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New Analysis Tallies Premature Deaths From New Coal-Fired Power Plants

Nov. 21, 2006

New Analysis Tallies Premature Deaths From New Coal-Fired Power Plants

Pollution from 19 proposed coal-fired power plants in Texas could cause as many as 240 additional deaths each year and as many as 12,000 over the plants’ expected 50-year lifespans, according to a new analysis released today by health and environmental groups. The study comes just days before preliminary hearings are scheduled to begin on permit applications for 8 new TXU coal plants.

MSB Energy Associates performed the analysis using the Environmental Protection Agency’s published methodology for calculating the health benefits of air quality improvements. The emissions figures used for this analysis come from the permit applications filed for each power plant or unit, and were collated by Public Citizen’s Texas office and the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition.

“The death toll from coal is breathtaking. Two hundred forty additional deaths annually and 12,000 deaths over the next 50 years is an unacceptable price to pay for power,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “There are cheaper, cleaner and cooler alternatives that could be used to meet Texas’s needs for electrical energy. Preliminary hearings will begin next week across the state, and it’s time for Texans to stand up for our health and economic interests, and oppose this permitting of a deadly source of energy.”

“The pollution from coal-fired power plants can be deadly. Well established health science has shown that the greater the emissions, the greater the number of deaths,” said Angela Anderson of Clear the Air, which commissioned the first national report on premature mortality from coal-fired power plants from Abt Associates using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved methodology. That report showed that power plant pollution nationally cuts short nearly 24,000 lives each year. “The proposed 19 new coal-fired generating units in Texas would be less polluting than their old plants, but the emissions from these new units alone can be expected to result in two hundred forty deaths annually.” 

“As a physician, I find this new analysis very troubling. Already, we are seeing more deaths from pollution than from drunk driving or murder,” said Dr. Lisa Doggett, Director of Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility. “In Texas, as a result of global warming and pollution from coal plants, we can expect more frequent and severe asthma attacks, more strokes and worsening of heart and lung problems. Patients with asthma and chronic lung disease already crowd the waiting room of my clinic and emergency rooms across our state. Some say that more coal plants will help our economy, but they are not factoring in health care costs to that equation.”

“The good news is that most of the increased deaths predicted in this study are preventable,” Dr. Doggett continued. “We have the technology to meet our energy needs without jeopardizing the health of so many people. Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility calls on our government leaders to protect public health by capping power plant emissions and turning to renewable energy sources.”

Wilton Adams opposes an additional coal plant proposed less than a mile from his business at TXU’s Martin Lake site. “Particle pollution already coats our cars and homes,” stated Adams, “and the area has clusters of asthma and cancer. We also have a very high incidence of the normally rare Lou Gehrig’s disease, with four cases in our local rural area. We don’t need any more coal plants.”

Adams also worries about mercury pollution. “Martin Lake had the highest emissions of mercury in the nation in 2004, and we shouldn’t have to worry about brain damage in our children. We need clean up of the existing plants, not more toxic mercury.”

Jo Cervenka lives near TXU’s proposed Lake Creek and Tradinghouse plants and has already been fighting LS Power’s Sandy Creek plant, which is very near her home in Riesel. “No community would suffer more than Riesel and the Waco area, where we would have four coal plants within 5 miles, and nine within 60 miles. We don’t want to live in a Ring of Fire. My family already lives downwind from an existing coal plant. My husband Robert and I have asthma and have suffered from cancer, which may be related to what we’ve been breathing already. Coal plants at Lake Creek and Tradinghouse would be added to the already existing gas plants, and add dangerous acid gases, particle pollution and mercury that we didn’t have before from the gas plants. To add injury to insult, we will be dealing with TXU’s plans to build railroads across county roads, acreage and farmland to feed these monster coal plants.”

Charles Morgan lives near TXU’s existing coal plant, where another unit is planned. “Big Brown has polluted our community for years,” said Morgan. “The permit limit of 40,000 tons per year for sulfur emissions is routinely exceeded, and is actually 87,000 tons per year here, due to cap and trade policies, which means the local community suffers. The fine particle pollution that results can lodge deep in our lungs and cause early deaths. Many people here are sick already.” 

Wes Seibold lives in Colorado City in West Texas, where a coal plant is proposed to be added to the existing Valley gas plants. “The emissions would not only risk our health, but the pollution and noise will harm our horses. We train cutting horses for cattle ranchers, and the rail line would come close to our barn and riding arena becoming a very serious noise problem for us, our horses and our business.”

“The upcoming preliminary hearings are the best chance citizens who oppose the plants have to just say no, to fight for health protections and to raise issues of local concern,” stated Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “Now is the time for Texans to take a stand to protect the health of our children and grandchildren. If we don’t do it now, it may be too late.”

“Fighting these plants can make a difference,” continued Hadden. “In Robertson County, judges with the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) recommended denial of a permit for a huge polluting lignite plant. Other plants have offset emissions with reductions from existing units, and still others have been greatly improved. You can make a difference but you need to show up at the preliminary hearings to be granted party status in the contested cases.”

Many organizations have written to the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and SOAH hearings judges to urge re-scheduling of double-booked hearings and restoration of the normal time frame, which has been cut from a year and a half down to six months. Two sets of the six upcoming hearings are scheduled for the exact same time in different cities, making it impossible for citizens who would be impacted by both plants to participate in both hearings.

For a copy of the study, click here.

For additional information, including dates for preliminary hearings about the new coal plants, click here.