2010 Feb. 18: TX: Sierra Club sues Luminant over coal plant pollution

12:59 PM Thu, Feb 18, 2010 | Elizabeth Souder/Reporter    
The Sierra Club plans to sue Energy Future Holdings and its power plant unit, Luminant, for air pollution violations at the Big Brown coal-fired power plant.
The environmental advocacy group said the plant, Luminant’s oldest coal plant, contributes to ozone in North Texas. The club also accused the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality of looking the other way.
Luminant spokesman Allan Koenig said in a statement the company is in full compliance with all regulations.
"We are in full compliance with all regulatory requirements and remain proud of our environmental record. We believe this claim is legally flawed. The Sierra Club indicated that it looks forward to ‘working cooperatively’ with us, and we welcome that opportunity just as we have in the past," Koenig said in an email.
Jump for the full press release from the Sierra Club.
Sierra club’s press release:
Sierra Club:  "Dirty" Power Plant is One of Worst Polluters in the U.S.; Action Taken After Texas Regulators Ignore Problem and Fail to Act.
(Austin, TX) — The Sierra Club put Energy Future Holdings Corp. and its subsidiary, Luminant (formerly TXU), on notice that the environmental group intends to sue the utility giant in federal court, for thousands of air pollution violations at the Big Brown coal-fired electric generating power plant, near Fairfield, Texas south of Corsicana.
The Big Brown coal-fired power plant emits air pollution in enormous volumes each year, especially soot particles, mercury, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide–chemicals that worsen asthma, acid rain, smog and global warming.  Luminant’s Big Brown plant emits more asthma- and smog-forming sulfur dioxide per unit of electricity it produces than any other power plant in Texas, according to the U.S. EPA’s 2008 Clean Air Markets data.  Big Brown increased emissions of mercury nearly 33% from 2007 to 2008 emitting 1,596 lbs in 2008 according to the U.S. EPA’s 2008 Toxic Release Inventory.
Pollution from Big Brown smokestack plumes travels for hundreds of miles, including over communities in East and North Texas, putting the health of the several million Texans who live downwind at risk.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has ignored excessive soot and particle pollution at the Big Brown plant, putting the health of nearby communities at risk, according to the Sierra Club’s "notice of intent to sue," a legal prerequisite under the federal Clean Air Act.
"Luminant’s Big Brown coal-fired power plant is consistently among the dirtiest in the entire nation and one of the worst polluting coal plants in Texas every year, along with two other Luminant coal plants," stated Neil Carman, clean air program director the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter. "Big Brown has one of the highest totals for air pollution among more than 2,000 industrial plants statewide with nearly 123,000 tons in 2007," Carman added. He pointed out, "In fact Big Brown accounted for nearly 7.3% of all industrial air pollution in Texas in 2007, an amazing amount for one plant among several thousand."
"Big Brown’s outrageous air pollution is one reason the Dallas-Fort Worth area can expect high ozone levels again next summer if nothing changes and the plant’s massive plume of smog-forming nitrogen oxides continues to blow into North Texas," said Ken Kramer, Director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter (Texas). "The emissions from burning coal for electricity cause serious health problems.  We need to clean up Big Brown and other existing coal-fired power plants and eventually phase them out in favor of safer, cleaner, and cheaper energy solutions," Kramer added.
This Luminant coal-fired power plant is consistently among the most polluting power plants in the nation," noted Ilan Levin, senior attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project, representing Sierra Club in this legal action.  "Our goal is to stop illegal air pollution through strict enforcement of the law," Levin added.
Yesterday afternoon, the Environmental Integrity Project, on behalf of the Sierra Club, sent Luminant a 60-day notice letter of intent to sue as required by the federal Clean Air Act.
Background Information on Opacity and Particulate Matter
The notice of intent to sue is based on "continuous opacity monitoring systems" (or "COMS") reports submitted by Luminant to the TCEQ and obtained by the Environmental Integrity Project through the state’s open records law.  Opacity monitoring measures the amount of soot in the power plant’s smokestacks.  Opacity is also used to assure compliance with emissions of particulate matter, which is a mixture of small particles, including organic chemicals, metals, and toxic ash.
See, http://www.epa.gov/air/particlepollution/pdfs/pm-color.pdf.
According to the U.S. EPA, particulate matter is linked to decreased lung function, aggravated asthma, development of chronic bronchitis, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart or lung disease. See e.g. U.S. EPA, Office of Air and Radiation, Particulate Matter, Health and Environment, available at http://www.epa.gov/air/particlepollution/health.html.  Recent studies find that particle pollution may result in tens of thousands of excess deaths per year, and additional cases of illness among the U.S.
population. See http://www.epa.gov/ncer/science/pm/index.html.
About the Groups
The Sierra Club (http://sierraclub.org/ or
http://sierraclub.org/coal/tx) is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with 1.3 million members and supporters.
The Environmental Integrity Project
(http://www.environmentalintegrity.org) is a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization dedicated to more effective enforcement of the nation’s anti-pollution laws.

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