News

Monday, Jun. 02, 2014

By Dina Cappiello and Josh Lederman
Associated Press via Fort Worth Star-Telegram

WASHINGTON — In a sweeping initiative to curb pollutants blamed for global warming, the Obama administration unveiled a plan Monday that cuts carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by nearly a third over the next 15 years, but pushes the deadline for some states to comply until long after President Barack Obama leaves office.
In Texas, the emissions would need to decline by 39 percent by 2030 under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed greenhouse gas reduction proposal. The agency calls for a 32.6 percent average reduction nationally compared to 2012 emission rates.

Texas would need to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions from 1,298 pounds per megawatt-hour, the rate in 2012, to 791 pounds per mw-h, according to the agency. A megawatt is about enough electricity to power 200 average Texas residences during a time of peak demand, such as a hot summer day.

EPA officials said the standards are based on the 2012 "state of the fleet" for each state’s generation capacity, taking into account previous efforts to cut emissions through energy efficiency programs, renewable energy standards and other programs. According to EPA, Texas got about half its power in 2012 from natural gas, 32 percent from coal, 7.5 percent from wind and 8.9 percent from nuclear.

"It will be up to the states to define their plans … to meet the goals," one senior EPA officials said on a conference call with reporters this morning. "Ultimately if a state doesn’t set a plan the EPA will set one," said another EPA official on the call.

It could be a carbon tax or other system, the officials said, "and states will make their own choices of what makes sense for them." The goals set by the EPA also include considerations of what alternatives are available to a state, such as the supply of natural gas to replace coal.

The 645-page rule, expected to be finalized next year, is a centerpiece of Obama’s plans to tackle climate change and aims to give the United States more leverage to prod other countries to act when negotiations on a new international treaty resume next year. Under the plan, carbon emissions would be reduced 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2005 levels, putting in motion one of the most significant actions on global warming.

The proposal sets off a complex regulatory process, steeped in politics, in which the 50 states will each determine how to meet customized targets set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

"The glue that holds this plan together – and the key to making it work – is that each state’s goal is tailored to its own circumstances, and states have the flexibility to reach their goal in whatever works best for them," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, according to prepared remarks released in advance of Monday’s formal announcement. She characterized the proposal as "ambitious, but achievable."

Luminant Generation, the state’s largest power company, in a prepared release called for the EPA to "give Texas broad flexibility and sufficient time to form an implementation plan tailored to its unique regional needs." It said it would submit comments to the agency "and also work with the state to develop a workable compliance plan for Texas that doesn’t harm reliability or the economy."

"Today, we applaud President Obama and the EPA for their move to clean up our air, improve the health of our children, and curb the worst effects of climate disruption," said Scheleen Walker, director of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. "Climate disruption and extreme weather in Texas have already cost more than five billion dollars in federal disaster relief for 2011 and 2012 alone."

Initially, Obama wanted each state to submit their plans for cutting pollution to meet the new targets by June 2016. But details of the new proposal show that states could have until 2017, and 2018 if they join with other states to tackle the problem. That means even if the rules survive legal and other challenges, the dust won’t likely settle on this transformation until well into the next administration, raising the possibility that political dynamics in either Congress or the White House could alter the rule’s course.
S. William Becker, who heads the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, said the rule gives states more time to develop strategies and gives them credit for steps they’ve already taken to cut emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

"Still, the regulatory and resource challenges that lie ahead are daunting," Becker said.

Power plants are the largest source of greenhouse gases in the U.S., accounting for about a third of the annual emissions that make the U.S. the second largest contributor to global warming on the planet.

Yet the rule carries significant political and legal risks, which were heightened by the EPA giving states beyond 2016 to submit plans. The rule has already drawn intense scorn from Republicans – and even some Democrats waging difficult campaigns this year in energy-producing states.

The policy change will further diminish the role of coal in U.S. electrical production. Coal, which once supplied about half the nation’s electricity, has dropped to 40 percent as it has been replaced by booming supplies of natural gas and renewable sources such as wind and solar.

"If these rules are allowed to go into effect, the administration for all intents and purposes is creating America’s next energy crisis," said Mike Duncan of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which represents the coal industry. He accused the administration of "political expediency over practical reality."

Still, even with the new rules, the EPA predicted that coal and natural gas would remain the two leading sources of electricity generation in the U.S., with each providing more than 30 percent of the projected supply.

The EPA projected that carrying out the plan will cost up to $8.8 billion annually in 2030, but the actual costs will depend heavily on how states choose to reach their targets. The administration argued that any costs to comply are far outweighed by savings in health costs that the U.S. will realize thanks to reductions in other pollutants like soot and smog that will accompany a shift away from dirtier fuels.

EPA data show that the nation’s power plants have reduced carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 13 percent since 2005, or about halfway to the administration’s goal. The agency is aiming to have about 26 percent cut by 2020.

Environmental groups hailed the proposal, praising both the climate effects and the public health benefits they said would follow. Former Vice President Al Gore, a prominent environmental advocate, called it "the most important step taken to combat the climate crisis in our country’s history."

But with coal-fired power plants already beleaguered by cheap natural gas prices and other environmental regulations, experts said getting there won’t be easy. Some states will be allowed to emit more and others less, leading to an overall, nationwide reduction of 30 percent.

Options for states to meet the targets include making power plants more efficient, reducing the frequency at which coal-fired power plants supply power to the grid, and investing in more renewable, low-carbon sources of energy. States could also enhance programs aimed at reducing demand by making households and businesses more energy-efficient. Each of those categories will have a separate target tailor-made for each state.

Despite concluding in 2009 that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare, it has taken years for Obama’s administration to take on the nation’s fleet of power plants. Obama put them on the fast track last summer when he announced his climate action plan and a renewed commitment to climate change after the issue went dormant during his re-election campaign.

Obama has already tackled the emissions from the nation’s cars and trucks, announcing rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by doubling fuel economy. That standard will reduce carbon dioxide by more than 2 billion tons over the life of vehicles made in model years 2012-25. The power plant proposal will prevent about 430 million tons of carbon dioxide from reaching the atmosphere, based on the 30 percent figure and what power plants have already reduced since 2005.

Staff writer Jim Fuquay contributed to this report.

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July 26, 2013

David Doniger’s Blog
NRDC Switchboard

State and industry groups led by Texas and coal-based power companies lost another challenge to EPA’s carbon pollution standards today, the latest in their string of unsuccessful lawsuits trying to block EPA’s climate protection actions under the Clean Air Act.

The Court of Appeals in Washington upheld actions EPA took in 2010 to make sure that someone would be there to issue permits to big new sources of carbon pollution when Clean Air Act permitting requirements took effect in 2011.

To make a long story short, in 2009 and 2010 EPA issued the long-overdue "endangerment finding" – the scientific finding that carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping pollutants contribute to dangerous climate change – and a set of carbon pollution standards for new cars and trucks. Those standards automatically triggered Clean Air Act permitting requirements for large new carbon pollution sources – under the law no such plant could be built after the start of 2011 without a permit demonstrating that it will use the best available carbon pollution controls.

The Court of Appeals rejected Texas’s attack on those requirements in June 2012, in a case called Coalition for Responsible Regulation v. EPA.

The present case concerns steps EPA took to make sure that companies wanting to build big new plants had some permitting agency, state or federal, to turn to – some entity that could grant the permits they need to legally begin construction.

Every state except Texas worked with EPA to make sure that either the state or EPA would be available to keep new plant construction going by reviewing permit applications and making the necessary best-technology findings.

Only Texas refused. Texas flat-out denied that carbon permits were needed – a claim the Court of Appeals rejected in the 2012 case.

And so EPA stepped in as a temporary permitting agency. If EPA hadn’t kept the permitting lights on in Texas, then building or expanding a major industrial plant in the Lone Star State after January 2011 would have been a violation of federal law.

Texas sued, joined by Wyoming and trade associations for some of the biggest carbon polluters. Federal courts rejected Texas’s repeated attempts to block EPA while the case proceeded (see here and here).

Today’s court decision reaffirms that the Clean Air Act applies even in Texas, that it would have been illegal to build plants without the needed permits, and that EPA’s stepping in saved Texas companies and the Texas economy from all kinds of trouble.

In short, EPA’s actions helped, rather than hurt, Texas and its industry allies. Because they could not show injury, and because they’d be worse off if the court blocked EPA’s steps to keep the permitting lights on, the Court of Appeals ruled they had no standing to complain. Case dismissed.

Texas and its allies are on a long losing streak. The Supreme Court has twice upheld EPA’s Clean Air Act authority and responsibility to curb carbon pollution, in Massachusetts v. EPA and American Electric Power v. Connecticut. The Court of Appeals in Washington has turned away at least four challenges by these states and industry groups. I already mentioned the big 2012 decision in Coalition for Responsible Regulation (Texas is appealing to the Supreme Court, but that’s what’s charitably called a long-shot). A group of would-be new coal plants lost a challenge to EPA’s proposed carbon standards for new power plants. Just this month, the court overturned an industry-backed exemption for so-called biogenic carbon sources. And now today’s decisions.

When you are on a losing streak this bad, it’s time to fire somebody and look for a new strategy.

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JULY 27, 2011

BY: GINA CARROLL
The Examiner

We Texans love to be number one. We like to say, "don’t mess with Texas" and "everything’s big in Texas." These sayings embody our pride in our state and our collective spirit to do things well and right and for the greatest possible impact. This winning attitude is often evident on Texas athletic fields, in Texas board rooms and with regard to our stellar reputation in philanthropy.

pollution

But we excel at some things that do not at all reflect well on us. Texas ranks number one among all states for its mercury pollution and we are first in the entire nation in mercury pollution from power plants. I recently wrote about the fact that Texas is on the "Toxic 20" List of the most polluted states. The fact that Texas ranks #13 is misleading. Being #13 on the pollution short list is terrible. And still, this ranking does not even begin to disclose the trouble we are in here in Texas.

As far as pollution is concerned, mercury is some of the nastiest and most harmful! Mercury is a highly potent neurotoxin that poses especially serious risks to pregnant women and infants. Mercury can damage brain development; cause learning disabilities; result in language disorders and memory problems; and impair vision and hearing.

Over 400,000 newborns in the United States are exposed to mercury levels that can cause this kind of damage. Since Texas’ mercury emissions account for a whopping 85% of all state mercury air pollution, it follows that Texas polluters are exacting the most damage upon infants and children. In addition, adult exposure to mercury is associated with heart disease and other cardiovascular illnesses. (Learn more about mercury HERE)

This is not the kind of record we Texans should want to maintain, nor we parents want to subject our families to. Many of us feel helpless in the face of such an enormous hurdle as cleaning up our air. But there are lots of ways to make an impact. And we must. It’s time to take our Texas can-do spirit and stand up to polluters. The first necessary act is to arm yourself with the facts—

Check out this article to learn more about the fight in Texas to stem pollution from coal-fired plants- Dispatches from the front(s): Texas’ multifaceted coal war rumbles on

Below are local Houston organizations that are working to clean up the air and make polluters take responsibility. Join them, spread the word. Taking action to make Texas a safe place for our children and our children’s children is a vital part of our job as parents!

Air Alliance Houston – This is the organization that merged with Moms For Clean Air. They still utilize mothers as activists and community liaisons.

CLEAN (Citizens League for Environmental Action) Houston- The CLEAN website offers lots of information and ways to act.

Clean Air Action– Clean Air Action and Commute Solutions Houston focus mostly on vehicle emissions and alternative fuels. Check out there calendar of events.

Commute Solutions Houston

Then when you are all informed and furious about the poor quality of your air and how it is making Texas kids sick and poorly functioning, JOIN Mom’s Clean Air Force. Send the message–DON”T MESS WITH TEXAS MOMS! Go HERE to join.

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

December 12, 2012

By KATE GALBRAITH
New York Times

AUSTIN, TEXAS — The harm that can be caused by consuming or breathing mercury is well known and terrible. A pregnant woman, eating too much of the wrong kind of fish, risks bearing a child with neurological damage. Adults or children exposed to mercury can experience mood swings or tremors, or sometimes even respiratory failure or death.

In January, representatives of dozens of countries will gather in Geneva to discuss combating mercury emissions, which are rising in Asia even as Europe and the United States have tightened controls. The meeting is the last of five negotiating rounds — the first took place in 2010 in Stockholm — and a legally binding treaty on mercury contamination is expected to come together next year.

The signing of that treaty is set to take place in the Japanese city of Minamata, where widespread mercury poisoning occurred in the mid-20th century after discharges from a factory contaminated the seawater.

But the extent to which countries will commit to reducing mercury, and whether they will follow through on those commitments, are open questions.

Read the whole article on the New York Times website…

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This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. SEED Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a "fair use" of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use", you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

August 9, 2012

by: Carrie Feibel
KUHF FM News – Houston

A new report ranks all 50 states for toxic air pollutants coming from power plants. Texas comes in at number ten.

The new report is from the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

It puts Texas in the top ten for toxic power plant emissions, behind some Big Coal states like Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The good news, however, is that power plants in the U.S. overall are releasing 19 percent less toxic chemicals than a year ago. These chemicals include mercury, arsenic and acid gases.

John Walke, an attorney with the NRDC, says there are two main reasons why:

"The first is the increasing use by power companies of natural gas which is a cheaper and less polluting fuel. The second factor is the installation of state-of-the-art pollution controls by many plants."

Walke says power companies have begun installing new technology because new EPA rules go into effect in a few years.

When you take a closer look at these pollution rankings, Texas emerges as a special case. Texas does rank #10, but it’s #1 when you look at just one pollutant, mercury. That’s because many Texas power plants burn lignite, a type of coal that is high in mercury.

Peter Altman is also with the NRDC:

"Mercury is the one that we have been the most concerned about because it has such profound impacts on our brains and our neurological systems, particularly those of children and unborn children."

The coal-burning power plant closest to Houston is NRG’s W.A. Parish plant in Fort Bend County. It ranks fourth in the state for toxic air pollutants.

But spokesman David Knox says Parish is ahead of federal deadlines when it comes to installing the best pollution controls.

"Due to the low sulfur fuel we use and the emissions controls we’ve installed, on a per megawatt basis, it is significantly cleaner than a number of other plants in the nation."

The new EPA rules for power plants don’t go into effect until 2015, but they are already under political attack and the focus of lawsuits.

The state of Texas is one of the states that has sued to stop the new rules.

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January 30, 2011

By Jim Bardwell
Longview News Journal

<img src="http://www.seedcoalition le viagra avis.org/images/power_plant_pollution_2013.jpg” alt=”” width=”297″ height=”179″ hspace=”10″ vspace=”10″ border=”0″ align=”left”>

A Tatum power plant is the nation’s largest emitter of mercury, according to a new report, and it and another coal-fired plant in northeast Texas are among the nation’s 10 largest emitters of the toxic element.

The report from Environment Texas, a citizen-funded statewide group, found Dallas-based Luminant’s Martin Lake Steam Electric Station and Lignite Mine emits more mercury — 2,660 pounds annually — than any other plant in the nation.

Released as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to propose a standard by March to limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants, the report issued last week indicates Texas plants emit more mercury pollution than those in any other state.

Luminant’s Monticello Steam Electric Station and Lignite Mine near Mount Pleasant emits 1,828 pounds of mercury every year, the report indicated. That ranks it fifth in the nation.

Read the full story on the Longview News Journal’s website…

January 4, 2013

ACCORDING TO A NEW REPORT RANKING THE TEN WORST MERCURY-EMITTING COAL PLANTS IN THE US.

By SONIA SMITH
Texas Monthly

power plant
istockphoto

Five of the country’s worst mercury-emitting power plants are located in Texas, according to a new report from an environmental watchdog.

The Environmental Integrity Project determined that four Luminant plants in East Texas—Martin Lake, Big Brown, Monticello, and Sandow—rank in the top five mercury emitters in the country. Harrison County’s H.W. Pirkey Power Plant, owned by American Electric Power, rounds out the top ten. Other states with top emitters include Alabama, Missouri, Michigan, North Dakota, and Oklahoma.

"Nationwide, equipment has been installed over the years to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. That has helped cut down on the release of mercury, toxic metals and acid gases from power plants over the last ten years," Ilan Levin, an attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project, wrote in a statement. "However, that progress is uneven, and the dirtiest plants continue to churn out thousands of pounds of toxins that can be hazardous to human health even in small concentrations. For example, emissions of mercury from coal-fired power plants have actually increased in the last decade in the state of Texas."

Why is this a problem? Well, mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is particularly harmful to children and developing fetuses. And "[e]missions from local power plants deposit mercury and other toxic metals in nearby rivers and streams, where these pollutants concentrate in aquatic organisms at levels that can make fish unsafe to eat," Levin said in a statement. This process is called bioaccumulation, and the Mobile Press-Register‘s Ben Raines explained the dangers of it on his paper’s website:

Read the full story on the Texas Monthly website…

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Wednesday, Sept achat viagra paris. 21, 2011

By Patrick Beach, Staff
Austin American Statesman

Austin is in the middle of its worst smog season in five years, and Texas has seven of the smoggiest metropolitan areas in the country, according to an environmental study released Wednesday.

The Capital Area Council of Governments has recorded eight high-ozone days in the Austin area this year; the smog season lasts until the end of October. If Austin exceeds national standards again, it will join Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston on the list of Texas metro areas to have fallen out of compliance with the federal Clean Air Act. This year’s ozone levels are the worst since 2006, when the area recorded 18 days of ozone more than 75 parts per billion.

In addition to pollution from coal-fired energy plants and refineries, a lot of the blame for the smog lies with Austin traffic. And the wildfires that broke out Labor Day weekend might have been a contributing factor, said Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, a group that advocates clean air, water and green spaces.

Regulators look at the fourth-most-polluted day each year in three consecutive years. If ozone concentrations on those three days average more than 75 parts per billion, a region falls out of compliance with the Clean Air Act. Noncompliant areas face stringent restrictions and a risk of losing federal highway dollars. Austin has previously come close to noncompliance but has been able to avoid violating the federal rule.

"Texans deserve to breathe clean air," Metzger said. "For the sake of our children, we must make every day a safe day to breathe."

Environment Texas’ report, "Danger in the Air: Unhealthy Air Days in 2010 and 2011," said Texas had 48 days in 2010 when smog levels exceeded national standards somewhere in the state. Houston, which had 27 smoggy days, ranked sixth among the nation’s smoggiest large metropolitan areas in 2010, Metzger said. The Austin-San Marcos area had three smog days that year.

Dr. Elliot Trester of Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility said that young people, the elderly and fetuses are at risk for serious and potentially lifelong complications when exposed to high levels of smog. Trester said he’d like to see the limit set near 60 parts per billion, a level the Environmental Protection Agency signaled it was considering in 2009.

The Austin area has not seen ozone levels unhealthy for the general population, levels of 95 parts per billion and above, since 2002, officials said.

Today, the Texas House State Affairs committee will hold a hearing on EPA rules, including the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, which requires reductions of smog from power plants. In July, the EPA issued the rules, which require states to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, which mostly come from coal-fired power plants. One of the largest Texas electricity producers threatened to shut down two plants and lay off hundreds of workers if the rules were enforced.

This month, in a move that environmentalists blasted as a concession to big polluters, President Barack Obama asked the EPA to put on hold plans to further restrict mercury emissions from power plants and carbon from cars and trucks. Oil and gas industry interests praised the decision, saying it would protect jobs.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was expected to file a petition Wednesday to block enforcement of the new clean air regulations. Abbott previously had asked the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to review them.

pbeach(at)statesman.com; 445-3603
Additional material from The Associated Press.

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Feb 02, 2011

By: Associated Press and KBTX Staff

Burst water pipes at two coal-fired power plants forced them to shut down, triggering rolling power cuts across the state, the lieutenant governor said Wednesday.

You may have been one of the millions of people across Texas who encountered rolling power outages as the state faced an electricity demand crisis Wednesday.

Historic low temperatures caused a cascading effect of 50 power plants shutting down and part of the problem started at a power plant here in the Brazos Valley.

The coldest week of the year wreaked havoc on the Texas power grid Wednesday causing rolling blackouts statewide after 50 power plants went offline.

Karen Weir lost power at her College Station home around 7 A.M.
“My phones are out and I’m relying on my cell phone and my cell phone is running low so I live here by myself and that’s not exactly a good feeling to not have any communication,” said Karen Weir of College Station.

Teresa Juarez had a break at work after losing power at the Eastgate Hair Shop.

“Well we were out of power but it’s back on so I guess we’re back in business,” said Juarez.

The Oak Grove Power Plant north of Franklin in Robertson County was one of the first two plants to encounter broken water pipes from the sub-freezing temperatures.

That and other plant failures elsewhere caused the state to face an electric shortage.

“ERCOT then began instituting rolling blackouts this morning and it’s important to note that this is a system wide issue across Texas. ERCOT has said that they experienced outages at about 50 power plant units or had about 7,000 megawatts offline Luminant was less than half of that capacity,” said Laura Starnes, a Luminant spokesperson.

Starnes said extra workers have been called in at Oak Grove to get the plant back online.

“We’re currently doing everything that we can to restore operations safely and as quickly as possible. We’re also actually working with ERCOT and other state agencies to manage this situation,” she said.

With more outages possible this week it’s a situation that Karen Weir continues to worry about.

‘I think it’s a matter, communication isn’t very good where as people know what’s happening if they put in on television what good does it do if you don’t have power?” asked Karen Weir.

The Oak Grove Power Plant generates 1,600 megawatts of electricity which during extreme temperatures can power 320,000 homes.

Now Luminant officials said the last time they had these types of problems due to the cold weather was 15 years ago.

*Previous Story*
AUSTIN, Texas — Burst water pipes at two coal-fired power plants forced them to shut down, triggering rolling power cuts across the state, the lieutenant governor said Wednesday.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said this is something that “should not happen.”

Dewhurst said he was told that water pipes at two plants, Oak Grove and Sand Hill, forced them to cut electricity production. Natural gas power plants that should have provided back up had difficulty starting due to low pressure in the supply lines, also caused by the cold weather.

The lieutenant governor said the demand placed on the Texas grid was nowhere near peak capacity. He said he was frustrated by the situation.

The statewide electricity authority ordered cities across the state to start rolling power outages to cope with the crisis.

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