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We’ve Been Busy This Summer!

Our coal and energy work has been demanding this summer, with national, chapter, and local Sierra Club efforts really moving the ball forward on a clean energy future. Here are few highlights.

We filed comments in June with the TCEQ on their 2014 air quality monitoring plan. The plan has to be submitted this summer for EPA approval. We highlighted the deficiencies of the state's air monitoring network when it comes to lead (Pb) emissions from the Fayette coal plant, which is co-owned by LCRA and Austin Energy, problems with ozone monitors in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, and problems with sulfur dioxide monitoring around the three large Luminant coal plants in east Texas.

We have begun to plan for an upcoming hearing in the Texas Legislature and at the Public Utilities Commission of Texas about the new EPA Clean Power Plan (a.k.a. the “carbon rule”).

The DC federal district court has given final approval to the extension request filed by EPA, and unopposed by the Sierra Club, to extend the deadline to have a proposal for the Texas regional haze SIP from May to November 2014. We are hopeful that we will get a good decision from the EPA on the action, possibly leading to requirements for new or improved scrubbers.

According to the latest ERCOT monthly planning report, there are 8,600 MW of wind capacity in the construction queue between now and 2018. In addition, the total capacity of all projects (with interconnection agreements, under study, etc.) breaks down by fuel type as: 29,000 MW for natural gas, 30,400 MW for wind and solar, and a small amount of coal from the Summit project. This continues the trend that began more than one year ago of renewable energy projects proposed and under study beating natural gas.

We have examined the recent filing by the EPA to lift the stay on the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) rule and its impact on Texas and found an embarrassing statistic. Twenty-two of the 23 states subject to CSAPR are already in compliance with their SO2 allowances, except for Texas, which has a deficit of approximately 75,000 tons. In addition to the statewide number, the Federal Implementation Plan (a.k.a. “FIP”) that implements the program established boiler-specific allocations in each state. An examination of those boiler-specific allocations shows that some generators are slightly over budget, some slightly under. Luminant, however, is the outlier with fleet-wide 2013 emissions (178,778 tons per year) exceeding their cumulative allocation (94,159) by around 85,000 tons per year. Bruce Nilles of the Beyond Coal Campaign used a webinar this week hosted by the financial firm UBS to highlight how CSAPR and other federal rules might impact Texas.