(Sweetwater and Austin) – The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) recently voted to issue an air permit for the proposed Tenaska Trailblazer Coal plant in Sweetwater, Texas. This is the third coal plant permitted in 2010 and the eleventh coal plant recently permitted in Texas that has yet to go online.
“Coal plants are more and more obsolete,” said Whitney Root, who lives a few miles away from the proposed site of the coal plant. "Texas has the worst air in the nation because TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw continues to violate federal law and the Governor does nothing to protect the people or protect this state's already limited water resources. We want to continue to breathe clean air and have abundant water in West Texas, and if this coal plant is built it will be detrimental to our family and community.”
After approximately two weeks of hearings, Texas’ administrative law judges (the “Judges”) articulated multiple failures by Tenaska in its application for an air pollution permit for its proposed coal plant according to those opposed to the plant. After careful examination, the Judges found that Tenaska:
• Made no demonstration that emissions will not cause a violation of new National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Sulfur Dioxide (SO2),
• Failed to demonstrate the proposed emission limits for almost every pollutant it will emit are not sufficiently stringent, and
• Did not provide adequate monitoring provisions that are sufficient to demonstrate ongoing compliance with Particluate Matter limits.
“Nation Ambient Air Quality Standards are health-based standards essential to the system of air quality regulation in the Clean Air Act. Tenaska’s failure to make any compliance demonstration for the new 1-hour sulfur dioxide standards renders its application fatally incomplete. As it stands, the Commission may not properly issue Tenaska’s permit,” said Gabriel Clark-Leach with Environmental Integrity Project representing Sierra Club, “moreover, as the Judges found in their proposal for decision, neither Tenaska nor the Executive Director conducted the kind of rigorous analysis to set technology-based limits that is in the TCEQ guidance and required by federal and Texas law.”
“Yet again, the Judges found that a coal plant fails to meet federal law. Governor Perry and his political appointees at the TCEQ are doing nothing to protect the public health or to ensure that companies follow the law,” said Jimmy Headstream with Multi-County Coalition. “The truth of the matter is that Texas doesn’t need more coal-fired electricity and Tenaska is a bad deal for the folks in West Texas. The electricity won’t lower our rates, but the pollution will ruin our lives. We also lead the nation in wind, which is a much better deal for our community.”
“Sweetwater is the sweetspot in the state for wind generators, and if this plant is built it will clog the transmission lines needed to gt cleaner power to the cities,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office. "Tenaska claims this coal plant is clean because plans to capture carbon dioxide, but underneath all the hype its just a dirty old-style coal plant. No where in the permit does it require Tenaska to capture the CO2, and if the technology doesn't work, there is no market for CO2. Plus, its just too expensive to operate. They can emit CO2 with abandon — and just pay a penalty. Coal-fired electricity is the biggest polluter in our nation and this plant, like so many others, uses obsolete technology.
Texas has the most coal-fired generation in the nation, and currently, there are seven additional coal-fired power plants in some phase of planning.
“TCEQ should have denied this permit and protected the lives and well-being of people,” said Root. “Our state is moving beyond coal. We’re using wind and solar to meet our electricity needs while protecting the air we breath and the water we drink. Texas is at an energy crossroads and the TCEQ must help lead the way away from coal because its unhealthy.”
According to Tenaska, Trailblazer will be the first new-build carbon capturing coal plant in Texas to receive an air quality permit – a critical approval that opens the door for future construction of the energy center. State-of-the-art technology at the plant will capture 85 to 90 percent of the plant’s carbon dioxide (CO2) and greatly minimize other emissions.
“Trailblazer will provide electricity for Texans in a safe and environmentally responsible way,” said Tenaska Development President David Fiorelli. “At the same time, the plant will promote energy security by using the most abundant fossil fuel to generate baseload electricity and increase Permian Basin oil production in West Texas by providing a valuable supply of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery.”
“Tenaska is proud to be leading the way, not only in the United States but across the globe, to commercialize this proven technology that can help provide the clean energy the world is seeking in a cost-effective way,” Fiorelli continued.
Nolan County Judge Tim Fambrough and Sweetwater Mayor Greg Wortham attended the TCEQ meeting to make statements of support for the plant’s permit.