Immediate Release: Thursday, November 19, 2009
For More Information, Eva Hernandez, Sierra Club, 404-717-3328,
Ryan Rittenhouse, Public Citizen, 440-796-9695
Donna Hoffman, Sierra Club, 512-299-5776 or 512-477-1729
Environmental, Interfaith, and Medical Groups Ask EPA to Enforce the Clean Air Act in Texa
Groups Deliver over 2000 Comments Calling for a Halt to New Coal Plants and a Review of Existing Ones
(Dallas) -- Representatives of environmental, interfaith, and medical groups delivered over 2,000 comments from Texans across the state to officials at the Region VI headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Dallas today (November 19). The comments ask the EPA to intervene to enforce the federal Clean Air Act in Texas by blocking 12 new proposed coal plants and reviewing the permits of the 17 existing coal plants.
Participants in the visit to EPA Region 6 included spokespersons for the Sierra Club and Public Citizen on behalf of individual Texans and community groups from around the state as well as citizens in the neighboring states of Arkansas and Louisiana. They were accompanied by a Dallas-based pediatrician representing the growing concerns of the medical community about air quality and by representatives of the Interfaith Environmental Alliance.
The Need to Act “We appreciate the recent EPA finding that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is not adhering to the Clean Air Act. We’re supporting the EPA ruling with comments from over 2,000 Texans across the state saying ‘We want clean air and clean energy’,” said Eva Hernandez with Sierra Club.
“Texas has far more proposed new coal plants in the nation than any other state, and we already have the highest level in the nation of carbon dioxide and mercury pollution from existing coal plants in Texas. By allowing so much coal plant pollution in our state, TCEQ leadership has not acted in the best interest of air quality and Texans’ health,” said Ryan Rittenhouse with Public Citizen and Coal Block. “We’re asking the EPA to apply their ruling to Texas coal plants and to intervene at the TCEQ.” [See the list of 12 proposed new coal plants in Texas -- http://tinyurl.com/yds77d7. ]
Growing Involvement of Doctors
Medical communities across the state have become increasingly involved in opposing Texas coal plants – particularly in Corpus Christi, the site of the proposed Las Brisas pet coke plant; in Austin, which could become the first municipal utility in the state to reject coal; and in Dallas, which is downwind of the majority of Texas existing coal plants and has been in non-attainment of federal air quality standards.
“As a pediatrician, I know that children are
particularly susceptible to the adverse health effects
of pollution emitted by coal combustion. Coal plants
in Texas emit huge volumes of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen
oxides, and particulate matter. These substances are
heavy duty respiratory toxins. We're seeing skyrocketing
rates of asthma and respiratory illness in children.
These rates would only be worsened by further coal plant
operations," said Dr. Karen Lewis.
“I'm also concerned about mercury pollution,
which leads to serious developmental and neurological
disorders in fetuses and young children. Doctors recommend
that pregnant women not eat large fish and limit their
intake of smaller fish, but can we talk about why and
where the mercury in such a healthy food as fish comes
from?” continued Lewis. “Over 75% of the mercury pollution in Texas comes from coal plants. The bottom line is that we shouldn’t
be building more coal plants in Texas.”
[See Sierra Club fact sheet on annual pollution from Texas coal plants and health impacts -- http://tinyurl.com/ye7g7wv. And List of Mercury Advisories from Texas Department of State Health Services http://tinyurl.com/yh9buqe ]
Gary Stuard with the Interfaith Environmental Alliance and Becky Bornhorst with the Dallas-based group Downwinders at Risk also spoke at the press conference today at the Region VI headquarters of EPA.
Planned New EPA Air Quality Standards
The groups’ request today for EPA intervention on TCEQ coincides with the announcement this week by the EPA of a new proposed national air quality standard for sulfur dioxide (SO2.). [See more information about the proposed SO2 rule and the EPA’s fact sheet -- http://tinyurl.com/y8hou8k]
The EPA plans to publish this December a new proposed rule for ozone the coal plant pollutant that causes smog in cities and in January a new proposed rule for carbon dioxide, the principal global warming gas that comes primarily from coal plants. The new rules will place many additional regions of Texas in non-attainment of federal clean air standards and will require coal plants to install costly new scrubbers.
Clean Power Solutions
Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and other groups are calling for a transition to clean energy solutions to cut air pollution emissions. They recommend implementing already available and emerging energy efficiency measures in government buildings, businesses, schools, churches, and homes and building more wind, solar and geothermal power instead of building more coal plants.
“Texas already has a highly successful track record in the clean energy industry. We’re number one in the nation for wind power production. We have powerful solar resources in Texas, and we have a lot of energy know-how that is fueling decisions to use already-available green-building techniques. We’re advancing new clean energy technologies,” said Rittenhouse.
“We don’t need to build new coal plants in Texas. And let’s
see how soon we can transition off the existing ones,” added Hernandez.
# # #
At Roll Beyond Coal rallies, bike rides, and hikes calling for clean power, green jobs, and clean air in Alpine, Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, and Dallas on October 31 and through an online action, [Take Action -- http://tinyurl.com/kwkgfo], the groups collected the comments they delivered to the EPA’s Region VI headquarters today asking EPA to halt new coal plants in Texas and review existing ones.
[Slide show of the Roll Beyond Coal rallies on October 31 in Texas -- ]