultant air warning was just the first of 2014. In January 2013, China suffered through a week of sustained poor air quality that finally forced China’s ruling Communist Party to acknowledge and address serious environmental issues, including the country’s extensive use of coal-fired power plants..

As the United States reduces its use of coal to power electric plants, the coal industry has been looking to increase exports to countries like China and India.  However the environmental and health impacts as well as the economic realities of propping up this industry paint a bleak future for this centuries old fuel source.

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Remember sitting at home during February 2 of 2011 as the temperatures dropped and the power kept getting turned off. As millions of Texas sat in the cold and dark Luminant, Texas largest power generator, wasn’t able to get its power plants running along with other generators.

Luminant Energy Company, LLC’s, recently was fined $750,000 as part of a settlement agreement with the Public Utility Commission of Texas stemming from the alleged failure of several Luminant power generating units on February 2, 2011 (when record low temperatures caused a spike in power demand and rolling blackouts were implemented throughout the state).

That February other generation companies saw the cold front coming and got their plants up hot and running keeping this cold snap from being an even bigger disaster than it was.

In ERCOT the state’s power grid operator generation companies are under an obligation to run their power plants and a $750,000 fine in an almost $30 billion dollar market is not much of a fine at all.

Now things are looking dark, gloomy and a bit chilly for EFH Luminants parent company. In November 2013, Energy Future Holdings (EFH) made a decision not to file for bankruptcy saying they believe the company can reach a deal with creditors next spring to avoid a contentious court fight. But with a looming balloon debt payment of $3.8 billion next fall, and a subsidiary of EFH, things are stacking up against the beleaguered Dallas based company.

Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) member and Sierra Club Conservation Director, Cyrus Reed weighed in on this development in a statement, saying, “Hopefully, this rather modest fine will send a message to Luminant and other coal and gas generators that when they are paid money by ERCOT to be available in times of emergency — such as the freeze of February 2011 — they must be available. This means utility companies like Luminant must properly maintain their generating units so that breakdowns and emergencies don’t take place when people need electricity the most, such as times of extreme temperatures.”

David Power, Deputy Director of the Texas office of Public Citizen and also an ERCOT member said, “As ERCOT and the PUC consider further changes to ancillary services and potentially to the wholesale energy market, they must make sure that those paid for performance can realistically perform, or face stiff penalties. Texas doesn’t need new, expensive power plants to meet our needs and power our economy, but we do need responsible utilities following the letter of the law and taking responsibility for its assets. What did perform well in both in February and August 2011 was demand response, a method of reducing electricity demand, by large and small industrial and commercial entities.  As Texas considers changes to our market we should prioritize resources like demand response that we can depend on.”

For it’s part, a representative of Luminant said in an email to FierceEnergy that “with this settlement, Luminant resolves all alleged violations of ERCOT protocols and PUC rules from the cold weather event in 2011.The agreement represents an amicable settlement of disputed issues in which Luminant admits no violations.”The email continues, “The severe unprecedented cold in February, 2011 was a trying yet learning experience for ERCOT, the PUC, state lawmakers, electric generators and transmission and distribution companies. Some 225 generation resources in ERCOT, more than 40 percent of the total generation, experienced a trip, failed start or derate. Since 2011, Luminant has joined other generators, electric transmission firms and state agencies to take measures to better prepare for future extreme weather.”

But trouble just seems to keep cropping up:

A prior and unrelated Department of Justice Clean Air Act complaint that was recently unsealed alleged that Luminant made major modifications to Units 1, 2, and 3 at their Martin Lake coal plant in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 and continues to operate the plant without installing pollution controls for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The complaint also alleges that Luminant has improperly withheld information from the government requested by EPA under Section 114(a) of the Clean Air Act.

According to the claims, Luminant made “major modifications” at its Big Brown and Martin Lake coal plants that increased sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions without updating air pollution permits or installing pollution safeguards. The Clean Air Act requires plants to obtain permits and install modern pollution controls before making modifications that will increase emissions.

In regard to the DOJ lawsuit, Luminant made this statement via email to FierceEnergy: “There’s no change in our position.  We firmly believe that we have complied with all requirements of the Clean Air Act for the Big Brown and Martin Lake Power Plants and our other generation facilities and look forward to proving this in court.”

The company contends that the complaint has not been unsealed, but appears to be playing a game of semantics, saying, “The DOJ simply filed a version of its complaint with information that we agree can be public.”

This prime example of Texas business just leaves us out in the cold.

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This summer, President Obama committed the U.S. to be a global leader on curbing climate disruption and proposed that we start by limiting carbon pollution from power plants. Currently, there are no limits on the amount of carbon pollution spewed into the air by power plants. It’s time to change that.

As they prepare to set carbon pollution standards for existing power plants, the EPA is holding a listening session on November 7 in Dallas for community members and stakeholders. This is your opportunity to let your voice be heard and to tell the EPA that our planet and our futures depend on strong, just action to address climate disruption.

RSVP today for the Dallas listening session to take action for climate protection!

Event details:

WHO: You, Public Citizen, Sierra Club, and climate activists
WHAT: EPA listening session on carbon limits
WHEN: November 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: 1st Floor Auditorium, J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young Street, Dallas, TX (map)
RSVP: Click here to RSVP

Questions: Contact Kaiba White at [email protected] or 512-637-9462.

We’ve known for decades that carbon wrecks our health and our climate, and power plants are the nation’s top source. Their pollution fuels climate disruption — it makes wildfires burn hotter and droughts last longer. Warm summer weekends become scorching heatwaves and floods become disasters. Unlimited carbon pollution means more smog, more asthma attacks, and more climate disruption.
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Community and environmental organizations lodged a formal protest against the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources’s recent permit for a coal export terminal in the already polluted Plaquemines Parish corridor.

In a letter sent to LDNR Secretary Stephen Chustz, the organizations called for reconsideration of the coastal use permit granted this month, charging that the RAM coal  terminal would violate laws created to ensure that the state’s plan for coastal restoration plan is carried out.

The letter charged that “because LDNR did not adequately analyze alternative sites, LDNR cannot assess whether there are feasible and praticable alternative locations, methods and practices for use that are in compliance with the modified standard under the Coastal Use Permit regulations.”

The letter also argued that the RAM terminal conflicts with Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for coastal restoration. The terminal “will  severely impact wetlands and the $300 million Myrtle Grove with Dedicated Dredging Ecosystem Restoration Project…,” the letter said. (more…)

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Armstrong Energy is facing challenges from the market that may threaten the viability and profitability of its proposed coal export terminal in Louisiana, a new Public Citizen report (Armstrong Coal final report) finds. A failed company and abandoned export terminal would create significant costs for Plaquemines Parish.

In the report, “RAMming It Down Our Throats: Armstrong Energy Could Leave Louisiana Taxpayers Holding the Bag on Its Proposed RAM Terminal,” Public Citizen looked at Armstrong Energy’s financial condition and the effect of market conditions on the coal export company.

“Armstrong Energy is in hot water,” said Hillary Corgey, researcher for Public Citizen and the report’s author. “Between rising debt, market conditions unfavorable to coal, and climate change, the RAM Terminal may have a good chance of sinking, both in terms of its hurricane-prone location and the viability of the company.”

The RAM Terminal is to be built near the 150-year old community of Ironton in Plaquemines Parish, La., 30 miles south of New Orleans. The terminal is to be fully operational within two years of construction and ship 10 million tons of coal. Two hearings on August 14 and 15 attracted more than 100 residents who oppose the terminal’s latest push for permits.
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According to an article in the New York Times, in recent decades people living in the south of China are living five years longer on average than their northern counterparts. The reasons are because of the pollution from the widespread use of coal in the north, according to a study released Monday by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a prominent American science journal.

The study was conducted by an American, an Israeli and two Chinese scholars and was based on analyses of health and pollution data collected by official Chinese sources from 1981 to 2001. Click here to read the full story in the New York Times.

At the same time, NBC News reports that two studies release on Tuesday shows air pollution can cause lung cancer and seems to worsen heart failure.

Both studies show the more pollution, the more disease. One study looked at lung cancer cases across Europe; the other looked at hospitalization for heart failure in several countries, including the United States.

Dr. Ole Raaschou-Nielsen of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center said they couldn’t find a “safe” level of air pollution. The more pollution, the higher the risk, even at legally accepted limits.

The second study looked at 12 countries, including the United States. Nicholas Mills of the University of Edinburgh in Britain and colleagues combined data from 35 studies that assessed carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone pollution, as well as particulate matter (often simply called soot) and looked at rates of being hospitalized for heart failure,.

About half of people with heart failure die within five years, according to the American Heart Association. This study found that one of the things that can throw heart failure patients into the hospital, or kill them, is breathing polluted air. Click here to read the NBC News story.

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Texas Capitol - north viewWith the regular session behind us and energy and environmental issues not likely to find a place in the special session, it’s a good time to look at what we accomplished.

Our wins came in two forms – bills that passed that will actually improve policy in Texas and bills that didn’t pass that would have taken policy in the wrong direction.

We made progress by helping to get bills passed that:

  • Expand funding for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) by about 40%;
  • Create a program within TERP to replace old diesel tractor trailer trucks used in and around ports and rail yards (these are some of the most polluting vehicles on the road);
  • Establish new incentives within TERP for purchasing plug-in electric cars; and
  • Assign authority to the Railroad Commission (RRC) to regulate small oil and gas lines (these lines, known as gathering lines, are prone to leaks); and
  • Allows commercial and industrial building owners to obtain low-cost, long-term private sector financing for water conservation and energy-efficiency improvements, including on-site renewable energy, such as solar.

We successfully helped to stop or improve bad legislation that would have:

  • Eliminated hearings on permits for new pollution sources (the contested case hearing process is crucial to limiting pollution increases);
  • Eliminated additional inspections for facilities with repeated pollution violations;
  • Weakened protections against utilities that violate market rules and safety guidelines;
  • Eliminated property tax breaks for wind farms, while continuing the policy for other industries;
  • Granted home owners associations (HOAs) authority to unreasonably restrict homeowners ability to install solar panels on their roofs; and
  • Permitted Austin City Council to turn control of Austin Energy over to an unelected board without a vote by the citizens of Austin.

We did lose ground on the issue of radioactive waste disposal.  Despite our considerable efforts, a bill passed that will allow more highly radioactive waste to be disposed of in the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) facility in west Texas.  Campaign contributions certainly played an important roll in getting the bill passed.

We were also disappointed by Governor Perry’s veto of the Ethics Commission sunset bill, which included several improvements, including a requirement that railroad commissioners resign before running for another office, as they are prone to do.  Read Carol’s post about this bill and the issue.

With the legislation over and Perry’s veto pen out of ink, we now shift our attention to organizing and advocating for a transition from polluting energy sources that send money out of our state to clean energy sources that can grow our economy.

We’re working to:

  • Promote solar energy at electric cooperatives and municipal electric utilities;
  • Speed up the retirement of old, inefficient, polluting coal-fired power plants in east Texas;
  • Protect our climate and our port communities throughout the Gulf states from health hazards from new and expanded coal export facilities;
  • Fight permitting of the Keystone XL and other tar sands pipelines in Texas;
  • Ensure full implementation of improvements made to TERP; and
  • Develop an environmental platform for the 2014 election cycle.

Our power comes from people like you getting involved – even in small ways, like writing an email or making a call.  If you want to help us work for a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable future, email me at [email protected]  And one of the best things you can do is to get your friends involved too.

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Plant in Point Comfort

Plant in Point Comfort

The Calhoun County Port is located an hour southeast of Victoria, Texas, and across the bay from Port Lavaca, in Point Comfort. In March, I took a trip to this port city and was astonished by some of the issues I found there.

The port has submitted documents to TCEQ for operating a bulk material handling dock.  Our coalition was told it will be used for coal imports, most likely for the plants there.  The permit application allows for the handling of coal and petcoke.  The main facilities there are Alcoa and Formosa plants for plastics.

I first noticed the lack of wildlife near the site.  On the Port Lavaca side of the bridge over the bay there are seagulls flying around, but in Point Comfort I did not see any wildlife.  No birds, insects, or even squirrels.  There was a deathly silence surrounding the area, broken only by the whirring of port-related trucks.  No one was fishing on the Point Comfort side of the bridge, while the Port Lavaca side was bustling with people fishing on piers.

On Texas 35 I saw a large elevated area that I first assumed would be used for a landfill.  There were Caterpillar bulldozers pushing around dirt up a 15 foot tall, mile-wide manmade hill.  However, it may also be a site of the coal import facility since it is right next to a ship dock.

I drove further and saw many TCEQ air quality permit signs, including for the Formosa plastics plant.  Some of the plants with TCEQ air quality permit signs were emitting some kind of steam.  At the end of the road was a large chute with huge piles of bauxite, the ore from which aluminum is made.

The residential areas were empty and had very few cars in front of them.  I wasn’t sure if that was because few people in the area had cars, but later on I was told that a lot of the residents died of cancer or the houses were condemned.  There were playgrounds right next to the plastics plant, but it is doubtful that Point Comfort was an area with a lot of children.

At the gas station as I was leaving I picked up a copy of the local newspaper, the Port Lavaca Wave.  On the front page was a news story about how Point Comfort was getting one more police officer in addition to the sheriff because the plant workers were driving too fast.  On a hunch I decided to look into the crime rate in the area and found something shocking.  There is a correlation between lead exposure and violent crime.  The violent crime rate in Port Lavaca is extremely high for a municipality of its size (11,405).  The violent crime rates are comparable to mid-sized cities like El Paso that are many times larger than Port Lavaca.

What I saw there was straight out of a nightmare, the result of when too little regulation and overpowering industry meet residential areas.  However, workers aren’t safe either, as there was a recent fire that resulted in injuries at the Formosa plant there.  These horrific industrial areas are not limited to isolated areas where people move out.  This is a common theme across the Gulf Coast in more populated areas like Plaquemines Parish near New Orleans, LA and Houston, TX.  In the face of disasters like the one in West, TX issues like these need to be raised to policymakers and community leaders to prevent the deaths of both persons and communities.

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According to a report yesterday by Terrance Henry of NPR’s StateImpact Texas (click here to read the article), the Las Brisas coal power plant proposed for Corpus Christi has not only been suspended, but Chase Power’s parent company, which was financing the project, has gone out of business.
wicked witch of the westLas Brisas was one of the last remaining coal plants still proposed for Texas. Now only one major coal plant is still being considered.  The White Stallion coal project in Matagorda County is also experiencing problems getting permitted and funding could be the final blow for this proposed plant too.  So we say to White Stallion, to quote the wicked witch of the West, “Just try and stay out of my way. Just try! I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”

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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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