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CITIZENS OPPOSE GOV. PERRY’S CALL FOR NEW COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS “Low-Cost” Power Will Impose Too High a Price On the Economy and Environment

Nov. 11, 2005


“Low-Cost” Power Will Impose Too High a Price On the Economy and Environment

Hearing Begins Monday on First of Seven New Coal Plants for Texas

(Austin) Citizen groups fighting for cleaner air in Texas announced Friday their opposition to Gov. Rick Perry’s call to expedite the building of new coal-fired power plants in the state. The groups called Perry’s plan an expensive, unhealthy and unwise way to meet the state’s future energy needs. 

“Seven new coal plants are being planned for Texas, and they will threaten our air, our water, our wildlife and our economy,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen’s Texas office. “Burning more coal means we’ll be importing more coal from other states, making the skies over our urban areas even dirtier and ignoring much cleaner and cheaper ways to meet our state’s future energy needs.”

Criticism of Perry’s plan came on the eve of the first of a series of hearings that begins Monday in Austin over state permits for the new plants.

Monday’s hearing at the State Office of Administrative Hearings concerns a proposed air permit for a new, 800-megawatt coal plant to be built by LS Power in the small town of Riesel, just southeast of Waco and about 30 miles from President Bush’s Crawford ranch. The permit is being challenged by several groups, including Public Citizen, SEED Coalition, Blue Skies Alliance and TPOWER, a local citizens group.

Smith said emissions from the seven proposed new coal plants will annually add more than 14,000 tons of smog-forming gases to the air, according to state data, and generate more than 50 million tons of global warming gases, according to Public Citizen calculations.

“Projected air emissions from these proposed plants are literally breathtaking,” Smith said. “These emissions will affect residents of the Dallas/Forth Worth, Austin, San Antonio and East Texas areas.  People with asthma and other respiratory illnesses will suffer the most.”

Health Impacts of Emissions from Coal-Fired Power Plants in Texas:


Perry issued an executive order on Oct. 27 calling for state agencies to expedite the permitting process for new power generation facilities. Since the only new power generating facilities with permits pending are coal-fired power plants, they are the only ones that will benefit from the governor’s order, Smith said.

“These permit hearings provide the only chance for Texans to question whether these new plants really are the best way to generate power and to question how they affect state efforts to protect air quality,” Smith said.

High natural gas prices have helped generate a new coal rush.    More than 130 new coal plants are proposed across the United States, including these seven in Texas. The proposed seven proposed for Texas are: 




Capacity and Fuel

Stage of Development

City Public Service



San Antonio

750 MW

pulverized Wyoming coal

Contested Case Hearing in Process on Draft Permit begins 12/4

L.S. Power



800 MW

pulverized Wyoming coal

Contested Case Hearing in Process on Draft Permit begins 11/14

Formosa Plastics


Point Comfort

600 MW

fluidized bed units, petroleum coke and coal

Application submitted 5/31



Robertson County

600 MW

Texas lignite and Wyoming coal

Application submitted 6/05 



Robertson County

1720 MW total

two units

Texas lignite

Submitted 7/13/05



600 MW

Texas lignite

Announced 11/05

Port Authority


Calhoun County

Pet coke

Submitted 6/05

TXU announced this week it has signed a letter of intent with Alcoa to build a new 564-megawatt power unit at Alcoa’s aluminum smelting facility in Milam County. TXU also announced plans to more than double the size of its coal-generating capacity in the next five years by building new plants or buying existing ones, including plants outside Texas. Those additions would give TXU between 12,000 and 15,500 megawatts of coal generation capacity in Texas alone.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently released an analysis showing that reductions of ozone-forming nitrogen oxide (NOx) of 40 to 45 percent will be needed in the state to improve air quality to safe levels in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The analysis shows that 20 to 50 percent of those reductions would occur if existing coal-fired power plants in East Texas were required to reduce their air emissions to the same levels as currently required for power plants in the Houston area.

“Before allowing any new coal plants to be built, the state should require reductions in emissions from existing power plants and set a cap on allowable emissions statewide,” Smith said.

Dallas/Fort Worth and other areas are facing the loss of federal highway funds and other economic sanctions for failing to meet clean air standards, Smith said.   

Karen Hadden of SEED Coalition said the TCEQ should not grant permits for new coal plants unless they include controls and monitoring for mercury emissions.

“More coal plants in Texas will threaten our children’s health, and many of these plants aren’t even needed,” Hadden said. “Texas children are at risk from toxic mercury pollution, which causes permanent brain damage and learning disabilities. Texas already is the worst state in the nation for mercury emissions from coal plants.”

Smith said the companies building the proposed plants in Texas aren’t offering to use the best technologies available for limiting air emissions, including emissions of global warming gases such as carbon dioxide. Other states are beginning to regulate carbon emissions, he said.

“Failure by Texas to account for future federal regulation of global warming gases will be costly,” Smith said. “Power plants will be required to pay fees to offset these emissions. If Texas doesn’t regulate these emissions now, it will mean higher energy costs passed on to consumers and even bankruptcy for power companies that rely heavily on coal.” 

In addition to calling for expediting processing of permits for new power generators, Perry’s executive order also called for more energy conservation for state agencies and more energy diversification in Texas.

“Real energy diversity in Texas won’t mean more coal plants,” Smith said. “It will mean more development of the state’s tremendous renewable energy resources, such as wind power, and more emphasis on energy efficiency, which is the cheapest way to cut our energy costs.”