Texas Clean Air Matters

Why We Must Extend The Production Tax Credit For Wind Energy

Prior to the August recess, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee passed a 55-item tax extender package known as the Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act of 2012.  The bill is now up for consideration in the House Ways and Means Committee. Included in this package is a one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy. The PTC is sound economic, energy and environmental policy, and our congressional leaders would do well to support the package and the PTC extension when it comes up for a final vote.

Texas’ current success in wind energy development has been assisted by the PTC. The PTC provides a 2.2 percent tax credit per kilowatt hour of energy generated to private wind investors if their wind farms are developed, constructed and are producing. This program has increased private investment and development of wind energy, and has lead to an expansion of jobs throughout our country, but particularly in rural Texas.

With Texas being the national leader in wind installations and a manufacturing hub for the wind industry, wind farms have appeared throughout our state, and related jobs are in high demand. The wind industry provides quality and high-paying jobs, gives our state an economic boost and provides environmental benefits. Texas is the first state to reach 10,000 megawatts of wind energy installations, which power the equivalent of 2.7 million homes. The wind industry also provides land lease payments to local landowners in Texas to the tune of $31 million annually.  

Nationally, the wind energy industry supports 75,000 direct and indirect jobs, more than 400 manufacturing facilities, and is responsible for 35 percent of all new energy generation since 2007 – more than coal or nuclear energy combined.

The PTC and the tax extender package are not guaranteed to pass either the House or Senate. As uncertainty in this industry continues, developments and projects in Texas and around the country are at risk if Congress does not act quickly. EDF is asking Congress to support a tax credit that continues to help the wind energy industry grow into self-sufficiency.

Please contact your member of Congress today and ask for their support of the Production Tax Credit and the Family and Business Tax Cut Certainty Act.

Posted in Wind / Read 1 Response

Is Senator Inhofe really looking out for Oklahoma?

(Credit: New York Times)

This blog post takes a detour from Texas issues and covers a regional issue in our neighbor state, Oklahoma.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to understand the disconnect between Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe and the threat of rising temperatures to his own constituents. Last year, Oklahoma endured the hottest summer ever recorded in U.S. history. According to the National Climatic Data Center, Oklahoma’s average temperature last summer was 86.9 degrees.

The previous record for the hottest summer was set in the midst of the Dust Bowl, again in Oklahoma. The Dust Bowl literally blew Oklahoma’s farmers off their land, along with their topsoil. No one wants a repeat of that.

What’s alarming is that the previous record of 85.2 degrees, set in Oklahoma in 1934, was almost two degrees cooler than summer 2011!

A permanent rise of two degrees, according to climate experts, is enough to turn America’s heartland into desert. From Montana to Texas, a sustained increase of two degrees would turn the wheat and corn fields of the West and Midwest to dust. In Oklahoma alone, more than 77,000 family farms provide wheat, cotton, meat, poultry, dairy products and jobs that will all go away if the summer heat of 2011 proves to be the norm rather than the anomaly.

Meanwhile, Senator Inhofe continues his attempts to undermine EPA standards that will help reduce rising greenhouse gas emissions. Senator Inhofe has a history of attacking climate change, science, and clean air standards.

But last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a unanimous opinion affirming EPA’s protective carbon pollution standards issued under the Clean Air Act. The court thoroughly rebuked those, like Inhofe, who attack science. The court confirmed EPA’s analysis that global warming is caused by humans and is a public health threat, saying “[t]his is how science works. EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.”

Natural gas prices are very low. One thing that may cause prices to rise is increased demand for gas to replace dirty coal. Inexplicably, Senator Inhofe and royalty owners support out of state coal businesses to the detriment of Oklahoma natural gas companies. Rather than encourage jobs in his state, the Senator chooses to protect coal jobs in West Virginia and Wyoming. As Oklahomans suffer from record heat, watch their energy bills rise and see their crops die, they should thank Senator Inhofe for refusing to do anything to improve the outlook for future summers in the Sooner State.

Posted in Air Pollution, Climate Change, Coal, Environmental Protection Agency, GHGs, Natural gas / Read 3 Responses

ERCOT’s Three-card Monte Trick For Grid Reliability

(Credit: Arnie Levin)

First we have enough generating capacity, but next year is the problem; now that next year is upon us it’s really the next few years that are the issue. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), grid operator for most of Texas, foresees potential electricity shortages. Clearly the risk is real, but when?  This year? Two years from now? Reports swirl by, some only weeks apart, showing different numbers and contradicting previous reports. Are we seeing a bureaucratic version of Three-card Monte?

During last summer’s drought, demand peaked on August 3, using more than 68,000 megawatts. ERCOT’s stated goal is to maintain a 13.75% reserve margin in generating capacity. Their latest report shows the state’s electrical grid will fail to meet the target reserve margin as soon as 2014, two years from now.  A report in early May actually shows that this summer ERCOT will fail to meet that target as well, although it isn’t stated explicitly.

Meanwhile EPA is meeting with ERCOT and the nation’s other grid operators to develop an implementation timeline for the new Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) air toxics rule, which should begin this fall. Utilities have three years to implement the new rules…unless the three-year timeline threatens grid reliability. Then utilities can get a fourth year…unless grid reliability is still threatened. Then utilities have a full five years to comply.

Concerns about grid reliability are very real, but they are due to power companies deciding to hold off on constructing new power plants while prices are so low.  Unfortunately some state leaders and utilities have seized on these ERCOT reports, and are shifting their conclusions in an attempt to delay rules that have been in the works for years, and in some cases decades.  The new EPA standards will dramatically cut mercury, heavy metals, acid gas and other emissions from power plants. The public health benefits to our state will be enormous, especially for Texas children who breathe air tainted by power plant emissions. The cost of unwarranted delay is a price Texas should not have to pay.

Posted in Air Pollution, Drought, Environmental Protection Agency, MACT Rule / Comments are closed

Judge Follows Law And Overturns Air Permit for Dirty Power Plant in Corpus Christi

(Source: Corpus Christi Caller)

State District Judge Stephen Yelonsky recently ruled that Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) failed to follow the law when it issued an air permit to Las Brisas Energy Center for a 1320 MW power plant in Corpus Christi, Texas. Judge Yelonsky found that the permitting was “flawed”, “misleading” and “wrong” and that it violated the Clean Air Act air toxics standards for particulates, sulfur and hazardous air pollutants (HAP). The Las Brisas power plant would run on petroleum coke, a dirty solid byproduct of oil refineries that contains heavy metals and other hazardous impurities. Judge Yelonsky also pointed out that TCEQ failed to require Las Brisas to account for the storage of petroleum coke fuel before combustion.

Quintana Capital Group has provided much of the $3.2 Billion in funding for the project. Quintana is not only is trying to build this dirty plant, but it is also leading efforts to roll back health laws that protect our children.

Electricity providers, like Las Brisas, should understand that cheap electricity is not cheap. We pay for the dirty power in sick kids and medical bills.  This power plant would be located in downtown Corpus Christi—within a mile of local schools, churches, and neighborhoods.  The fact that Las Brisas tried to avoid complying with the law through legal technicalities shows an extraordinary degree of disregard for the most basic standards of health, safety, and community in Corpus Christi. 

Here are the plant’s annual emissions according to their own TCEQ and EPA applications:

  • Approximately  13 million tons of CO2 equivalent
  • 68 tons of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs)
  • 3,823 tons NOx
  • 8,154 tons CO
  • 283 tons VOCs
  • 3004 tons PM
  • 2901 tons PM10
  • 10,480 tons SO2
  • 1996 tons H2SO4141 tons ammonia
  • 47 tons HCl

The electricity we need to power our homes and businesses should not come at cost of breathing clean air. This is a trade-off we do not have to make.  We applaud the courage of State District Judge Stephen Yelonsky to apply and follow the law fairly, and call on TCEQ to fulfill its mandate, and protect Texas’ environment for our children and grandchildren.

Posted in Air Pollution, Clean Air Act, Coal, TCEQ, Texas Permitting / Comments are closed

Coal Power Front Group PACE Blasts EPA

Recently, the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed by Lance Brown titled “Time for the EPA to stop putting politics before facts.” Readers should beware the author is the Executive Director of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE), a 501(c)(4) organization that parades itself as an environmentally-minded organization, but is really a front agency for Alabama Power Company, Southern Company and coal companies.

On its website, PACE states that it’s part of Working People for Fair Energy (WPFE), which is another front group with close ties to industry to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from reducing children’s exposure to toxic coal ash.

PACE would like us to believe that clean air is far too expensive and that the EPA is preventing any new wells from being drilled. In reality, Texas is issuing more permits than ever. In 2011, Texas issued 22,480 drilling permits, compared to 18,029 in 2010 and 12,012 in 2009.

PACE claims the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) is an example of EPA’s attempts “to crucify energy producers in our state.” The truth is that the CSAPR will improve air quality and public health, increase protection for sensitive ecosystems and improve visibility in state parks. Up to 1,704 lives will be saved in Texas and the state’s total health benefits will be up to $14 billion annually. Many companies across the country, including Houston-based Dynegy, support the rule and are already in compliance.

PACE has a constitutional right to trot out the discredited argument that we must choose between health and our jobs. But they should at least be honest about who they represent.

Posted in Air Pollution, Coal, Environmental Protection Agency / Read 2 Responses

If It Is So Clean, Why Is White Stallion Trying To Rollback Clean Air Rules?

(Credit: www.houstontomorrow.org)

White Stallion Energy wants to build a 1,320 MW power plant in Bay City, Texas and claims that its plant will not harm human health. Recently, White Stallion filed a challenge against the EPA to rollback the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rules that protect people from toxic air pollution. Why would this power plant fight against these rules? Because this plant plans to emit toxins into the air that harm public health. White Stallion cannot meet these health protections in the MATS rule, so they are fighting against the rules.

The MATS rule places the first-ever federal limits on mercury and other toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants in the United States. These standards provide vital health protections for millions of Texans, especially infants and children, from the largest sources of toxic air pollution. When implemented, these standards will annually prevent up to 11,000 deaths, 4,700 heart attacks, 130,000 asthma attacks, over 500,000 missed work days due to illness and over 3 million unhealthy air days. These protections are valued at $37 billion to $90 billion each year they are carried out.

Coal- and oil-fired power plants are the nation’s single largest manmade source of major toxic air contaminants, responsible for half of all mercury pollution, 77 percent of acid gases, and 62 percent of arsenic emissions. Mercury exposure can cause brain damage in infants and can affect children’s ability to walk, talk, read and learn.  Experts estimate that hundreds of thousands of babies are born each year with potentially unsafe levels of mercury in their blood.

White Stallion’s COO, Randy Bird, claims that “the new source levels [for mercury] are beyond detectable limits”. This is simply untrue. Many coal-fired plants are already achieving the mercury standards in the proposed rule and are in-fact exceeding the standards by a significant margin. Additionally, many states have made progress on reducing mercury emissions from the power sector and have set standards for existing coal-fired units significantly more protective than EPA’s proposed standard.

On a positive note, motions to intervene in support of the rule were filed by a group of states and cities and a group of public health and environmental organizations including EDF.

The states and cities supporting this motion include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, District of Columbia and New York City.

The organizations supporting this motion include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Lung Association, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Clean Air Council, Conservation Law Foundation, Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Izaak Walton League of America, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ohio Environmental Council, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Sierra Club, and the Waterkeeper Alliance.

If you have been following our updates, you know that White Stallion has weaved a web of lies and played a shell game with its site plans in an effort to obtain air, water and wetlands permits. The real challenge for White Stallion to move forward isn’t the EPA or the new air toxics rules; it is the low price of home-grown, Texas-produced natural gas.  This latest petition only further shows that White Stallion is a bad idea for the Lone Star State. It’s time for White Stallion to see the light and stop fighting against clean air protections for Texans.

Posted in Air Pollution, Coal, Environmental Protection Agency / Comments are closed