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Public Citizen Calls on the Public to Speak Out Against Proposed New Coal Plants in Texas

April 11, 2006

Public Citizen Calls on the Public to Speak Out Against Proposed New Coal Plants in Texas

Two Remaining Public Hearings to be Held April 12-13 in East Texas

AUSTIN – The Texas chapter of Public Citizen is calling on the public to attend hearings this week to speak out against TXU Energy’s proposal to build as many as six new coal-fired plants in East Texas. The hearings will be held Wednesday and Thursday by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which will be debating the adoption of rules concerning smog and mercury emissions.

“These hearings will be the best chance for citizens to stand up to TXU, whose plan is a breathtakingly risky idea that could harm the health, economy and climate of Texas,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.

Public Citizen is calling on the TCEQ to require all coal-burning power plants in Texas to reduce their mercury emissions by 90 percent with no mercury trading. The TCEQ has recommended that Texas participate in a national trading of mercury credits, which could create toxic hotspots of mercury pollution in the state. Mercury emissions at any level are considered dangerous by the Environmental Protection Agency, especially for pregnant women and young children. TXU’s Monticello plant is already the nation’s worst power plant in terms of mercury emissions, and TXU’s proposed Oak Grove plant (125 miles from Dallas) would take over that title, releasing more than 1,440 lbs of mercury emissions per year.

Public Citizen is also calling on the TCEQ to reduce allowable levels of nitrogen oxide and sulfur emissions, which contribute to dangerous ozone formation and fine particulate pollution, by 70 percent by 2010. The TCEQ has said that a 70 percent cut in pollution from existing power plants will be needed to make the air safe to breathe, but its weak, proposed rules mandate a cut in power plant smog pollution by only 9 percent by 2010. TXU’s plan to build more coal plants will only contribute to the air pollution problem.

Although a state report from a limited eight-day study concluded that building as many as six new power plants near Dallas-Fort Worth would cause pollution to concentrate in Central Texas and have no effect on local air quality, the nine counties of East Texas would also be at risk because of shifting wind patterns, according to Smith. The study also failed to consider the emission of fine particulates, which is a serious health hazard. Recent reports indicate that in Texas, 1,160 premature deaths and 33,987 asthma attacks per year are due to particulate pollution.

Texas should meet its energy needs by investing in safer and sustainable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy instead of spending billions on coal, Smith said. At the very least, new coal power plants should use coal gasification technology, which captures most of the smog-forming nitrogen oxide, sulfur, mercury and carbon. This is not currently in the TXU plans.

The input of citizens, medical doctors and environmental advocates will be very important to convince TCEQ Chairman Kathleen Harnett White to adopt more stringent rules on smog and mercury pollution, as well as to prevent the building of new dirty coal plants. In addition to a public hearing in Austin today, there will be two more public hearings this week about rules to require pollution reductions from existing and proposed power plants:

  • 12 – 2 p.m.Ft.  – TCEQ Regional Office, 2309 Gravel Drive
  • 13 – 2 p.m. Houston – TCEQ Regional Office, 5425 Polk St., Suite H, 3rd floor

For more details on the hearings, visit http://stopthecoalplant.org.