Tag Archives: sulfur-dioxide

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

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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Texas Pecan Alliance: Phase out Fayette Coal

Pecans are common throughout Kirby
Image via Wikipedia

Fayette area growers and producers point to damage from Coal Plant Sulfur Dioxide and Acid Gases

(Austin)  Sierra Club and representatives of pecan growers and producers in Fayette and Colorado Counties in the Texas Pecan Alliance requested at an Austin City Hall press conference today compensation for losses resulting from pollution from the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and City of Austin’s Fayette Power Project coal plant.

“Over two dozen orchards and the livelihoods of my family and many of our neighbors have been seriously impacted by the pollution from Fayette coal plant,” said Harvey Hayek of Hayek Farm and the Texas Pecan Alliance. “In 1980, the year after the coal plant went on line, we saw the abundant production out here drop and then in the Nineties, the trees began to die.  Recently, I had to buy a bag of pecans at H.E.B. so my wife could make cookies.”

Hayek and almost 50 people in the Texas Pecan Alliance met with LCRA officials and engineers from Austin Energy and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on November 16.  Since the meeting, the TCEQ is considering additional monitoring, members of Austin City Council have set up meetings for further discussion, and the LCRA has denied Fayette coal plant contributed to pecan industry losses.

Dr. Neil Carman chemist and Clean Air Program Director, biochemical injury process, “Acid pollution from the coal plant falls on the leaves causing damage characterized by brown, dead spots, while the sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas from the plant emissions enters the sensitive leaf structure from underneath, biochemically attacking the leaves from within and eventually causing leaf loss and the death of the tree.”

Mr. Hayek explained that it takes 220 leaves to produce a single pecan nut on a tree.

“This orchard has been in my wife’s family for the past century.  We want to recover from this damage.  We want the air, water, and soil to be clean and safe enough to replant so my grandchildren can enjoy the abundance we enjoyed,” said Hayek.

Hayek, Carman, and others in the Texas Pecan Alliance also expressed concerns about corrosion, water quality, coal ash waste, and human health.

Eva Hernandez, with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Texas said, “The pecan industry losses clearly show one of many direct economic blows from burning coal for electricity.  From the Clean Air Task Force study, we also know that, on an annual basis, Fayette coal plant pollution is linked to almost 1,000 heart attacks, asthma attacks, cases of chronic bronchitis, hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and 37 early deaths.   There are direct costs associated with these health impacts and we are talking about a devastating reduction in quality of life.  We can do better and we deserve better.  LCRA and City of Austin must phase out Fayette coal plant by 2020 and completely develop our energy efficiency and renewable energy future — particularly solar power.”

The Clean Air Task Force study, Dirty Air, Dirty Power:  Mortality and Health Damage Due to Air Pollution from Power Plants can be found at:


Texas Pecan Alliance representatives from Fayette and Colorado county today delivered ‘Vanishing Pecan Pies’ baked by Austin residents calling themselves the Pecan Posse to the Mayor and Austin City Council Members, Cheryl Mele, Chief Operating Officer of Austin Energy, the City Manager’s office, and to the LCRA. They explained that the pies symbolized “the growing awareness in Austin about Fayette coal plant pollution and growing support for clean air and sustainable conditions for local food.”

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Perry’s TCEQ Commissioners Fail Yet Again to Protect Public Health

Governor Rick Perry's TCEQ Loves Coal Plants. Ignores Pleas of People for Healthy Clean Air.

Despite the wisdom of the Matagorda County medical community’s pleas in a letter signed by 30 doctors, despite its own Administrative Law Judges’ recommendations, despite the wishes of the residents of Matagorda County in the No Coal Coalition, Governor Perry’s Commissioners at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) today granted the White Stallion coal plant permit to pollute.   

This morning,  while citizens from Matagorda County including a class of  school children watched, Chairman Shaw and Commissioners Garcia and Rubio, criticized the recommendations from the state’s administrative law judges and decided to grant the permit with special conditions.  Sierra Club once again calls on the state legislature to reform the TCEQ so that it cannot continue to ignore federal and state air quality standards during the permitting process.  

Air polution from Coal Plants is Linked to Asthma, other Respiratory Ailments, Heart Disease, Neurological Disorders, and Early Mortality.

 “Once again, the Commissioners are doing the work for the applicant and using this failed system to avoid public input.”  said Jen Powis Senior Regional Representative for Sierra Club.  “Today’s decision is another pitiful example of how Governor Perry and his political cronies ignore federal and state law and reward companies to pollute in Texas.”  

The Cronies — Perry’s TCEQ Commissioners Shaw, Garcia, and Rubinstein


“TCEQ is a failed agency and has failed the citizens of Texas again.”  said Allison Sliva with the No Coal Coalition of Matagorda County.   “The administrative law judges didn’t like this permit, elected officials in Matagorda County and Houston have raised serious questions about it, and the citizens don’t like it.  But rather than consider these criticisms, the Commissioners ignored these concerns and simply granted it.”    
Read more about what happenedMourn…then, organize!

Interactive Map: Powerplant Health Risks

Find your state (Texas, of course), find your county, and see what the likelihood is of death and disease due to powerplant pollution. Yikes.

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Cleaning up and Phasing out Coal

Sierra Club is not only making it hard to build new coal plants in Texas, we’re also cleaning up and phasing out existing Texas coal.  When Luminant took over TXU after the first wave of the Texas coal rush, the investor group promised to clean up.   Sierra Club is ready for clean air and lots more clean energy, so we’re helping them stay true!

Donna Hoffman, Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club