Tag Archives: Coal

Latest numbers from Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign show Coal Plant Retirements continuing- Is Nevada a Good Model?

The Sierra Club’s signature campaign — the Beyond Coal Campaign — reports that coal retirements are on the rise. As of May 1st, some 472 coal-burning units in the United States had retired or announced their retirement. These included 165 entire power plants, and another 33 power plants with partial retirements. All told, the retirements — when completed — represent 67,144 MWs of power, or about 20% of all coal plants. The announced retirements include 2,580 MWs of announced retirements in 2014 alone. See here for a full account of the numbers.

While much of the work in Texas has focussed on stopping new proposed coal plants, three coal plants here have been scheduled for retirement. First, one of AEP’s three units at the Welsh Power Plant in northeast Texas is scheduled for retirement next year — in part due to its inability to economically reduce emissions — while CPS Energy in San Antonio is slated to retire its two Deely Units by the end of 2018. We continue to press for additional retirements, such as the 600 MW unit partially owned by Austin Energy, and the big three coal plants owned by Luminant, currently embroiled in its bankruptcy mess.

We might be able to take some inspiration from our Sierra Club colleagues in Nevada.  Guided in part by requirements under state law to reduce emissions, NV Energy is scheduled to retire its 553-MW Reid Gardner plant in Clark County, Nev. over the next three and a half years. By the end of 2019, the utility would also eliminate its 11.3% ownership interest in the coal-fired, 2,250-MW Navajo power plant in Coconino County, Ariz. One of the ways it would replace the Reid Gardner plant is to acquire the planned 200 MW Moapa Solar Energy Center for an estimated $438.1 million as part of its broad portfolio realignment away from coal-fired generation. Sierra Club was there, calling on the planned retirement to be accompanied by investments in new clean energy resources. Note to Texas: we have good sun and wind resources and plenty of development. Let’s get those old coal plants retired!

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

Texas Renewable Energy Keeps Growing: Both Austin and ERCOT Showing it Can Be Done

Ok I’ve written about this before but the pace is getting to be mind-boggling. Every month, ERCOT releases its Monthly Status System Planning Report and the amount of proposed generation keeps growing. And in particular what appears to be winning is wind power, and increasingly solar. The February 2014 Monthly Status Report shows that ERCOT is currently tracking 219 proposed projects totaling over 55,300 MWs, about half – 26,700 MWs in all — of which is wind. The latest to sign what is known as a Generation Interconnection Agreement with the local transmission company is the Briscoe Wind Farm, a 300 MW facility located in West Texas. Just earlier this month we announced that Austin Energy had negotiated a cheap wind deal with Lincoln Renewable for 300 MWs in Castro County.

Here are the latest numbers from ERCOT.

Confidential Projects Projects under Study Projects with Signed Agreement Total
Natural Gas 3,544 11,437 9,521 24,502
Coal 0 30 240 270
Wind 5,538 12,777 8,413 26,728
Solar 1,335 1,414 198 2,947
Storage 0 874 0 874
Nuclear 0 0 0 0
Petroleum Coke 0 0 0 0
Total 10,417 26,532 18,372 55,321

What is pretty interesting is the geographic distribution of these projects. If you look at ERCOT’s five traditional load zones — Panhandle, West Texas, North Zone, South Zone and Coastal Zone, future natural gas projects dominate in the South and North Zone — where wind and solar resources are just not as strong. But from the Coastal Zone — where gas and wind split the pie — to West Texas and especially the Panhandle, wind and increasingly solar beat out gas projects.

Coal you might ask? Two projects – a tiny 30 MW proposed project in Milam County and the long-awaited IGCC project by Summit in Ector County, which has been delayed three times, and is currently scheduled for 2018.. maybe. Petroleum Coke, like those proposed Las Brisas and White Stallion projects that SIerra Club fought?  Dead. none. What about nuclear? Didn’t NRG and Luminant promise to build us new reactors? Dead.

In fact, other than gas, wind and solar, the only projects are three proposed storage facilities which could revolutionize the use of renewable energy, making it dispatchable just like gas.

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Webberville Project — three times more expensive than the new one they are talking about.

Now back to Austin Energy. While two weeks ago we told you about a deal to purchase wind at a bargain rate of $26 to $36 per MWh that City Council recently approved — a price rivaling what we pay for our dirty coal power — this Thursday Austin Energy will be proposing to City Council that they authorize negotiations over two utility-scale solar plants to be constructed by SunEdison. While the exact price can not be revealed, Austin Energy is reporting that it is between $45 and $55 per MWh, making it the cheapest solar deal in the country. The two plants will total up to 150 MWs of capacity, and be located in West Texas. If these deals come to fruition, Austin Energy would not only meet its 35% renewable energy commitment four years early by the time the plants come online in 2016, but even its 200 MW solar goal. With the Local Solar Advisory Committee recommending that Austin Energy double its goal to 400 MWs by 2020, Austin Energy’s initial negative reaction — based on a belief that solar would cost more in the $80 to $100 per MWh range — now seems well.. so last year. In fact, Austin Energy reports that they had over 125 proposals for utility-scale solar from 66 separate projects, and $100 per MWh was the very highest they got. In fact, most were in the $60 dollar range. Remember in 2009, we negotiated a deal for 30 MWs of solar for around $165 per MWh. So that means for Austin Energy solar energy prices got chopped by some 70% between 2010 and 2016 when the latest solar projects get built.

Folks, the news for renewable energy in Texas just keeps getting better. Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director, Lone Star Chapter

Victory! Austin City Council Votes 6-0 In Favor of Generation Plan Task Force

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 12.56.57 PM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 6, 2014

Contact: Dave Cortez, David.Cortez@SierraClub.Org, 512-736-7600

Austin City Council Votes to Create Austin Energy Task Force

AUSTIN, TX – Today, in a 6-0 vote, city council members voted to create the Austin Energy Resource Generation Task Force as part of the 2014 update process to the city’s existing energy plan.

The task force is directed to provide recommendations to council members for how Austin Energy should meet existing goals for renewable energy by 2020, as well as opportunities for strengthening and expanding those goals through 2024. Task force members will include one member from the Electric Utilities Commission and one from the Resource Management Commission, as well as seven other members appointed by city council.

Sierra Club Beyond Coal Organizer David Cortez
issued the following statement in response:

“Public participation is always a win-win in our book. Today, the people of Austin and Central Texas communities impacted by climate disruption won a major procedural victory for clean energy, transparency and good governance. This task force will provide environmental, low-income, renewable energy and industry stakeholders their best opportunity to review Austin Energy’s approach and set a clear path for making Austin a leader in the clean energy economy.

Austin Energy ratepayers have made it clear that they want this process to expand our clean energy goals, phase out our over-reliance on dirty coal and fracked gas, as well as preserve our affordability targets. We see this task force as the best way to ensure those demands are met.

The Sierra Club and our 4,500 Central Texas members and supporters applaud City Council for their leadership in making this process more accessible to all Austin Energy ratepayers.”

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Austin’s 10-Year Energy Plan: Ramp Up Renewables, or Double Down on Fossil Fuels?

Stop Dirty Coal Rally, Austin, Texas

***MEDIA ADVISORY FOR TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25th***

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES

Contact:
Dave Cortez, Sierra Club Beyond Coal,
David.Cortez@SierraClub.Org, 512-736-7600
Kaiba White, Public Citizen, Kwhite@citizen.org, 607-339-9854

Austin Energy Ratepayers Rally to Expand Affordable Renewable Energy Goals in Energy Plan Update 

WHAT: Clean Energy Rally Following First Austin Energy Stakeholder Meeting

WHERE: Front Lawn, Austin Energy HQ, Town Lake Center, 721 Barton Springs Road
WHEN: Tuesday, February 25th at 12:15 pm
(following the conclusion of Austin Energy’s first stakeholder meeting)

WHO:  Hosted by the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign and Public Citizen

VISUALS FOR CAMERAS: We’ll have 30 Austin Energy Ratepayers wearing yellow shirts and holding clean energy signs next to a large solar panel. A coal lobbyist clad in a suit and a large black smokestack costume will be doing all he can to remove the solar panel from the rally. Parents and children will also be in attendance to highlight the need to plan for clean future for our kids.
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Coal Monster
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FULL SCHEDULE OF AE STAKEHOLDER MEETINGS: 

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 – 10 a.m. to Noon
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 – 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 – 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Austin Energy Headquarters
Town Lake Cntr
721 Barton Springs Road
First floor assembly room

AUSTIN – On Tuesday, February 25th at 12:15 PM CT, dozens of yellow-shirt clad Austinities will rally in support of clean energy and moving beyond fossil fuels outside of Austin Energy headquarters following the first of three stakeholder input meetings on the proposed 10-year update to the Austin Energy Resource, Generation, and Climate Protection Plan.

Austin Energy has given no indication that it will incorporate City Council’s recommendation that the solar energy goal be expanded to 400 megawatts by 2020 – enough to power about 50,000 homes. Nor has it suggested increasing the overall renewable energy goal, despite the fact that it’s already has contracts to meeting the current goal 4 years early. Instead, the utility is proposing to keep the Fayette coal plant running through 2025 and to build an additional 800 megawatt fracked gas plant.

The rally is hosted by the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign and Public Citizen.

Sierra Club tells TCEQ to scrap their emissions inventory for State Implementation Plan at Public Hearing in Houston

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In a sparsely attended public hearing this week, Sierra Club’s Brandt Mannchen told the TCEQ that their proposed Emissions Inventory for the eight-hour ozone State Implementation Plan was grossly inadequate — particularly on “area” sources like oil and gas drilling and dry cleaners and emissions from the ports — and that it was impossible for the public to recreate the numbers. The TCEQ is required to submit a 2011 Emissions Inventory as part of the State Implementation Plan for the Eight-Hour Ozone standard of 75 parts per million. Both the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria area and the Dallas-Fort Worth area are considered “non-attainment” for ozone because they consistently violate those standards. Other cities like Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Tyler-Longview-Marshall have also violated the standard on occasion though not enough to be considered non-attainment.

The 2011 EI is important because it establishes the baseline by which TCEQ must show how it will reduce emissions of the pollutants — nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds – that create ground-level ozone pollution. In addition to the EI itself, the state must list regulations which will help limit emissions and if necessary develop additional regulatory and voluntary controls to show the state will meet the health-based standards. Getting the EI right – as Brandt mentioned in his comments – is essential. The Lone Star Chapter is working with our local Houston Regional Group and Dallas and Fort Worth regional groups to submit comments on the EI by the January 27th deadline.

Despite the stakes, Mannchen was only joined only by two other Sierra Club members and a smattering of others — none of whom spoke.  Among other issues raised by Mannchen was the failure of the EI to even consider the impact of emissions from outside the non-attainment areas — including large coal-fired power plants and the thousands of oil and gas facilities in the Eagle Ford, and Haynes areas which can impact ozone formation; the use of old 2009 data to generate numbers for a 2011 Emissions Inventory; and poor calculation of emissions from maritime vessels in the Houston Port.

Tomorrow, those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area get their chance to speak, January 16th.

Meeting is in Arlington on Thursday, January 16th at 2 PM at the Arlington City Hall Building in the Council Chambers (101 w. Abrams Street). For information about the proposed EI and related documents, check out this TCEQ Hot Topics page. 

Even as TCEQ develops this EI and the SIP, the EPA is actively considering lowering the ozone standard to between 65 and 74 from the current 75 parts per billion. This could have a profound effect in Texas, forcing communities from Laredo to San Antonio to Tyler to develop more robust controls.

Latest ERCOT planning report again points to gains for wind and solar

Every month, ERCOT — the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — releases a monthly planning report which reviews existing and new generation resources, asynchronous tie interconnection, transmission planning and other notable activiites. Once again, the December  2013 System Planning report showed significant gains for wind. Thus, several new wind projects went on-line in December, bringing the total amount of wind within ERCOT to 11,255 MWs, including 2,775 MW in the South zone, which is essentially coastal wind resources which tend to blow more consistently during the days. In addition, three new wind projects signed interconnection agreements in West Texas.

According to their latest summary of Generation Interconnection Requests, some 15,301 additional MWs of generation have signed interconnection agreements. Of this, 7,484 MWs is gas generation, and 7,447 is wind generation. Some 130 MWs of solar projects have confirmed interconnection agreements with transmission companies. Only one coal project — the Summit carbon-capture project near Odessa — has a signed interconnection agreement. In addition, some 35,000 MWs of additional generation is in the study phase — looking to see if going forward makes sense. Of this, about 15,000 MWs is gas, and 17,000 MWs is wind, with another 2,700 MWs of solar in the development queue. There are no biomass, nuclear or coal plants, but there are 875 MWs of storage being considered. The planning report shows that the future of electricity in Texas will be some combination of wind, solar, storage and yes, some newer gas units. Coal and nuclear appear to have no future. The Sierra Club will continue to work to set the rules so that the cleanest resources — wind, storage, solar and of course energy efficiency and demand response – can compete and ultimately win. According to our electric grid operator, those resources are already winning!

The report also lists three “ties” — that is devices that allow the ERCOT grid to interconnect with either the Western, Eastern or Mexican electric grids. While a small interconnection will go into effect this year — known as Railroad — there are two major projects being considered which would allow significant renewable resources to move out of Texas to other markets, or alternatively, other markets into Texas’s.  The Southern Cross HVDC — an interconnection with the Eastern SERC grid — could move massive amounts of wind — up to 3,000 MWs — in Texas and Oklahoma (and solar too) into the Southeast, while the Tres Amigas project in eastern New Mexico could allow 1500 MWs of Texas wind into New Mexico, Arizona and California (and perhaps some solar from those states into Texas). While these projects are still undergoing studies, they could revolutionize the use of renewables throughout the Southern US. Sierra Club will also be watching these projects, and is generally supportive, though the location of transmission lines and wind development must be sited appropriately to avoid any special habitats or special places. Onward!