Tag Archives: epa

“Save Big Bend” Retreat

As you may or may not know, Texas’s iconic and beloved Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains are being obstructed with Haze. You may be wondering, “Who is causing this Haze?” Coal plants and refineries are responsible for this obstruction. Under the Clean Air Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to reduce and eliminate this haze, however their proposed rule exempts Texas’s oldest and dirtiest power plants from installing readily available, modern pollution controls.

The Sierra Club has collected and sent thousands of comments to the EPA asking  for air pollution safeguards that would reduce haze. The EPA will not announce new haze rules until November, but the Sierra Club is still planning to keep the friendly pressure on the EPA.

You can help us! There are many ways you can help us with this campaign. Probably the funnest way you can help us is by coming on our retreat to Big Bend on May 11-13, 2012.

At the retreat we’ll do the following: 1) Strategize – we need to determine our strategy for convincing EPA to improve the proposed haze safeguard.  Our strategy sessions will include discussions on how we can use the press, social media, and organizing to reach our goals.  2) Training – media, communications, and organizing experts will provide short training sessions to empower us with the tools and knowledge we’ll need to win. In addition, we’ll hear from experienced activists who have been working to reduce air pollution at Big Bend for years. 3) Networking –we’ll provide opportunities for you to get to know the other “Save Big Bend”campaign volunteers.

We definitely need as much support and volunteers as possible if we want to protect our national parks from Haze. If you would like to volunteer and/or join us on our retreat, or if you have any questions, contact Stephanie Cole at  Stephanie.Cole@sierraclub.org or (512) 477-1729.

We hope you can join us!!

– Lauren Fedele, Beyond Coal Sierra Intern

Keep the momentum moving in Texas

There is a story behind everyone, including people who stand for a better environment and clean energy. What’s your story?

For me, seeing the devastating effects of the BP oil spill in the Gulf set off a chain reaction of thinking that piqued my interest in energy issues and led me to take action.  Everyone’s story is different, but it is important to remember that there is an entire nation waiting to see “greener” pastures.

The decision by the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline may seem like a temporary victory, but it is a victory nonetheless.  It’s important to rejoice in our efforts, and to use the momentum to continue our fight against climate change.  When you see what the efforts of many can do, it becomes easier to remain optimistic, and to continue to push the envelope.

The EPA has been pushing for stricter air standards, which reflects the sentiment of many Texans who want clean air.  Unfortunately, exemptions would allow Texas coal plants to continue to pollute one of the crown jewels of the nation: Big Bend National Park.

These exemptions would allow Texas to purchase emissions allowances from other states.  You have to ask yourself, does that make sense?  Texas coal-fired plants pollute Texan’s air, so we must put pressure on these polluters.  When we band together, we see results.  Let’s make Big Bend National Park a cleaner place for generations to enjoy.  Please take action and bring a victory to the Lone Star State.

– Kat Herrera, Beyond Coal Intern

Weather Forcast at Big Bend: 100% Chance of Haze!

If you’re like most born-and-raised Texans, you’ve visited Big Bend National Park at least once in your lifetime. My first experience with Big Bend was at five years old, when my parents took me over the summer. We hiked Panther Park and all through the Rio Grande Valley. My parents still talk about how I couldn’t get enough of that park. I would demand we go just a few more feet on the trial so I could find a new plant or catch that roadrunner. Big Bend called me back for many more trips, including one Spring Break where my friends and I climbed South Rim and Emory Peak.

We felt like we were on top of the world.

Unfortunately, Big Bend is being threatened in a very serious way. Nearby coal plants are causing a severe amount of haze pollution that is not only obscuring visibility in an area that thrives off of its breathtaking vistas, but is causing a health hazard to visitors.

Haze is the visible pollution emitted from the smokestacks of coal plants. It is caused by fine particulate matter made up of sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrous oxide (NOX) and ammonia; you know, the same stuff found in cigarettes and cat pee. Haze can be responsible for serious respiratory illnesses and can trigger asthma attacks, something that is not particularly fun when hiking in the middle of an arid national park.

Apart from the health side effects that we experience and the encroachment on our scenery, haze is also responsible for acid deposition and eutrophication, when minerals and nutrients build up to unnatural levels and can kill animal life.

In short, haze pollution is not only killing us, it’s killing our park!

What can be done about this serious problem? How can we preserve Big Bend for our children and grandchildren? First, we have to understand the emissions rules set in place for these coal plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently in a transition process of determining the best method of reducing pollution from these power plants.

Most pollution from coal plants had never been regulated until this past year, when EPA finalized its landmark mercury health protections and set targets for reducing pollutants like soot and smog. With EPA’s proposal for haze pollution, ALL coal plants within a certain proximity to national parks like Big Bend must reduce their haze emissions. Requiring these plants to reduce their pollution is extremely important. The degree of reductions is also important – EPA must ensure that the pollution reductions are meaningful.

The alternative to CSAPR (In actuality, some are considering CSAPR  alternative to this) is BART, or Best Alternative Retrofit Technology. BART would require ALL coal plants within a certain proximity to Class 1 National Parks to reduce their haze emissions down to a specified degree. Sound like a good idea? That’s because it is. BART will ensure the haze factories near our state park will be required to eliminate a certain amount of haze emissions from our sky.

Here’s how you can help. The EPA is taking comments on these standards until February 23rd. Submitting a comment to the EPA is fast, easy, and meaningful. Tell the EPA that we want to keep our national park as beautiful as the day we first visited.

I want Big Bend to remain as beautiful as when I was five years old, as aw-inspiring as when I felt on top of the world that one spring. I’m betting you feel the same way.





Here’s how you can help:

  • Go online and send in a comment to the EPA telling them that you don’t stand for lax haze pollution standards. Be sure to personalize your message!
  • If you want to send pictures of your trips at Big Bend to the EPA, here’ the snail mail address. Show them how important this landmark has been in your life

EPA Docket Center, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode 6102T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC 20460

  • Tell your friends! Get others to send a comment to the EPA, share the comment link on facebook or twitter and get everyone you know involved!

Haze? No Way-ze!

Do you love Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains? They need your help. We have a critical window to clean up air pollution in our National Parks.

Join the Sierra Club in encouraging the EPA to protect our beautiful parks and state from haze pollution. You’re invited to RSVP and join us on a conference call to plan the protection of our Texas heritage.

Event Details

WHO: Texans who want clean air at Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains
WHAT: A conference call (it’s free for you to join– all you need is a phone)
WHEN: Thursday, February 2nd, 7 pm CST
**Call-in information: dial-in number: 866.501.6174, pin: 317.9401.1892#
WHERE: Your phone!
RSVP: http://action.sierraclub.org/site/Calendar?id=159302

 Contact Stephanie Cole at 512-477-1729 or stephanie.cole@sierraclub.org

Jessica Olson, Texas Sierra Club

New Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards!

The EPA and USDOT have announced a proposal to establish stronger fuel economy and emissions reductions for cars and light duty trucks for model year 2017-2025.  This proposal also includes a number of incentive programs to promote early adoption and advanced technologies, such as hybridization for pickup trucks.

For those keeping score at home, here’s the timeline for fuel efficiency standards. The fleet average must achieve:

  • 35.5 miles per hour by 2016
  • 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

This proposal saves Americans $1.7 trillion, reduces oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day by 2025, and slashes greenhouse gas emissions by 6 billion metric tons from 2011-2025.

But what about fuel economy if you can’t afford to buy a new, more fuel efficient vehicle?

Here are some gas saving tips from the Sierra Club.

The Department of Energy has a website dedicated to gas mileage tips.

There’s even an app to help!

For those who don’t feel like following the links, the best advice is to drive responsibly.

Maintain your car with regular tune ups and filter changes. Check your tire pressure. Don’t accelerate rapidly or drive (too much) over the speed limit. If you’ve ever taken a defensive driving class, this should sound familiar.

To avoid traffic jams, plan alternate routes, try to vary your commute times, and keep your cool in the car. How much idle time can you save by not switching lanes and sneaking along the shoulder? Try 30%. A detailed explanation (with a cool video showing how too many cars cause a traffic jam) is on the Scientific American blog.

Or, frankly, take transit! You knew I’d have to say that eventually.

Kari Banta, Transportation Associate

Mercury protection on its way. Help get it across the finish line!

Mercury is a toxin that few people think about, yet it contaminates many aspects of our daily lives.  It can be found in fish, in groundwater, and in the air we all breathe every day.  Even fewer people realize that the simple flick of the light switch can contribute to mercury pollution.  Mercury often comes from coal-fired power plants, where tens of thousands of pounds of it are dispelled throughout our air every year.  Texas power plants emit the the most mercury out of any other state, with the least regulation.

Mercury has many effects on our health, even in trace amounts.  According to the EPA’s website1, some of the many effects mercury has can include:

  • “For fetuses, infants, and children, the primary health effect of methylmercury is impaired neurological development.”
  • “Mercuric chloride has caused increases in several types of tumors in rats and mice, and methylmercury has caused kidney tumors in male mice.”

Worst part is: mercury is not currently regulated.

In December of this year, the EPA plans to protect the public from polluters that poison our air and water with a new air quality safeguard.  Specifically, this new protection will guard us from life-threatening pollution from power plants, such as mercury and arsenic.  It is called the “Mercury, Arsenic, and Dioxin Reduction Rule,” is also known as the “Power Plant MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Standard.”

The EPA is set to finalize this proposed mercury protection next month and we want to make sure they make it across the finish line!  So what can you do to ensure polluters are held accountable for the poisonous mercury they emit?

You can host a teach-in.

A teach-in is an education-to-action tactic which utilizes the power of social networks in energizing supporters and getting more people engaged.  Teach-ins are a powerful and fun way to build community.  It focuses on bringing people together to learn as a group, and take action as a collective. Participants get to know other people and have conversations about their own stories and values and our shared values as a community.

December 5th is the first day of Mercury Awareness Week and the Sierra Club wants to help YOU host a teach-in.  It’s social, it’s fun, it’s educational, and it’ll help ensure we are protected from mercury pollution!

If you are interested in hosting a teach-in, please contact Lydia Avila, Sierra Club Organizer, at lydia.avila@sierraclub.org or 512-477-1729.

Kat Herrera, Houston Beyond Coal intern.

1. http://www.epa.gov/hg/effects.htm

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