Granclfathered Air Pollution: The Dirty Secret of Texas Industries. A report by The Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention and The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. April, 1998. Available on line at wwvv.neosoft.cornighasp. The Granddaddy of All Loopholes: How Sixty-Six Texas Power Plants Escape Our State’s Toughest Air Pollution Laws. Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition The Most Powerful Polluters in Texas: Understanding and Solving the Power Plant Threat to Public Health. SEED Coalition. Austin, Texas. 1997. Danger in the Air: Toxic Air Pollution in the HoustonGalveston Corridor. Galveston-Houston Association for Smog Prevention. Houston, Texas. December, 1996. Texas Environmental Almanac. The Texas Center for Policy Studies. Austin, Texas. 1995. grandfathered emissions, claiming that only selected old units were grandfathered, within larger permitted facilities. So Carman requested the agency’s list of major non-permitted emissions sources steadily worked his way through the agency’s permit files, excluding the standard exemptions, plant by plant and company by company. He was able to confirm his suspicions: standard exemptions account for a negligible amount approximately 1.1 percent, perhaps even less of the overall non-permitted industrial emissions. Carman said, “I kept coming up with these plants that had no permits, and no standard exemptions. I was running into fifteen and twenty of these a page…. The point is, out of these first 1,000 facilities, nearly 500 of these were completely without a permit, and completely without standard exemptions. Nearly 50 percent of the top 1,000.” In the measured words of the report, Carman’s findings mean that “billions of pounds of uncontrolled or poorly controlled air pollutants have been emitted by heavily or fully grandfathered plants in Texas since 1971,” and much of the emissions continue unabated to this day. Without government action to require the grandfathered polluters to stop or radically decrease their emissions \(the report calls for required permits, and consequent public health effects and engineering reviews, for all grandfathered facilThe grandfathered emissions calculations might seem only a technical argument, but these disputed estimates are at the center of a public debate over Texas air pollution that dates back three decades. When the state Clean Air Act became law, industrial facilities in operation or under construction as of September 1971 were exempted from formal permitting requirements \(hence, “non-perindustry, which promised that such facilities would be upgraded or replaced over time, and inevitably would become subject to the per mitting process. Nearly thirty years later, that hasn’t happened. In stead, companies with still-grandfathered facilities have maintained a significant economic advantage over their fully permitted compe tition, because it’s often cheaper to operate without pollution con trols, thereby passing the clean-up costs onto the public at large. Tom Smith, of the public interest group Public Citizen, summa “The grandfathers don’t operate absolutely outside the law but they operate on the fringes of it” Neil Carman rized the economic situation for Texas Utilities, a heavily grandfathered power company \(also one of the companies joining the state’s new “voluntary reduction program,” known as the Clean Air at Big Brown, for example [T.U.’s power plant in Freestone County],” said Smith, “the cost of operating and maintaining Big Brown, after it’s paid for in just a few years, will be roughly half the cost of building a new power plant. If they were required to bring Big Brown up to today’s modern pollution standards, the costs would exceed the costs of a new power plant. That’s probably the simplest way of saying it. The operation cost of a new power plant is roughly 2.8 cents per kilowatt hour, and the operation cost of Big Brown is about 1.4 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s the point.” Under the CARE program, T.U. has volunteered to reduce overall company emissions by 3,000 tons per year, or 1.4 percent of its total grandfathered emissions. Yet by the TNRCC’s own estimates, if T.U. facilities were required to install modern pollution controls, emissions would be reduced by 58 to 88 percent. According to Carman’s analysis, and a related report by the Sus99.95 percent of Big Brown’s emissions \(more than 80,000 tons per company emissions are grandfathered \(more than 210,000 tons per dramatic as they are, become even more striking in the context of the current corporate push for deregulation of public utilities. By not requiring Texas Utilities to adopt modern pollution controls, the state of Texas is subsidizing indeed promoting the continued use of the most dangerously polluting forms of power generation. And Texas Utilities, along with the other corporations enjoying grandfathered exemptions, are directly passing on the toxic pollution and its associated health and cleanup costs to the public at large. The state’s major environmental and public interest groups 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 8, 1998
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