Tag Archives: Cross-State Air pollution rule

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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Clean Air Rules!

The EPA released the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) today protecting the health of millions of Americans. The new rule helps 27 states to lower air pollution and improve air quality for all through the reduction of emissions from coal plants that add to ozone and fine particle pollution.

This new rule replaces the 2005 Clean Air Interstate Rule, which in 2008 a court ordered the EPA to replace.

Health Impacts

The EPA estimates that this new rule will keep Americans healthy by preventing:

  • up to 34,000 cases of premature mortality
  • 15,000 non-fatal heart attacks
  • 19,000 hospital and emergency department visits
  • 420,000 cases of upper and lower respiratory symptoms
  • 400,000 cases of aggravated asthma

This adds up to avoiding 1.8 million days of work or school missed by Americans and saving $280 billion/year! According to EPA Administrator, this rule will prevent 670-1,000 premature deaths by 2014 in Texas alone.

Other Impacts

The CSAPR will also:

  • Allow families to enjoy the summer without smog.
  • Increase visibility in national parks.
  • Protect sensitive ecosystems
  • More jobs through new construction of pollution controls, according to the EPA

Affects in Texas

“There is no reason why Texas shouldn’t get the benefits of this extraordinary rule like the rest of the country.” –Lisa Jackson, EPA Administrator

Texas was one of the states included in this rule, which sets limits for NOx and SO2emissions. While some in the energy industry are complaining that there was not enough time to comment on this rule, according to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson they were given plenty of time and made a number of comments. The pollution controls are widely available and many power plants have already invested in them.

Also, this rule will help Texas, since Texas is affected by ozone from 11 other states! Most major cities in Texas will be out of attainment when the EPA releases its new ozone standards. Click here to see a map!  Moreover, Texans are the people most severely impacted by pollution from power plants, so the CSAPR will help us to lower pollution in our state benefiting many across Texas.

For more information go to the EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/airtransport/

Also, next week Texas environmental groups will release new data that details pollution problems at existing coal plants and underscores the importance EPA’s inclusion of Texas in this new Cross State Air Pollution rule.

EPA administrator Lisa Jackson thinks it is a fundamental right for people to be able to breathe clean air and raise their families without the health threats of air pollution. Don’t you agree?

Click here to sign a petition supporting the EPA’s new proposal for mercury standards and continue protecting the health of American families!

Join us at a meeting!The Austin group of the Lone Star Chapter of Sierra Club on the 2nd Tuesday of every month (except holidays) at 7pm (with a social hour starting at 6pm) in North Dining Room of Scholz’ Beer Garten, 1607 San Jacinto.

-Julia Von Alexander, Beyond Coal Intern