The dramatic irony of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) decision this morning to grant the NRG Limestone Coal Plant an air permit (and therefore permission to begin construction on a third smokestack) is painful. At the very moment that leaders from around the world are meeting to come to an international agreement to save the world from catastrophic global warming, at the very moment that residents of developing nations are begging for the continued existence of their land and way of life, Texas gives the green light to build another mercury-spewing, asthma-inducing, planet choking coal plant.
Not exactly what I was hoping to wake up to this morning.
This decision also comes just days after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) came out with its engangerment finding, which says that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases represent a significant threat to public health and welfare. Earlier this year, the EPA also ruled that TCEQ has not been adhering to the Clean Air Act in its issuance of new air permits. This is the first coal plant permit that TCEQ has issued since that warning (which TCEQ doesn't seem to have taken to heart). AND, according to Karen Hadden, executive director of SEED Coalition,
The TCEQ is not following federal law (Maximum Achievable Control Technology or MACT) in issuing this permit and a result, mercury emissions will be higher.
So many hearts to break, so little time. But of course there's always a silver lining. Next legislative session, the TCEQ (and a whole host of other commissions) will undergo the Sunset Review process — and as Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas Office mentions, that gives Texas a chance to reform the TCEQ permitting process:
This is just another example of why the Sunset Commission should take a good hard look at how TCEQ rubber stamps permits for coal plants in Texas.
In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for progress in Copenhagen, and drop by Texas Vox for more information on how you can help fight global warming and a 2nd Texas coal rush.
You can also find the good (NRG has agreed to offset 50% of their emissions, though there's nothing in their permit to hold them to that), the bad, and the ugly in the full press release here.