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Forecast for Skies Over Bush Ranch in Crawford: More Air Pollution From New Coal Plants Nearby

Aug. 24, 2005

Forecast for Skies Over Bush Ranch in Crawford: More Air Pollution From New Coal Plants Nearby

“The stars at night were big and bright, deep in the heart of Texasuntil the coal plants came to town and turned the skies brown,  deep in the heart of Texas.”  

“The President used to cut down brush and ride his bike, deep in the heart of Texas… until the particles fell down and turned his lungs brown, deep in the heart of Texas.”

(Crawford, Texas) Residents of nearby Riesel traveled to Crawford today to warn President Bush that his health, and the health of other Texans, will be affected by six new coal-fired power plants proposed for Central Texas. One of the proposed new plants would be located in Riesel, only 30 miles from the Bush ranch.

A battle under way over this new plant in the president’s backyard underscores the flaws in the recently signed federal energy bill, with its continued promotion of burning coal to produce electricity, say residents of Riesel and environmental groups opposing the plant. The groups also say their fight exposes the flaws in new power plant pollution rules recently adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“This dirty coal plant they want to put in our hometown and other plants proposed for Central Texas threaten the health of all of us, including the president,” said Lorene Pulley of Riesel and a member of TPOWER (Texans Protecting our Water and Environment and Resources), the citizen group opposing the plant. “The new federal power plant cleanup rules aren’t strong enough to protect our health from the smog-forming gases and fine particles from these plants. These can trigger asthma and heart attacks.”

Pulley said power plant emissions also cause acid ran, contribute to global warming and contain toxic mercury that can cause neurological damage, particularly in children.  

“If the companies building these power plants were committed to using state-of-the-art technology, that would help reduce the dangers of these emissions, but that’s not happening,” Pulley said.

In addition to the coal-fired power plant proposed for Riesel, three other units are planned in nearby Robertson County, one in San Antonio and   two near Port Comfort, south of Victoria.  Two new units will be built in Milam County near Rockdale to replace 50-year-old facilities.   More than 200 citizens turned out to oppose the plant at a public meeting in April 2005. The proposed plant at Riesel has been scheduled for a hearing, to consider a challenge to the permit, on November 14-22, and an administrative law judge will make her recommendations in February 2006.

“We’re here today to tell the politicians and the power companies that enough is enough,” said Ruth Pilant, also of Riesel. “Emissions from these plants travel hundred of miles and only make air quality in cities such as Dallas-Ft. Worth worse. In our county, there is no pollution monitoring system. How can we be sure our health and the health of our president aren’t being harmed by these new plants?”  

Pilant said a better alternative would be for Texas to encourage the development of clean, renewable energy such as wind power, and alternative fuels such as biodiesel.   

“When I first heard a coal plant was coming to Riesel, I saw our local governments embrace the project because of the jobs and tax revenues they think it will bring,” said another Riesel resident, Phillip Ballman. “But I looked at the flip side of the coin, and saw the deterioration of our air, our quality of life and our health that this new plant would bring.”

Ballman said the number of Riesel-area residents concerned about the negative impact of the plant is growing each day.

“If the president hopes to have healthy and smart grandchildren, then he’d better not let his daughters eat fish from streams and rivers contaminated by mercury from power plants,” said Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition. “Mercury from coal plants is the largest unregulated source of pollution in the nation, and twelve lakes in Central Texas are so contaminated with mercury that women of child-bearing are warned to limit fish consumption.”

Uprisings against the coal plant planned for Riesel likely will be replayed in some 124 communities across the U.S. where other new coal plants are proposed, said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen’s Texas office.

Smith said six new coal plants proposed for Texas will add more than 14,000 tons of ozone-forming pollution to the air of Texas and more than 70,000 tons of global warming gases annually.

“These emissions not only will harm the health of those who live in Riesel and Crawford, but will create a haze obscuring the stars at night,” Smith said. “And studies have predicted that global warming will dry up the beloved waterfalls and creeks in Crawford and all across central Texas.”

Smith said the Bush administration’s recently adopted Clean Air Interstate Rules include caps on air emissions from power plants that are far too high and deadlines that are far too late to protect human health. The rules also fail to act on Bush’s campaign promise to curb global warming gases from power plants.

“It’s our hope that once President Bush understands the impact of the Riesel plant on his community, he’ll send these rules back to EPA and tell them develop rules tough enough to protect the health of all Americans,” Smith said.