Author Archives: cyrustx

Court Upholds Air Safeguard that Would Prevent Thousands of Deaths from Toxics and Mercury

In a ruling that will help thousands of Texans subject to hundreds of pounds of mercury and toxics released every year to the atmosphere to the air by dirty coal plants in Texas, the US Court of Appeals upheld the US EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Rule of 2012. Below is a press statement. 

 

NAACP joined other clean air advocates in defense of this important protection

APRIL 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — 

 

Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 2012 Mercury and Air Toxics Rule (MATS). Earthjustice represented the NAACP, the Sierra Club, Clean Air Council,and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in the case.

MATS will annually prevent up to 11,000 premature deaths, nearly 5,000 heart attacks and 130,000 asthma attacks, and more than 540,000 missed days of work days. It will also protect babies and children from exposures to mercury than can damage their ability to develop and learn. The EPA has estimated that every year, more than 300,000 newborns face elevated risk of learning disabilities due to exposure to mercury in the womb.

Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of toxic air pollutants, and account for almost half of the nation’s mercury emissions. The Clean Air Act directed the EPA to set limits requiring the maximum achievable reductions in mercury, arsenic, lead, and the many other hazardous air pollutants that power plants emit no later than 2002. In 2012 after a decade of delay, the agency finalized the Mercury and Air Toxics rule. A group of industry and corporate polluters immediately filed a lawsuit challenging this rule.

The following are statements from groups who defended the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule:

Said Jacqueline Patterson, Director, Environmental and Climate Justice Program for NAACP:

“The NAACP applauds the D.C. Circuit Court for this important and historic decision. Civil rights are about equal access to protections afforded by law. Given the disproportionate impact of coal combustion pollution which negatively affects the health and educational outcomes as well as the economic wellbeing of communities of color, the Mercury and Air Toxics Rule is a critical tool for exacting justice. These standards provide essential safeguards for communities who have suffered from decades of toxic exposure.”

Said Chesapeake Bay Foundation Vice President for Litigation Jon Mueller:
“Mercury from power plants is a leading source of the pollution that has led to fish consumption advisories in rivers and streams around the country as well as here in the Chesapeake Bay region. Those contaminated fish put the health of many, including those who fish to feed their families, at risk,” said Jon Mueller, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Vice President for Litigation. “These new limits will reduce pollution and the associated human health risks, and is a legacy that we should leave to our children and future generations.”

Said Joseph Otis Minott, Executive Director, Clean Air Council:
“The court’s decision to affirm these long, overdue standards clearly demonstrates the importance of controlling toxic emissions while also rejecting the complaints of inconvenience raised by industry and corporate polluters. We applaud the court’s judgment and look forward to ensuring this critical rule is properly implemented.”

Said Mary Anne Hitt, Campaign Director for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coalcampaign:
“Coal- and oil-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution that poisons our lakes and streams, as well as arsenic and other toxic metals and gases. By upholding the rule, the court has helped our country take a great step forward toward protecting our children from these dangerous pollutants.”

Said Earthjustice attorney Jim Pew:
“The emission limits upheld in court today have already won broad public support, and for good reason. Power plants’ toxic pollution takes a horrible toll on peoples’ lives and health, especially in low income communities and communities of color. By allowing this rule to take effect, today’s decision will help reduce that toll.”

 

CONTACT:
Maggie Caldwell, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2084
Michelle Nealy, NAACP, (202) 292-3384
John Surrick, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, (443) 482-2045
Ryan Knapick, Clean Air Council, (215) 567-4004, ext. 125
Anna Oman, Sierra Club, (202) 650-6061

New Sierra Club Report Reveals Major Potential Sources of Climate Pollution; Highlights Need to Keep Dirty Fuels in the Ground

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, April 10, 2014
 
Contact: Virginia Cramer, 804-519-8449
 
 

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures,a new report released today by the Sierra Club reveals four major potential sources of carbon pollution that, if developed, could dramatically alter the world’s climate. Data shows that the oil, gas and coal from these potential sources, including the Arctic Ocean, the Green River Formation, the Powder River Basin, and the Monterey, San Juan Basin and Marcellus shale plays, have the potential to release billions of tons of new carbon pollution into the atmosphere, more than negating positive climate actions taken by the Obama administration.

“We can’t keep burning fossil fuels and reduce climate pollution at the same time. It’s common sense.” said Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director. “As this report demonstrates, real progress to fight climate disruption requires that dirty fuels be kept in the ground.”

As the report details, developing just a fraction of the dirty energy in these major climate disrupters would cancel out the United States’ greatest accomplishments in the fight against climate disruption– efforts like the Obama administration’s new fuel economy standards. Developing just one of these climate disrupters, the Arctic Ocean, for example would result in two-and-a-half times more pollution than would be saved by the new fuel economy standards.

Already, through administrative actions and by doubling down on clean energy, the Obama administration has done more than any other to reduce carbon pollution. For the first time in 20 years, domestic carbon dioxide emissions are decreasing. An effective climate strategy however, requires that these steps be accompanied by efforts to leave dirty fuels in the ground. Several such pragmatic steps are outlined in the report.

The report calls on the Obama administration to consider climate pollution, like other dangerous air and water pollution, before dirty energy projects move forward. It asks the President to close loopholes that allow the fossil fuel industry to benefit at the cost of Americans’ health, environment and future; and it stresses that new energy projects and leasing should be focused on clean, not dirty, energy.

“Whether they are found beneath our public lands or next to our homes and schools, dirty fuels must be kept in the ground.” said Dan Chu, Senior Director of the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign. “We should be taking advantage of available clean energy options that will create jobs, protect public health and fight climate disruption.”

Read the full report here.

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About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.

 

ERCOT sets another wind power record… yet again

Wind power keeps helping meet Texas’ electricity needs. Last week, ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees Texas’s electricity grids and markets for about 80% of the state, reported that wind power set a record on Wednesday evening, March 26, when instantaneous output reached a record 10,296 megawatts (MW) at 8:48 p.m. 

At that time, wind generation was providing about 30 percent of the 35,768 MW of electricity being used on the ERCOT grid. The new record beats the previous record set earlier this month by more than 600 MWs. Of the total generation at the time, 1,433 MW came from wind generators on the Gulf Coast, while 8,863 MW came from other regions. Most came from West Texas, where Competitive Renewable Energy Zones were recently completed, as authorized by the Texas Legislature. 

“When Texas first approved a Renewable Portfolio Standard in 1999, no one could have imagined Texas wind topping 10,000 MWs in instantaneous use less than 15 years later,” noted Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director with the Lone Star Chapter. “The even better news is even after meeting the RPS goals ten years early, wind developers continue to build new capacity throughout the state. The transition to clean energy is happening right before our eyes.” 

 

Austin City Council and Electric Utility Commission name 8 of 9 members of Austin Energy Generation and Resource Planning Task Force; approves 150 MW solar plant

This week, the Austin City Council officially named 7 of the 9 members of the Austin Generation and Resource Planning Task Force, while the Electric Utility Commission named their member, solar advocate and local attorney Clay Butler. Remaining to be named is a member of the Resource Management Commission, which is expected to meet on April 15th to choose their member. Word on the street is the first meeting of the new Task Force will be April 16th. Task force is expected to make final recommendations on Austin Energy’s Generaton Plan through 2024 in June. Sierra Club will be on the committee through our Lone Star Chapter Conservation Director Cyrus Reed, who served on the original task force in 2010. The Task Force will look at future of solar, wind, energy efficiency, gas and coal in Austin’s generation portfolio. 

In other news, Austin City Council did approve the 150 MW SunEdison solar contract at a reported 4.8 cents per kilowatt hour. The two utility-scale projects would be built in West Texas and be operational by 2016, at which time Austin Energy would meet its 35% renewable energy goals. 

 

1. Barry Dreyling, Spansion (Mayor Leffingwell)

2. Cyrus Reed, Sierra Club (Mayor Pro Tem Cole)

3. Michele Van Hyfte, Seton (Council Member Spelman)

4. MIchael Osborne, Former VP at Austin Energy (Council Member Riley)

5. Tom “Smitty” Smith, Public Citizen (Council Member Morrison)

6. Carol Biedrzyck, Texas ROSE (Council Member Martinez)

7. Mike Sloan, Virtus Energy (Council Member Tovo)

8. Clay Butler, Butler Firm (Electric Utility Commission representative)

9. To Be Named,  Resource Management Commission 

New Report Finds Energy Efficiency is America’s Cheapest Energy Resource Energy Efficiency Costs Utilities 2 to 3 Times Less Than Traditional Power Sources; Average of 2.8 Cents per Kilowatt Hour

A new report from ACEEE — American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy — found that energy efficiency is the nation’s cheapest resource. The non-profit institute looked at utility energy efficiency programs in a variety of states over a variety of years and found costs were a fraction of the energy costs for generation. Below is the press release. We will be digging in to some more specific Texas numbers in future blogs. 

NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Patrick Kiker
202.507.4043, pkiker@aceee.org

Washington, D.C. (March 26, 2014): According to a new report released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), energy efficiency is the cheapest method of providing Americans with electricity. Energy efficiency programs aimed at reducing energy waste cost utilities only about three cents per kilowatt hour, while generating the same amount of electricity from sources such as fossil fuels can cost two to three times more.

“The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t have to produce in the first place,” said ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. “Our new report shows that when utilities are examining options on how to provide their customers with cheap, clean electricity, energy efficiency is generally the best choice.”

“Why build more expensive power plants when efficiency gives you more bang for your buck?” said Maggie Molina, Utilities, State and Local Program Director and author of the report, The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar: A National Review of the Cost of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs. “Investing in energy efficiency helps utilities and ratepayers avoid the expense of building new power plants and the harmful pollution that plants emit.”

The report looks at the cost of running efficiency programs in 20 states from 2009 to 2012 and finds an average cost of 2.8 cents per kWh—about one-half to one-third the cost of alternative new electricity resource options, as illustrated by the following graph from the report:

Image

Levelized costs of electricity resource options. Source: Energy efficiency data represent the results of this analysis for utility program costs (range of four-year averages for 2009-2012); supply costs are from Lazard 2013.

The report analyzes energy efficiency costs from states across the country, including: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Other Key Findings Include:

  • At an average of 35 cents per therm, natural gas utility energy efficiency programs are also highly cost-effective (in 2013, the national average natural gas commodity price was 49 cents per therm).
  • Both electricity and natural gas efficiency programs have consistently remained low-cost resources over the past decade, which shows the reliability of efficiency as a long-term resource.
  • Each dollar invested in electric energy efficiency measures yields $1.24 to $4.00 in total benefits for all customers, which include avoided energy and capacity costs, lower energy costs during peak demand periods like heat waves, avoided costs from building new power lines, and reduced pollution.
  • Incorporating higher levels of energy efficiency in long-term planning can protect utilities and their customers against volatile and rising costs of traditional energy resources.

To read the report, The Best Value for America’s Energy Dollar: A National Review of the Cost of Utility Energy Efficiency Programs, visit: http://aceee.org/research-report/u1402

About ACEEE: The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit aceee.org.