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Media: Press Clips

Group blasts CPS for rise in nitrogen oxide emissions

April 24, 1999

By Scott Huddleston
Express-News Staff Writer

AUSTIN — An Austin environmental group released figures Friday showing City Public Service has had the highest rise in emissions statewide at four local power plants exempt from modern air-quality standards.

But CPS officials, which last year promised to reduce emissions by 20 percent over four years at all seven of its plants, said they're already making progress.

Members of the Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition focused on the emission of nitrogen oxides, key in the creation of ozone, in their analysis of CPS emissions reported to the Environmental Protection Agency.

At a news conference Friday, members of the coalition and local environmental groups took aim at the four natural-gas powered CPS electricity plants that are "grandfathered" under the Texas Clean Air Act.

Plants operating when the act took effect in 1971 don't have to get emissions permits from the state or use best available emission-control technologies.

Although CPS last year committed to spend $30 million to add emission controls at its plants, nitrogen oxides from the seven plants have risen 43 percent, from 16,232 tons in 1995 to 23,275 in 1998.

"Basically, what they've promised to do is reduce emissions back to 1995 levels, which really isn't good enough," said Richard Fawal, outreach coordinator for the energy coalition.

The rise in nitrogen oxides included a 146 percent jump - the highest percentage rise statewide - at CPS's four grandfathered plants, from 2,270 tons in 1995 to 5,579 tons last year.

But nitrogen oxides from the three CPS plants subject to cleanair provisions have dropped nearly 9 percent, from 19,403 tons in 1997 to 17,697 tons last year, said Joe Fulton, director of strategic planning and environmental policy for CPS. Two of those plants burn coal, and the other burns gas.

Local pollution modeling by the Alamo Area Council of Governments projects all factories and plants in Bexar County produce about 2 percent of the local groundlevel ozone.

The coalition also criticized Senate Bill 766, which would allow grandfathered plants to reduce emissions voluntarily. The group wants to force those plants to use new clean-air technologies.

"I plan to make this a campaign issue" in the May 1 city elections, said Jim Koch, a member of the Alamo Chapter of the Sierra Club who has urged City Council to oppose the bill.

Fulton said a new CPS plant to open in 2000 using a new gas-andsteam powered process called combined cycle generation will increase the utility's power by about 11 percent, enough to virtually eliminate the need to run the grandfathered plants.

"In the year 2000, our emissions will take a big nosedive," he said.

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