Tag Archives: Rick Perry

Some lawyers and a laptop go up against Big Oil

Well.  That’s not quite all it takes to sue Shell, Chevron, and Exxon for illegal pollution at their gas refineries and chemical plants on Houston’s ship channel.  But it makes a great story on Houston’s KHOU-TV.

What it really takes is neighbors around the refineries standing up for their communities and for their rights to breathe as guaranteed under the Clean Air Act.  What it really takes is partnership — this one between Sierra Club and Environment Texas working together with a damn fine Boston law firm the National Environmental Law Center.  So what — these lawyers are Yankees.  We love ’em!!!  Plus we got some damn fine Texas lawyers helping out, too — Phil Hilders and Kelly Haragan.  So in this David and Goliath story, David is a team.

A team going up against the State of Texas. 

The whole problem is wrong-thinking in Texas leadership that would fight against our right to clean air.  Texas Governor Rick Perry, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are trying to buck the Clean Air Act — the law of our land that is there to protect public health.  

Sierra Club and our friends are not standing by and allowing that.  No damn way.

— Donna Hoffman, Communication Coordinator, Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club

PS  I saw the Molly Ivins play recently so I had to say damn enough times in this post.


Environment America- the Mercury Report

Image via Wikipedia A recent report from Environment America confirms what the EPA and millions of affected Americans have known for years; that mercury, a poisonous chemical primarily emitted and polluted by coal fired plants, has been increasingly linked to … Continue reading

Dewhurst going green?

Somebody’s running for Senate, and polishing up their “environmental” credentials while we’re at it. Hey, we don’t turn away any new converts to the cause of the Earth…as long as it’s real. Check out the statement from his office:

Lt. Governor Dewhurst is interested in gradually increasing the use of cleaner-burning, Texas natural gas through market-based incentives, so we can continue to improve air quality, create more Texas jobs, increase our energy independence and provide for the future energy needs of our growing population.  Contrary to recent news reports, Lt. Governor Dewhurst is not advocating for closing down coal plants overnight. In order to meet our current energy demands and fuel our economy, Texas will continue to rely on the use of coal, wind, and nuclear and solar power, in addition to natural gas, as part of our diversified energy portfolio.

Read the rest of the article here.

So, should we believe him? Should we not believe him? Do we want to pretend to believe him, and keep him accountable for the things he says anyways? Jury’s out, folks.

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Perry Blocking Climate Justice in Texas

The EPA announced two items within the first week of 2011- let’s get them straight.

1) The New Source Performance Standards that the Environmental Protection Agency agreed to issue for Electric Generating Units and refineries.

2) The tailoring rule for greenhouse gases, which applies to all industrial sites, such as coal plants, cement kilns, natural gas units, refineries, etc. (Hint: this is the big one!)

These elements were announced on the same day, but are implementing completely different parts of the Clean Air Act.

Item number 1: This won’t be in effect for a while. EPA will issue the proposed Electric Generating Unit New Source Performance Standard in July 2011, and the final in May 2012. It will propose the Refinery New Source Performance Standard in December 2011, and the final in November 2012.

New sources usually have to meet more stringent NSPS rules and emissions controls than older existing sources. However, there are NSPS rules for certain harmful pollutants that apply equally across the board to all plants in an industrial sector and the older plants have to meet the same stringent emission limits as new or major modified plants.

Item number 2: The tailoring rule for greenhouse gases means that, according to Lone Star Chapter Air expert Dr. Neil Carman, most large new projects emitting carbon dioxide will need to get greenhouse gas emission permits, and upward of 900 industrial sources of pollution in Texas will be affected.

Just consider this: carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, accounts for 99% – 99.5% of the air emissions from a coal-fired power plant, so we are only regulating about 0.5% of air pollution from coal plants. The biggest chunk of toxic emissions are unregulated!

In theory, all of these industrial sources would be going to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to get their greenhouse gas emission permits, but since Governor Rick Perry decided that Texas doesn’t have to comply with federal law, his Commissioners will not be regulating greenhouse gas emissions- but the EPA will.

Now, whenever there is a new large industrial project that will be emitting carbon dioxide, or when existing industrial sources of emission need to get modifications or upgrades of a certain size, they will trigger the tailoring rule, and will have to apply for a permit relating to greenhouse gas emissions.

Normally, that source would go to the TCEQ for a permit, but since Governor Perry won’t have his commissioners do it, they must go to the EPA. The only thing this accomplishes is a standstill. Apparently, we’re not open for business.

Perry claims that regulating greenhouse gases is not within the power of the state of Texas…but he needs to do a little research.

Yet since 1995, the Texas Clean Air Act (Subchapter A, Section 382.0205) has stated, “…the commission by rule may control air contaminants as necessary to protect against adverse effects related to: 3) climatic changes, including global warming.”

Over a decade and a half ago, before Al Gore, before canvas bags, before going green was sexy, Texas had it figured out. We know carbon dioxide is an air contaminant, we know it’s a toxic gas, and we know it causes climate change. And Texans want to do something about it.

So what’s the holdup? Just Perry and his obstructionist tactics. Basically, there’s been a quick series of lawsuits filed by our illustrious public officials, specifically, Attorney General Greg Abbott, and there has been an administrative stay (which is exactly what it sounds like- a total holdup).

Everything is locked up in the courts (welcome to America!). 49 states are moving forward with greenhouse gas regulation- except Texas. Governor Rick Perry is desperately flying in the face of federal law in a transparent attempt to make traction with a presidential bid. Governors who do so don’t fare well, historically, and don’t win.

Forty years ago, Governor Wallace in Alabama blocked a schoolhouse door, in a symbolic attempt to defy desegregation. He ran for president four times, and there’s obviously no President Wallace on the history books.

Today, Governor Perry is blocking our schools, our homes, our rivers, our land, and our heritage, in a symbolic attempt to defy the regulation of a toxic agent. If we don’t stand up to him, we can’t be sure who will. Our right to a healthy environment is ours only if we demand it- so join us.

On Friday, January 14th, in Dallas, the EPA will hold a hearing from 10AM to 7PM to hear from the public.

To register to speak, contact Pamela Long at EPA long.pam@epa.gov; 919-541-0641 to request a time slot.

If your organizations have a Texas presence and members are able
to attend, please contact Peter Wilson at peter.wilson@sierraclub.org.

If your organization has any phonebanking capability, please
contact Flavia de la Fuente at flavia.delafuente@sierraclub.org

-Flavia de la Fuente, Conservation Organizer, Beyond Coal

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Texas Needs to Lead the Nation Away From Coal

Thanks for the Guest Post from Beyond Coal Campaign Director, Mary Anne Hitt!

***Texas has the worst air quality in the country and it will take a concrete vision to fix it.

Unfortunately, state officials keep permitting coal plants instead of take real steps to clean the air. This week the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved a permit for the proposed Tenaska Trailblazer Coal plant in Sweetwater, Texas. This is the third coal plant permitted in 2010 and the eleventh coal plant recently permitted in Texas that has yet to go online.

Based on the state’s own reporting data, existing coal plants account for almost 50% of the air pollution in Texas and thus, lead the way in putting Texas in the number one position for mercury emissions, nitrogen oxide, and sulfur oxide – the precursors to ozone – and carbon dioxide.

In Governor Rick Perry’s 2008 energy report (PDF), he backed more electric generation from coal. But Governor Perry, times have changed. Burning coal for electricity never made sense from a public health standpoint, but now, it doesn’t even make sense from an economic standpoint.

Coal’s health risks (mercury-laden fish, bad air quality, etc…) and tremendous costs (sky-rocketing construction costs, impending global warming rules) make it a terrible investment. And in Texas, where the state already leads the nation in wind development and natural gas production, why would the Governor support coal?

Governor Perry’s energy report is behind the times, and so are his political appointees that sit as Commissioners for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Recently, TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw said publicly that he”ll do whatever he can to issue a permit to the Las Brisas Energy Center located in Corpus Christi, Texas.

But in administrative proceedings before independent administrative law judges, Sierra Club attorneys’ have been successful not once but twice in demonstrating that Las Brisas’ proposed air pollution permit was too weak and failed to protect already overburdened communities along refinery row.

And the battle doesn’t stop with new coal. In Texas, there are already 17 coal plants that exist in the state, spewing over 14,000 pounds of mercury into the air every year, over six million pounds of carbon dioxide, and another 24 million pounds combined of the smog and haze forming compounds like nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

Unfortunately for the states surrounding Texas, this pollution affects more than Texans. Air modeling shows that the smog from these plants crosses state lines and is responsible for dozens of bad air days in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana; making Texas one terrible neighbor.

From the forests of East Texas to the mountaintops in Big Bend, haze and smog are obscuring beautiful vistas and forcing those that suffer from asthma or other lung diseases to stay inside. Almost all of Texas’ major metropolitan areas will fail to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s coming rules on air quality and yet, Governor Perry continues to insist that new coal is the way to promote the economy.

Maybe Governor Perry and TCEQ Chairman Shaw should visit the pecan orchards that have been decimated by the Fayette Coal Plant, the coal plant powering the City of Austin. It is well known that the sulfur dioxide emissions from coal plants cause acid rain, and that burning coal is the number one producer of sulfur dioxide emissions for the state. Unfortunately, folks are only now starting to pay attention to the fact that burning coal is also ruining Texas’ agricultural heritage.

Texas can do better. Texas is at an energy crossroads, and should be leading the nation in its transition away from dirty coal and towards renewable energy such as wind and solar.

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