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For Immediate Release: August 15, 2005
Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club consists of over 25,000 members.
The Chapter spans the entire state of Texas, excepting El Paso, which
is part of the Rio Grande Chapter.
Kentucky Power Plant Decision
Demonstrates Need to Address Public Health Concerns with Contested Coal Plants in Texas
Muhlenberg County, KY/Austin, TX - The day after President Bush signed an energy bill last week giving massive subsidies for new coal-fired power plants, public health concerns in Kentucky stopped the largest coal-plant proposal in the United States dead in its tracks. The decision in the Kentucky power plant case demonstrates the need for the State of Texas to address similar public health concerns in ruling on proposed coal plants in Texas.
On Tuesday, August 9, Kentucky State Hearing Officer Janet B. Thompson ruled that the Thoroughbred power plant, proposed in Kentucky, had not considered the most modern pollution reducing technology for its operation. She found that the proposed plant was not going far enough to reduce soot and smog pollution. The 1500 megawatt plant is the largest new proposed coal-burning plant in the country and is part of a plan - the Coal Rush--to build 100 new plants in the next decade using old technology rather than cleaner, new ones.
“This is a victory for all Americans who breathe the air, and shows that the Bush administration is moving in the wrong direction with its misguided energy policy. We need clean energy solutions, not more dirty coal plants that put our children at risk,” said Bruce Nilles, Midwest Representative of the Sierra Club.
Kentucky residents challenged Peabody's proposal because it did not use “Best Available Control Technology” (BACT) and would have added dangerous levels of soot and smog to the air endangering public health. Around the country – including Texas – citizens are raising concerns about how the new coal-rush would add large volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – contributing to mercury poisoning, global warming, and climate change.
In Texas, seven new coal-fired power plants are on the drawing boards or in the permitting stages in: San Antonio, Riesel, Point Comfort, Rockdale, Fayette County, and two in Robertson County. Draft permits for the San Antonio and Riesel plants are currently being contested by individual Texans and Texas citizens groups, Environmental Defense, Public Citizen, and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition due to serious concerns about the public health.
Karen Hadden, of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition pointed out, “Neither of the plants currently in the contested case process in Texas, the San Antonio plant proposed by City Public Service (CPS) or the plant near Waco proposed by LS Power, have had analysis of Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle, one of the available technologies designed to improve the performance of coal-burning plants. These two coal plants do not meet BACT as required by Texas environmental law, but the TCEQ accepted the companies applications anyway and improperly ruled that the old technology is BACT.”
Hadden added, “These plants would contribute huge amounts of toxic mercury into the air.” Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that puts children at risk of learning disabilities and developmental disorders. Already in the U.S., one in six women already has enough mercury in her body to put a baby at risk. Hadden estimates, “That translates into over 60,000 newborns at risk every year in Texas for permanent brain damage.”
Typical coal-burning power plants such as the ones proposed in Texas also generate tons of sulfur dioxide and small airborne particles which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death; and they pump out tons of nitrogen oxide which leads to the formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning through lung tissues making people more susceptible to respiratory illness.
“I’m opposed to this coal plant because I’m an athlete – a cyclist. As an outdoors person who exercises outdoors, I don’t want my future health to be detrimentally impacted by more pollution and increased global warming,” Geert Aerts, a Sierra Club member and affected person contesting the San Antonio plant cited health reasons for opposing the CPS permit. He added, “And I don’t want my nieces and nephews or any Central Texas children to develop breathing problems or lung disease.”
Neil Carman, Clean Air Director for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club said, “Now is the time to shift to cleaner technologies – such as IGCC, a leap forward from current dirty technology, which can chemically strip out half of coal’s pollutants and about ninety-five percent of the mercury before combustion, or to utilize safer energy altogether – that would be renewable energy such as wind and solar power in addition to energy conservation. Austin Energy, for example, has invested in energy conservation programs for twenty-years and avoided the need to build a coal-fired power plant.”
The Texas State Legislature would seem to concur by their passage this summer of an expanded Renewables Portfolio Standard calling for increased reliance on these cleaner energies in the generation of electric power in Texas.
Carman observed, “The Kentucky decision demonstrates the wisdom of abandoning out-dated coal plans. And the Texas Legislature has acknowledged too that we must begin investing instead in innovative 21 st Century energy solutions.”
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