This summer, the EPA released a new regulation regarding coal-fired power plants in Texas. Called the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR), it will devastate mine and other local communities, wreak havoc on already strained power supplies, and cause the loss of hundreds of jobs during a time of economic hardship.
The economy in my hometown, Fairfield, Texas, is all but based on our local plant/mine, Big Brown. The owner of Big Brown, Luminant, has just announced that that the local coal mine that fuels Big Brown will be shut down so the company can try and comply with the new rule. This loss to our community in Fairfield is enough to cause concern, but the issue hits even closer to home for me. My father has worked at Big Brown for 38 years.
In addition to the loss of local jobs, tax revenue to pay for our schools, roads and other necessary infrastructure will be greatly diminished. Luminant also announced the necessary closure of two other power units and the mine that supports them in Northeast Texas. It’s not hard to imagine the negative impact this will have on small local communities that are struggling to stay on their feet in this difficult economy. But the damage doesn’t stop in Fairfield and other communities. It extends to our whole state. Texans as a whole stands to be negatively impacted by sharply climbing electrical prices and rolling blackouts. There were numerous days this summer when our electric grid was a few hundred megawatts from running out of power. The plant closures from Luminant, alone, means that there will be 1,200 less megawatts of power now available.
The outrage I feel isn’t just about economic hardship, higher electricity prices, and rolling blackouts. It’s about fairness and truth. CSAPR did not originally include Texas in its new regulations, but the EPA decided at the last minute to include Texas. As a further slap in the face, they made the compliance date January 2012. This leaves less than 6 months for compliance by Texas power plants.
Texas has reduced its SO2 emissions by over 30% in the past decade, and this new rule would require an impossible 50% additional reduction in less than 6 months. The EPA uses flawed data and modeling throughout the rule. They claim that power plants could meet compliance by switching to purely Powder River Basin coal (western coal), but did not take into account that most of that coal is already contracted, and it takes time for plants to retrofit their boilers to burn purely 100% western coal. Their analysis predicts that 75% of Texas coal capacity will be scrubbed by 2012. Analysis from the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Equality) shows that number to be around 56%. The EPA also counts scrubbers in their analysis on units in the San Antonio area that have already announced they are closing.
But you don’t need to take the word of a college kid whose Dad works at one of the affected plants. The entire Texas congressional delegation except for one member signed a letter stating their opposition to this rule and cited many of the same facts and more. As you can see, this issue crosses over party lines. It threatens the economy, livelihood, and health of so many Texans. I implore all Texans to get engaged and fight this rule. We can’t afford not to.