Tag Archives: Coal Fired Power Plants

12/21/2011 Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection

Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection – Measure will protect families, women and children from toxic brain poison: Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out landmark nationwide protections for toxic mercury from dirty power plants. Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that taints the fish we eat and poses a particular threat to prenatal babies and young children. Exposure in the bloodstreams of pregnant and nursing women can result in birth defects such as learning disabilities, lowered IQ, deafness, blindness and cerebral palsy. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, pumping more than 33 tons of this dangerous toxin into our air and water each year.

The new protection, which replaces a weak, court-rejected standard from the Bush Administration, will slash mercury pollution from power plants by more than 90 percent and improve air quality for millions of Americans.

In response, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“Today’s announcement from President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson marks a milestone for parents and families across the country. It means that, after decades of delay, we now have strong nationwide protections against toxic mercury, and most of all, it means peace of mind for the parents of more than 300,000 American babies born every year that have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury.

“The Sierra Club applauds the President and his Administration for their courage and resolve in protecting American families – particularly women and children – from this dangerous toxin and for standing up to polluters’ attempts to weaken this life-saving protection.

“More than 800,000 public comments – a record – were filed in support of the protection, and we are pleased that the President heard the concerns of the American people.”

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For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org/mercury.

For mercury B-roll footage, click here.

Great news! Please spread the word.

1. National Sierra Club statement below — English — http://sc.org/suqS23

2. National Sierra Club statement — Spanish — http://sc.org/rFj4A1

3. State by state benefits of the mercury protection (click on your state) —  http://www.epa.gov/mats/

4. Blog post from Mary Anne Hitt. Please retweet and share.  http://sc.org/tUSt7L
5. Email thank you take action to President Obama — English — http://sc.org/udH6gO

6. Email thank you take action to President Obama — Spanish — http://sc.org/s1vbfJ

Oliver Bernstein, National Communications Strategist

Sierra Club
Phone: 512.477.2152 x102
Cell:  512.289.8618

12/21/2011 Washington Post: Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts?

Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts? No.Posted by  at 08:45 AM ET, 12/21/2011: Later this afternoon, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to roll out the agency’s new regulations on mercury and toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants. That raises some questions: Just how many plants will end up getting shuttered as a result of all of the EPA’s new air-pollution rules? And how much of a pain will this be?The main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., which could be at risk of closure. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

It’s a hotly debated topic these days, with industry groups (and plenty of Republicans)predicting possible blackouts and economic havoc, while environmentalists have mostly been rolling their eyes. So, to help settle this debate, the AP’s Dina Cappiello recently surveyed 55 power-plant operators across the country. She found that as many as 68 coal-fired plants — up to 8 percent of the nation’s coal generation capacity — will shut down in the years ahead. (The Edison Electric Institute has estimated that up to 14 percent of coal capacity could be retired by 2022.) That’s no easy task. But, from the available evidence, it also won’t likely prove apocalyptic.

Cappiello’s survey found that the coal plants set to be mothballed are mostly ancient — the average age was 51 — and largely run without modern-day pollution controls, as many of them were grandfathered in under the Clean Air Act. What’s more, many of these plants were slated for retirement in the coming years regardless of what the EPA did, thanks to state air-quality rules, rising coal prices, and the influx of cheap natural gas. “In the AP’s survey,” she writes, “not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure, although some said it left them with no other choice.”

Crucially, none of the operators contacted by the AP seemed to think that huge swaths of America were on the verge of losing power, as Jon Huntsman claimed. An official from the North American Reliability Corporation put it this way: “We know there will be some challenges. But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.” This jibes with an Edison Electric Institute study, as well as a Department of Energy study(which focused on worst-case scenarios), a study from M.J. Bradley & Associates, and the EPA’s own modeling (PDF). Utilities will manage to keep the power running, in part by switching to natural gas, as plenty of gas plants currently operate well below capacity.

At this point, there’s good reason to think that utilities can retire their oldest and dirtiest plants without crushing disruptions. It won’t be simple or cost-free — the EPA estimatesthat the mercury and air toxics rule alone will cost utilities at least $11 billion by 2016 to install scrubbers on their coal plants, and those costs will likely get passed on to households. On the flip side, the reduction in mercury is expected to prevent some 17,000 premature deaths per year and provide an estimated $59 billion to $140 billion in health benefits in 2016.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/will-the-epas-mercury-rule-cause-a-wave-of-blackouts-no/2011/12/20/gIQALEu88O_blog.html

Mike Eisenfeld

New Mexico Energy Coordinator

San Juan Citizens Alliance

108 North Behrend, Suite I

Farmington, New Mexico 87401

office 505 325-6724

cell 505 360-8994

meisenfeld@frontier.net

11/11/2011 The Phoenix Sun: Congressmen Call for Hearing on the True Costs of Coal

11/11/2011 The Phoenix Sun: Congressmen Call for Hearing on the True Costs of Coal Written by Osha Gray Davidson: Democratic Congressmen Henry Waxman (CA) and Bobby Rush (IL) today called on Republican committee chairs to hold hearings on the full economic costs of coal-fired power plants. The key word here is, of course, full. Big Coal and its supporters in Congress often use the club of “expensive energy” to beat up on renewable sources such as solar power and wind. But, as Waxman and Rush state in their request letter to Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), a new study “finds that the economic costs of air pollution from coal-fired … power plants outweigh the economic value these sources add to the economy.” The letter was also addressed to the chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Power, Ed Whitfield (R-KY).

The study, Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy, determined that economic damages caused by coal-fired power plants outweighed benefits by up to 5.6 times.

Coal-fired electrical generation only seems cheap because most of the costs don’t appear on the power bill. Instead, the full cost of coal is paid by ordinary Americans in increased health care and shortened life spans, by businesses in lost work days due to respiratory and heart-related illnesses, and by the agriculture industry in lower crop yields due to climate change.

The new study appears in the latest issue of the American Economic Review, and was co-authored by economists at Middlebury College and Yale University.

For more on the healthcare costs of coal-fired power plants, see the excellent 2010 study, The Toll From Coal, published by the Clean Air Task Force.

The True Cost of Coal

Forgotten People/WWU Participatory Mapping Project wins runner-up in a EPA Apps for Environment Challenge

http://myweb.students.wwu.edu/%7Esabier/ForgottenPeople/ Please check it out: Forgotten People/WWU Participatory Mapping Project wins runner-up in a EPA Apps for Environment Challenge thanks to Robert Sabie and Professor Troy Abel, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University. The interactive maps shows the proximity of abandoned uranium mines to water sources in the Navajo Nation, a proposed uranium haul route through the Navajo Nation. If you click on the icon on the header, you can search the various layers. The EJ Participatory Mapping app will be recognized at the Apps for the Environment Forum on November 8, 2011 in Arlington, VA www.epa.gov/appsfortheenvironment/forum.htm

10/26/2011 Environmental Groups Support Haze Reduction

10/26/2011 Indian Country Today: Environmental Groups Support Haze Reduction By Carol Berry: The U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has approved a motion by several environmental groups to intervene in a lawsuit involving mandated pollution controls at the 2,040-megawatt San Juan Generating Station. The New Mexico plant is believed to be the first facility required to adhere to a regional haze program, according to an environmental spokesman. The 1999 regional haze program under the Clean Air Act is designed to protect areas of “great scenic importance”—certain national parks, wilderness areas, national memorials and international parks—from manmade air pollution.

“Visibility impairment by air pollution occurs virtually all the time at most national park and wilderness area monitoring stations,” according to the Federal Register, which also notes that the visibility problem “is caused primarily by emission into the atmosphere of (sulfur dioxide), oxides of nitrogen, and particulate matter, especially fine particulate matter, from inadequately controlled sources.”

“Under the Clean Air Act, the idea was that older, antiquated, coal plants were going to be decommissioned,” but that did not happen at the station, said Mike Eisenfeld, energy coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance. Instead, PNM, New Mexico’s largest electricity provider, filed for an extension of the station’s present lifespan until 2053, he added.

Besides the Alliance, groups seeking to intervene include Dine’ Citizens against Ruining Our Environment (Dine’ CARE), Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association and New Energy Economy.

Sixteen National Parks or other protected historic and scenic areas are within the area affected by haze from the station and other area power plants, with particular concern for air quality at Mesa Verde National Park, only 35 or 40 miles to the north, Eisenfeld said.

Some concerns of area residents center on health effects as well as haze reduction in National Parks and other areas.

“The Navajo people living in the area of San Juan County and the Four Corners area are deeply impacted by the pollution, the haze—we’ve lived there on our ancestral lands forever, and we’ll always be there, said Anna M. Frazier, a spokesperson for Dine’ CARE. “But pollution has a great impact on our health and has a terrible impact on the vegetation—the herbs for healing,” she said, explaining that people now have to go to the mountains to gather plants that once were closer at hand.

“There used to be concern only for older people being affected, but now younger people and children have asthma and hospital records show that,” she said of the station, which is operated by the New Mexico Environment Department to meet EPA mandates, whose antipollution plan for the station is the issue in litigation.

Aesthetic and health concerns aside, PNM “is trying to portray it (upgrade cost) as unfair, like Four Corners Power Plant and Navajo Generating Station and other 50-year-old facility costs to upgrade, which they’re saying is $1 billion. They say they should be able to have a less-effective technical ‘fix,’” Eisenfeld said, “and we’re saying that’s not good enough.”

Although catalytic emission controls on the station are estimated to cost $750 million to $1 billion, controls already installed remove some of the pollutants before they are released from the stack, according to EPA, so that costs would be reduced.

The station, which “continues to be one of the highest emitters of nitrous oxide” is one of the “huge, polluting facilities (that) deter economic development,” Eisenfeld said.

Although the station employs some 400 workers, he said he believes that if it completed the emission control fix, “it would create more jobs.”

Eisenfeld said the increase in employment would be from workers hired to clean up the plant and to install the system that would cut pollution through selective catalytic reduction. He didn’t have estimates for the increase in workers.

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2011/10/environmental-groups-support-haze-reduction/

10/14/2011 Let's Unplug Dirty, Old Coal Plants – Political weakness keeps them polluting 30+ years too long

10/14/2011 EarthJustice Blog: Let’s Unplug Dirty, Old Coal Plants – Political weakness keeps them polluting 30+ years too long: Across the nation, old coal-fired power plants are gasping for their last breath, having survived long past their prime because of political favors and weak government regulations. They would have died decades ago if not for a fateful policy compromise in the late 1970s that exempted existing power plants from new air quality standards in the Clean Air Act.

The compromise was based on a prediction that the plants would be retired soon, but instead it gave them a whole new lease on life, with a free pass to pollute for another 30 plus years. And until recently, there was no end in sight.

These plants continue to cough up toxic pollutants like mercury, lead and arsenic into the air. They are by far the biggest producers of the power sector’s pollution, forcing millions of Americans to seek their own life support – in the form of respirators and inhalers – just to get through each day without an asthma attack.

Earthjustice litigation is taking steps to close the loopholes and retire dozens of the old plants, while cleaning up those that continue to operate. We are employing a multi-prong strategy to compel the Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen pollution standards based on the best available science and technology.

National environmental laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water acts are meant to be updated regularly to reflect the current science. Thanks to our litigation, the EPA has recently begun to deliver on the promise of our nation’s environmental laws by taking long overdue action on limiting mercury from coal, cleaning up the air in our national parks that is obscured by power plant haze, and setting national standards on water pollution. In addition, the EPA is currently on the hook for enforcing greenhouse gas emission standards, updating national standards for smog and soot.

Our goal is to end what amounts to government subsidizing of the coal power industry, and to invigorate the clean energy economy. That’s good for the climate, for our health—and for jobs. Early this year, a report by Ceres showed that the EPA’s two new air quality rules would create nearly 1.5 million jobs over the next five years because of pollution control equipment and jobs from clean energy development.

As EPA does its job and these new regulations are adopted, dirty coal plants are being forced to decide whether to pay the price of significant pollution upgrades – or shut down and replace that power with cleaner choices.

Of course, coal plant owners and their allies don’t want to have to make that choice. Even now, instead of focusing on ways to fix the economy, the coal industry is waging an all-out defensive attack on environmental protections that are good for the nation but threaten their industry’s bottom line.

Some coal plant operators have seen the writing on the wall. Since many plants are already past their prime, some are choosing to retire—a hard decision made all the easier by our litigation. For example, this spring the owner of the Trans Alta coal plant, Washington state’s largest source single source of air pollution, agreed to shut down the plant by 2025 after coming to the realization that installing the air pollution controls necessary to comply with air and water pollution standards was not a profitable venture. Currently we’re also stepping up efforts to shut down dirty, outdated coal plants in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Montana, Nevada, Texas, Tennessee, and the Midwest.

We’re also working to encourage clean energy alternatives. Our clean energy program includes preventing construction of transmission lines that favor coal over renewable energy sources and encouraging smart grid developments that rely on clean energy sources like wind and solar, strengthening efficiency standards for appliances and buildings, and pushing full implementation of state-level climate and renewable energy policies.

The nation is at an energy crossroads. One path cuts old ties and moves on to a clean energy future powered by a mix of next generation power sources. The other path prolongs our dependence on an energy source that is cooking the planet and making us sick. The choice is clear. Thank you for joining with us as we help build the clean energy path.

10/10/2011 Frontiers, the Changing America Desk: Coal Remains King On Navajo Nation…For Now

10/10/2011 Frontiers, the Changing America Desk: Coal Remains King On Navajo Nation…For Now By Laurel Morales: FLAGSTAFF — The last of the world’s largest coal-slurry plants will literally implode next month. The Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada closed in 2005 after a series of conflicts with environmentalists and the Navajo Nation over pollution and water use. Explosives will be strategically placed around the steel-framed boiler towers so it will collapse and crumble into dust. And other coal-fired power plants in the region may soon face a similar fate. That puts hundreds of jobs for the Navajo and Hopi tribes in jeopardy.

Navajo Generating Station’s three stacks – each 775 feet tall – are visible from several miles away. This plant was built about the same time as the Mohave, and unlike the decommissioned Mohave plant, has kept on top of pollution control mandates. So it’s still operating, sitting adjacent to Antelope Canyon, one of the most photographed slot canyons in the southwest; and just a couple miles from Lake Powell.

Enough coal is pulverized to power 3 million people in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and beyond. Yet the floor barely vibrates.

In the control room, Julius Fat sits in front of several computer screens and buttons. He points out the two buttons that when pushed together shut down the entire plant.

“You can’t lose your cool in here,” Fat said. “You got to keep it together.”

Fat is one of many Navajos who work for the plant and send money back to their families.

“From my side of the family we have livestock; I have to buy hay for my mom,” Fat said. “There’s a lot of ways people benefit from it. Jobs are hard to find on the reservation.”

In fact, the unemployment rate on the Navajo Nation is almost 50 percent. Coal mines and coal-fired power plants provide about 1,500 jobs and more than a third of the tribe’s annual operating budget. Not to mention scholarships and royalty checks.

But many are worried the plants could shut down.

Environmentalists have targeted coal energy in the region with lawsuits, claiming poor air pollution controls contribute to the haze at Grand Canyon and beyond.

And the EPA is expected to come out with new clean up mandates in coming months – mandates that could cost as much as a billion dollars to upgrade each of the three plants on or near the reservation.

George Hardeen worked for former Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr., and now consults with the Navajo Generating Station.

“When Navajos leave the Navajo Nation they take with them their language, their culture and their way of life,” Hardeen said. “If there are no jobs on the Navajo Nation, they don’t return. The Navajo Generating Station has served as an economic anchor for almost 40 years.”

With coal jobs threatened, the tribe is looking for alternatives. And their geography could be an asset.

Navajo Tribal Utility Authority Manager Walter Haase just signed an agreement with Edison Mission and the Salt River Project to build a large scale wind farm on a ranch owned by the tribe west of Flagstaff.

“This type of project is a paradigm shift for the Native American community,” Haase said.

This is the first renewable project that is majority owned by a tribe. It would create about 350 temporary jobs during construction, but only 10 permanent jobs.

While Haase would like to see the tribe offset its economic dependence on coal, he says it’s not practical to say renewable energy will replace coal.

“So if you were to switch from one to the other, which isn’t physically possible, you’re going from 1,500 jobs down to 150 jobs,” Haase said. “That’s a losing equation for anybody.”

Many renewable energy developers have tried and failed to get projects started on the reservation.

Navajo community developer Brett Isaac is trying to bring commercial solar projects and green jobs to his home town of Shonto. But he said he has to tread carefully. He has many relatives who work in the coal industry.

“If they were to close tomorrow, we would be in a whole mess of trouble,” Isaac said. “We’re to some degree supportive of them continuing operation. The regulations are going to catch up with them and we need to start planning ahead and thinking about the long term.”

Isaac is willing to forge a compromise and move slowly toward a better solution. In the meantime, legislators have asked the EPA to give the Navajo Generating Station another 15 years without additional upgrades. This would buy some time for a more diverse and clean industry to develop on the reservation.

More like this story

Chevron Agrees To Uranium Clean Up On Navajo Nation
Navajo & Hopi Tribes Reconcile To Send A Voice To Washington
Large Uranium Mine On Navajo Nation To Be Cleaned
Sensing Change: Census Shows A Declining Navajo Nation
Navajo Nation Hopes To Boost Water Supplies With Settlement

Vote for Forgotten People Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping

Vote for Forgotten People Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping: About the submission: The online map developed in this project uses data from the EPA 2007 Abandon Uranium Mines and the Navajo Nation: Atlas with Geospatial Data to give citizens access to basic information on unregulated water sources and abandoned uranium mine features. The map also provides citizens with the basic tools to visulize the spatial elements of potential environmental hazards.

Environmental Justice is a relatively new field for environmental advocacy. One the many attributes that is illustrative of environmental injustice is proximity to pollution. Developments in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and the gathering of spatial data have furthered the implications of environmental justice. The GIS technical expertise is not always available to grassroots organizations and thus the spatial nexus is sometimes missing in the struggle for justice. This project was designed to assist the Navajo grassroots organization The Forgotten People in both policy development and participatory mapping.

9/16/2011 Albuquerque Journal Online AP: PNM Files Appeal Over Power Plant Proposal

9/16/2011 Albuquerque Journal Online: PNM Files Appeal Over Power Plant Proposal By Susan Montoya Bryan / The Associated Press: New Mexico’s largest electric utility is going to court in hopes of putting the brakes on a plan by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to trim emissions from a coal-fired power plant that serves more than 2 million customers throughout the Southwest. Public Service Company of New Mexico filed an appeal Friday in federal court. The company is seeking to stay a decision made in August in which the EPA rejected an attempt by the state and PNM to scale back an order for installing what they consider top-of-the-line emission-cutting technology at the San Juan Generating Station near Farmington.

The EPA gave PNM five years to install selective catalytic reduction technology to reduce haze-causing emissions.

PNM contends the technology is unnecessary, expensive and would result in a financial burden for customers.

Read more: ABQJournal Online » PNM Files Appeal Over Power Plant Proposal http://www.abqjournal.com/main/2011/09/16/abqnewsseeker/pnm-files-appeal-over-power-plant-proposal.html#ixzz1YAdWgMfB
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Read more: ABQJournal Online » PNM Files Appeal Over Power Plant Proposal

Mayor Bloomberg gives $50 million to fight coal-fired power plants

Mayor Bloomberg gives $50 million to fight coal-fired power plants By Christian Torres and and Juliet Eilperin, Published: July 21: New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced Thursday that he will donate $50 million to the Sierra Club to support its nationwide campaign to eliminate coal-fired power plants. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune described the gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies, to be spread over four years, as “a game-changer, from our perspective.” The group will devote the money to its Beyond Coal campaign, which has helped block the construction of 153 new coal-fired power plants across the country since 2002. The campaign will expand from 15 to 45 states, plus the District of Columbia.

Among current targets is the Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria, which was the backdrop for Thursday’s announcement. Bloomberg, Brune and Rep. James P. Moran (D-Va.) spoke on the deck of the restaurant cruise ship Nina’s Dandy, which floated several hundred yards away on the Potomac River. Moran said the plant “should have been shut down decades ago.”

Bloomberg’s announcement “has no effect on GenOn business,” said Misty Allen, director of external affairs for GenOn Energy, which owns the plant. “We’d like to remind everyone that on this, the hottest day of the year, with cities across the country setting up cooling spots that need power, it’s the Sierra Club’s goal to shut down all coal-fired plants,” Allen said, noting that coal-fired plants contribute to more than 40 percent of U.S. energy production.

Brune said in a phone interview that the group will use the money “to identify the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants, retire them and replace them with clean energy.” The 62-year-old Potomac plant is among the oldest of the country’s roughly 400 coal-fired power plants. The Sierra Club said its goal is to retire about one-third of them by 2020.

As mayor of New York, Bloomberg (I) has pushed for environmentally friendly policies such as investing in renewable energy and making the city’s taxi fleet more efficient. But this is his largest financial contribution to an environmental effort, and the donation will swell the Sierra Club’s $80 million annual budget.

Bloomberg also tied the coal-burning issue to his work in public health, which includes bans on smoking in New York. He said he is now “joining another front for clean air” by contributing to the Sierra Club, and he plans to commit his time and energy to the campaign.

Scott Segal, a coal lobbyist, said in an e-mail that although it is up to the mayor’s foundation to determine which contributions make sense, “the mayor well knows that the key to New York’s success lies in access to affordable and reliable power.”

Asked about the city’s energy supply, Bloomberg was frank about the choices. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and others have pressed to close the nearby Indian Point nuclear power plant, but the mayor said city residents get more than 8 percent of their electricity from the facility and lack a ready substitute. “It’s just not practical to close it down at the moment,” he said.

With Bloomberg’s donation, the Sierra Club plans to expand its Beyond Coal staff from about 100 people to nearly 200 full-time employees. Most of them will engage in grass-roots organizing, but some will work on lawsuits or social networking.

The announcement underscores the extent to which environmentalists are focused on efforts beyond the Beltway, given the opposition in Congress to nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’re putting our faith in local communities to protect public health and promote clean energy,” Brune said. “Congress has failed to do the job on that. We’re confident local communities can do the job where Congress hasn’t.”

The group has just launched an extensive billboard advertising campaign in Washington’s Metro system, with pictures of young children who are described as “filters” for power plant pollution. Ads are running on a smaller scale in Chicago and New York and in some U.S. airports.