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A lawsuit, a power plant moratorium, doctors standing up for the health of their communities… is this sounding familiar?
Here’s the TXU site to see what they’re planning:

Reliable Texas Power

In the words of an industry guy with an interest in seeing more power plants:

“For now at least, it would seem that the ‘fast track’ process is toast.”

I’m just not so optimistic, but this is an important step — they cannot get away with this.

Issues continue to brew in coal-fired plant process

Associated Press

AUSTIN â?? The Sierra Club, represented by the Austin office of Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), took legal action today to stop the â??unprecedented, unreasonable, and … illegalâ? plan by Governor Rick Perry to â??fast trackâ? administrative hearings for construction of up to 18 dirty coal-fired power plants in the state. Most of the plants in question are being proposed by the Dallas-based utility giant TXU.

EIP Austin Office Counsel Ilan Levin filed the petition on behalf of the Sierra Club to intervene in a state district lawsuit originally brought by Environmental Defense over the processing of coal plant permits. Todayâ??s legal action by Sierra Club stems from a recent state agency decision to consolidate six proposed TXU coal plant permits into one hearing, and to set those permits for a speedy decision. The lawsuit seeks to halt Perryâ??s controversial executive order of October 27, 2005, directing the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to accelerate consideration of permit applications and the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) to issue unusually fast decisions on air pollution permits for new electric power plants.

EIP Austin Office Counsel Ilan Levin said: â??Today, Sierra Club is asking a judge to overturn a Governorâ??s executive order that imposes unfair burdens on regular people simply trying to avail themselves of the common-sense environmental protections built into state and federal laws. Weâ??re saying that speeding up the required decision process for major new sources of smog and other air pollution is illegal and unfair, especially to citizens trying to participate.â?

Rita Beving, Conservation Co-Chair for the Dallas Sierra Club Group, whose areaâ??s air quality would be impacted by coal plant emissions, said: â??This legal action is a critical step in the fight by Texas citizens to assert their rights to protect their health and environment from an ill-considered rush to permit these polluting coal-fired power plants, whether we need them or not. The tragedy is that we could meet our energy needs through greater efficiency and renewable energy, without subjecting our cities to further air pollution from coal plants.â?

The lawsuit notes: â??The executive order imposes an unreasonable schedule to thoroughly develop the required technical and legal issues for one major air permit of the type being considered, let alone six of them … The Governorâ??s Executive Order RP 49 infringes on the rights of Texas citizens to participate meaningfully in the environmental permitting arena. The right of any affected party to participate in agency permitting decisions is rooted in the constitutional right to due process. The Governor lacks authority to unilaterally alter this system. Further, the Governor lacks the authority to dictate to an administrative law judge exactly how much time is allowed for a judicial administrative decision, and to do so violates the doctrine of separation of powers.â?

The Perry fast-tracking scheme has huge consequences. The Sierra Club petition notes: â??To put the magnitude of the six TXU permits in context, it is worth noting the additional greenhouse gases associated with these new coal plants. While not addressed in the permits, the new units will emit an additional estimated 51 million tons of carbon dioxide per year into Texas skies. In 2005, all existing Texas power plants emitted 255.4 million tons of carbon dioxide.â?

The Sierra Club contends that a full and deliberate hearing process on each of the power plant applications is crucial due to the serious health and environmental consequences associated with coal-fired power plants, such as increased sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury pollution.

For example, the legal filing points out: â??Sulfur dioxide … interacts with nitrogen oxides to form nitric and sulfuric acids, commonly known as acid rain, which damages forests and acidifies soil and waterways. Harvard School of Public Health studies have shown that SO2 emissions from power plants significantly harm the cardiovascular and respiratory health of people who live near the plants. According to U.S. EPA studies, fine particle pollution from power plants causes more than 20,000 premature deaths a year.â?

On the topic of mercury pollution, the EIP/Sierra Club petition notes: â??Coal-fired power plants are the single largest source of mercury air pollution, accounting for roughly 40 percent of all mercury emissions nationwide. Mercury is a highly toxic metal that, once released into the atmosphere, settles in lakes and rivers, where it moves up the food chain to humans. The Centers for Disease Control has found that roughly 10 percent of American women carry mercury concentrations at levels considered to put a fetus at risk of neurological damage.â?

Another major pollutant — nitrogen oxide — is a major contributor to ozone smog-forming pollution, which has been a major problem for ambient air quality in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin areas.

Usually each power plant application would be considered separately with a full review of the risks associated with its additional pollution impact. The new plants also would be examined to verify that that are using the best available technology in order to not degrade air quality.

From PR Newswire


Here’s one County standing up to TXU, initiating a moratorium:



County OKs moratorium

By Jerrie Whiteley
Herald Democrat

Grayson County commissioners Monday voted to approve a moratorium on power plant permitting in the state until a court decides the appropriateness of the expedited process currently under way for pulverized coal-fired plants.

However, the decision was not a quick or unanimous one. Commissioners listened to more than an hour of comments both for and against the plant planned for Savoy before taking a vote. Commissioner Johnny Waldrip, Precinct 1, declined to vote on the issue saying he has family members who are employed by TXU.

That left four members of the court with votes. Jackie Crisp, commissioner from Precinct 3, made a motion that commissioners support the moratorium. David Whitlock, commissioner for Precinct 2, said â??I donâ??t have a problem signing the resolution … I donâ??t know if it will do any good.â?

Whitlock and other commissioners urged those who are opposed to the power plant or who want the process slowed down to go to the law makers who can do something about their concerns. Those law makers, commissioners said, work in Austin.

Whitlockâ??s vote put Gene Short, commissioner for Precinct 4, in the hot seat. Short stared at his hands and the desk in front of him while he apparently thought about the issue. He looked up a time or two and then back down.

Just as he seemed about to answer, a Denison man reminded him from the audience that Shortâ??s television ads for his recent re-election efforts had featured his grandchildren. Several people who spoke out against the power plant or at least against the fast-tracking, urged the commissioners to think about future generations.

â??My first inclination is to vote No,â? Short said, â??But I will go ahead and go along with it.â?

His vote set the record at three to one abstention. Judge Tim McGraw didnâ??t vote. It was McGrawâ??s last court session as county judge.

Before the vote, commissioners heard from a number of area residents, some more than once, on their opinions about the proposed power plant. At the end of all of the comments, Short asked, â??Are you all wanting to kill the project?â?

A loud round of â??Noâ? filled the air and then several people at once tried to explain that what they really wanted was more time.

â??We want to get to know what is going on,â? someone called from the back. Grayson County Clerk Wilma Blackshear Bush repeatedly told people they have to come to the front of the room and give their names before talking, but by the end of the time set aside for the comments, that rule broke down.

So did the one about only speaking for five minutes. Most of the people who spoke Monday have addressed the issue wih commissioners before. Some were at the commissionerâ??s meeting last week and others have discussed the matter at area city councils.

One of the people who went over his five minutes and addressed the commissioners more than once, Dr. Stanley Feld, said the commissioners canâ??t get lost in the confusion about what is allowable by Environmental Protection Agency standards and what will actually hurt people.

â??Last week I felt like I didnâ??t communicate with you,â? Feld said. He said he asked himself what he had missed when he talked to them about the potential dangers of mercury poisoning and the problems that could result from other chemicals the proposed changes to the plant in Savoy could produce. He explained the amount of mercury that the EPA says a plant can produce and not hurt the people who live around it is not, in his understanding, a healthy amount. He said converting the metric amount to the standard of measurements most average people will understand is hard and hiding behind that is a ploy used by TXU.

Whitlock asked Feld if he thought commissioners should join the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition.

â??No. I think you should take a stand. You gotta understand TXU says (it will be) better than EPA (requirements) but EPA stinks. It takes advantage of us not understanding the difference between metric (measurements) and pounds.â?

Dr. George Diggs said he asked that the item be put on the commissionerâ??s agenda. He said he, and many of the others present, â??Just wants to be able to look at it better. We want Grayson County to be a successful, healthy place to live.â?

He said to make that happen, he thinks the residents of the area need as much information about the proposed pulverized coal burning plant. People must know the pros and cons for both sides before they can make rational decisions.

Not everyone who spoke was against the plant. Pat Hillard, Fannin Count commissioner Precinct 4, showed up to explain why that countyâ??s court voted in favor of the plant. Hillard said it wasnâ??t just about economics. â??It is because of the light switch,â? he said. He explained he wants electricity when he goes to a switch to turn it on.

â??I am not going to tell TXU how to build a power plant,â? Hillard said. He said he wouldnâ??t want them telling him how to do his business. He added that if the counties â??bullyâ? TXU into building the plant the way the counties want it built, â??Where is the responsibility for a disaster there?â?

He hinted that the responsibility might fall to the counties. Hillard said one thing is sure, if the area loses out on power, it will lose out on industry and economic gain. Hillard said he and other Fannin County commissioners did their homework on the issue and he urged Grayson County to the same.

Chip Brusard of Bells said he is favor of the plant and the fast track. He said slowing the process down will cost more money and that cost will be passed along to the utility costumers.

TXU representative Tom Rose said he couldnâ??t possibly address all of the questions about the proposed plant that the commissioners heard Monday. He did say if the company didnâ??t add to its power production the state would be below reliable reserves by 2009 or 2010. He said that is because of the stateâ??s increase in population and power consumption. He also said the power consumption is related, at least in part, to economic improvement. â??People make more money and they go out and buy Plasma TVs,â? Rose said. He said those appliances use more power than regular televisions.

Rose said the company continually adds improvements to its existing plants as new technology comes along. However, when asked point blank if TXU were likely to change the Savoy plant over to coal gasification later on down the line, he said it would be a very costly process.

In the end, the commissioners passed the resolution in support of the moratorium, but urged those present to take their fight to the legislators in Austin.

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