Tag Archives: Big Brown

Environmental Groups call on Luminant to Come Clean and Retire, Rather than Idle, Monticello 1 and 2

Groups Fear Luminant Will Simply Run Units Next Summer Without Cleaning Up the Air Emissions

Austin, TX – After receiving notice that Luminant Generation Company, LLC, has filed a Notification of Suspension of Operations for Monticello Units 1 and 2 with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), environmental groups called on Luminant to retire the units rather than idle them and be more forthcoming with long-term plans that will affect workers.  While Luminant and Texas have been in the headlines repeatedly for their opposition to the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, the rule would effectively help Dallas/Fort Worth meet the minimum public health air quality standards for the first time in years. Yet, if Luminant only idles the plants, then chooses to run them at full capacity next summer, the implications for Dallas/Ft Worth’s air quality remain unclear.

“Luminant has been frightening Texans with claims that power will become scarce if the company is not allowed to continue polluting unabated.  But other Texas utilities are cleaning up their act without difficulty, and this summer’s successful growth of coastal wind demonstrates there are multiple ways to meet Texas’ electricity needs.” said Jen Powis, representative of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.   “Indeed, the Public Utilities Commission and ERCOT both have multiple tools in their arsenal that can be used to ensure grid reliability as Texas moves beyond coal.”

Luminant states that the rule unfairly targets their existing generation, yet a review of the 2009 self-reported emissions inventory maintained by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality demonstrates that the three Luminant coal plants (Big Brown, Monticello, and Martin Lake) are the top 3 industrial polluters in Texas among nearly 2,000 industrial plants. They are exceptionally dirty plants:

  • Combined they emit 25.5% of state industrial air pollution
  • Combined they emit 33.8% of state industrial SO2 air pollution
  • Combined they emit 11.4% of state industrial PM10 air pollution
  • Combined they emit 10% of state industrial NOx air pollution
  • Combined they emit 37.6% of state industrial CO air pollution

Comparing Luminant’s three coal plants only to other coal plants, however, shows an even more problematic tale.  Luminant’s Big Brown, Monticello, and Martin Lake are:

  • 46.8% of all Texas coal plant emissions (19 existing coal plants)
  • 41.5% of all Texas coal plant SO2 emissions
  • 36.0% of all Texas coal plant PM10 emissions
  • 30.6% of all Texas coal plant NOx emissions
  • 71.7% of all Texas coal plant CO emissions

“We call on Luminant to move beyond posturing and sit down at the negotiating table with EPA in good faith to discuss responsible retirement plans for these plants, like CPS Energy in San Antonio is doing. This approach would be good for consumers, our health and the environment,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen’s Texas office.

“In order to protect the health of Texans, Luminant must plan now to retire these old coal plants. Monticello has often been the worst emitter of toxic mercury pollution in the nation,” said Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “We don’t believe Luminant’s plans to retrofit these plants are economically feasible given the company’s poor financial health. Their plans rely on multiple expensive changes, any of which could simply fail to materialize. Luminant should commit to retire Monticello Units 1 and 2, and work with ERCOT, EPA, and public interest groups to prioritize clean energy generation.”

Public Citizen, Sierra Club and SEED Coalition call on Luminant to cease the use of scare tactics, and commit to a plan to retire its Monticello Units 1 and 2, paving the way for clean energy in North Texas. All three groups also call on ERCOT and the PUC to move forward by implementing new rules for energy storage, distributed renewable energy like onsite solar, energy efficiency, demand response, and a restructuring of the Emergency Interruptible Load System to assure there are maximum options available next summer.

“The Legislature has already granted broad authority to ERCOT and PUC to expand our use of these tools,” noted Cyrus Reed, with Sierra Club. “Now it’s time for them to step up to the plate, begin implementing these measures, and using their time to create solutions rather than fight clean air protections.”

Jen Powis, Beyond Coal Campaign, Texas Sierra Club

Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and SEED Welcome Phase-out of Luminant Coal Units in Northeast Texas

Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and the SEED Coalition welcomed the announcement today by TXU-Luminant that it will phase out two units at its coal-burning power plants and cease lignite coal mining at its Monticello Plant in northeast Texas.

“The announcement by Luminant today is a victory for all Texans who care about clean air. Coal-fired electricity is the primary source of toxic mercury pollution and is a leading trigger of asthma attacks. Children, the elderly, and anyone with respiratory illness are especially vulnerable to air pollution emitted from coal-fired power plants,” said Eva Hernandez with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Texas. 

Karen Hadden of SEED coalition adds, “Monticello is one of the worst units for mercury pollution in the nation. Mercury pollution results in brain damage to children.”

Luminant’s announcement can largely be tied to poor financial management according to a report released in March 2011 from analyst Tom Sanzillo demonstrated Luminant’s poor financial management of the Monticello, Big Brown, and Martin Lake merchant coal plants . The report can be found here.

The Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and the SEED Coalition call on Luminant to follow the examples of other rational coal plant phase outs around the country and to protect workers and support clean energy reinvestment.

In March, Tennessee Valley Authority announced that it would phase out 18 units at its coal-fired power plants in the Southeast. This victory for clean air could be achieved, TVA said, while retraining workers for clean energy jobs or transferring them to other facilities. San Antonio’s CPS Energy announced the retirement of the Deely Coal while committing to retrain the workers for clean energy jobs or transferring them to other facilities.  The transition to clean energy in San Antonio will create between 800 and 1,000 local, clean energy jobs.

“Luminant’s actions are a good first step, but fail to get to the real issue. Even with low-sulfur Western coal, the emissions from the Big Brown plant are some of the highest in the state” said Tom “Smitty” Smith with Texas Public Citizen.  “Luminant needs to develop a long term plan for retiring Big Brown in addition to its temporary idling of units at Monticello.”

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Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign counts 97 coal plants retired or committed to phasing out since the beginning of 2010. Those 97 coal plants represent 33,000 megawatts of dirty energy, or almost 10% of the coal power in the country.

Contact:  Eva Hernandez, 512-299-1550, Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith, 512-797-8468

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Luminant’s Three Should be First to Go

Luminant’s Economic Problems Loom Large:

Martin Lake, Monticello and Big Brown Should Be Retired

Click here for a powerpoint presentation of the report released today.

Today, Sierra Club released a report entitled The Case to Retire Big Brown, Monticello and Martin Lake Coal Plants: Three Mismanaged, Unprofitable, Outmoded and Worthless Coal Plants in North Texas. The report details the economic realities for the three named coal plants owned by Luminant.  These plants were examined, in part, because they are three of the largest polluters in the state of Texas, have no modern pollution control equipment to manage their emissions, and are facing the worst economic reality of any privately-owned utility.  The report looked closely at:

  • The 2007 leveraged buyout of TXU Corporation;
  • The current prices of both coal and natural gas; and,
  • Power prices in the North Texas region of ERCOT, Texas’s electrical grid that encompasses most of the state.

The report concludes that with three basic economic facts—high fixed costs, low natural gas and power prices in Texas, and the need for large new investments to meet environmental requirements—these three Luminant plants should be retired.

“The Sierra Club commissioned this report to demonstrate that coal does not work in Texas.” said Jen Powis Senior Regional Representative for Sierra Club.  “After months of research, these plants epitomize why dirty coal shouldn’t have a seat at the Texas energy table. Coal is our largest polluter in the state, can’t be run economically, and these three plants are upside down on their mortgage.  Texas should be phasing coal out.”

The report briefly explains the history behind the highly-leveraged buy-out of TXU Corporation by a consortium of private equity investors and the assumptions they mistakenly made about the Texas electricity market. Because these plants were originally overvalued and the market did not expand as predicted, these three plants are ready for immediate retirement.

“These coal plants are and will continue to be a big financial burden to Texas. The 2007 TXU deal has failed, current markets work against coal plants and the future is bleak for Luminant’s Big Brown, Martin Lake, and Monticello,” said Tom Sanzillo, a financial and policy analyst for TR Rose Associates.. “Retire the plants. There are better, cleaner, financially stable and more efficient solutions that do not cover the Texas landscape in mountains of toxic debt.” Sanzillo has examined coal and energy issues in over ten states in the last four years and is the former First Deputy Comptroller for New York State.

A recent report by the Brattle Group, a utility industry consulting firm, reaches a similar conclusion but examined the economics of all merchant coal plants in Texas.  A merchant coal plant is one that sells into the grid at wholesale, meaning it is not part of a regulated utility.  Texas has 19 operating coal plants, only five of which are owned by regulated utilities.  All of Luminant’s five coal plants are merchant plants but these three thirty-year old plants are the oldest, coming on-line in Texas in the late 1970’s.  While the report demonstrates why these three plants fail for economic reasons, they also hold much of the blame for North Texas’s and Oklahoma’s problems with air pollution.

“Big Brown, Monticello, and Martin Lake are three of the worst polluters in Texas accounting for over 25% (over 400,000 tons a year) of all industrial factory air pollution in Texas.  That’s out of nearly 2,000 industrial plants.” Said Dr. Neil Carman, Air Quality Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “They also account for about 50% of all coal plant pollution.  These three coal plants alone emit almost 4,000 pounds of mercury into the air every year, over 180,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, over 30,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, and millions of tons of carbon dioxide, the prinicipal greenhouse gas.   All of those emissions are carried into the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and then up into Oklahoma to Oklahoma City.”

According to EIA data from 2009, Texas is third in the nation in megawatt hours produced by coal plants but also leads the nation in installed wind power, with over 10,000 megawatts of wind mostly in West Texas.  By most accounts, Texas could immediately install another 10,000 megawatts of wind generation should additional transmission lines be built to bring wind power from West Texas into Texas’s main population centers in the East.

A national discussion is currently underway concerning how best to invest to improve our system of electricity for the next generation” said Jen Powis.  “Texas should be leading the way in that discussion, and frankly, we shouldn’t be including coal.  Why would Texas import coal from other states to burn for electricity when we haven’t even tapped our powerful wind and solar potential?  We can lead the way in job creation and economic development in these technologies.”

Click here for the Report or here for the Powerpoint presentation.

Ready to move Beyond Coal?  Get involved with Sierra Club!  Email lonestar.chapter@sierraclub.org

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Posted by Donna Hoffman, 3-17-11

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What’s coming out of Monti, Marti, and Brownie’s Stacks?

Sierra Club and Environmental Integrity Project want to know. 

Luminant's Big Brown coal plant in Fairfield, Texas

That’s what Neil Carman, Sierra Club’s Clean Air Program Director calls Luminant’s Monticello, Martin Lake, and Big Brown coal plants.  Together with Environmental Integrity Project, Sierra Club has found over 50,000 violations of the Clean Air Act at the Martin Lake plant alone.  The three, east Texas coal plants together emit over 5,000 pounds of mercury pollution each year and together are three of the largest carbon polluters for Texas. 

Now, we want to know other ways Luminant might be breaking the law.  The EPA has the info, but so far won’t give it up. That’s why yesterday Sierra Club and Environmental Integrity Project asked the EPA to hand over the documents in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed in federal district court in San Francisco. 

Most of all, we want Luminant to clean up their act.  And ultimately, we want Texas to move beyond burning coal for electricity and continue on the clean power path with energy efficiency and renewables.

Here’s Jen Powis, Sierra Club Regional Beyond Coal Campaign Manager:

For too long Luminant—and particularly these three plants—have been polluting the air in Texas and our neighboring states.  The Freedom of Information Act allows the public to obtain these documents so we can see for ourselves whether Luminant has violated the law in more ways than we already know about.  If Luminant has broken the law, then the company should be held accountable and if the state or the EPA won’t do it, then Sierra Club should.

Read more here.

~  Donna Hoffman