SEED Coalition,
Sustainable Energy and Economic Development

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Learn: Grandfathering

When the state legislature passed the Texas Clean Air Act in 1970 to regulate emissions from industrial facilities, it included a provision that any facilities already built or under construction at that time would be exempt from the new controls. Legislators assumed that pollution from these plants would succumb to the natural control of obsolescence when they were retired in due course. What they did not foresee, however, was that the Grandfather loophole made these plants much cheaper to operate than their newer, cleaner counterparts, so companies kept them open, and the plants continued spewing unregulated pollution much longer than anyone had anticipated.

As of 1999, there were still over 800 facilities in Texas with grandfathered emissions, and they produced much more than their share of the state's air pollution. Closing the Grandfather loophole, especially as it applies to coal-burning electric power plants, has been a major goal of SEED's work over the past several years. See our reports The Granddaddy of All Loopholes and The Most Powerful Polluters in Texas for more research and data on the grandfathering problem in Texas. Also see the Sierra Club's report Texas's Dirty Little Secret and Public Research Works's Follow the Money, which documents political contributions from grandfathered polluters. SEED's 1999 report A is for Air Pollution investigates the proximity of grandfathered facilities to schools.

Many public advocacy groups join SEED in opposing the grandfather loophole, and quite a few have signed on to a joint Statement of Principles on Grandfathered Air Pollution. The Texas Legislature considered the grandfathering issue during its last session in the spring of 1999. SEED provided citizens and legislators with data and research on grandfathered pollution, including a Myth/Fact Sheet on Grandfathering and Jobs sheet on GF jobs, in pdf]--> and a map showing how the pollution plumes from rural grandfathered power plants travel to urban areas. The outcome of the legislative session was mixed. The legislature closed the Grandfather loophole for power plants as part of the electric deregulation bill, a major victory for clean air. But the Grandfather loophole for other types of plants remains open, with only an optional program for companies who choose to bring their facilities into compliance voluntarily. For more on the legislative session of 1999, see some of SEED's press releases:


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