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Aspen Power construction site next to a predominantly African American neighborhood LEARN MORE about the Energy Justice Network at “probably the most stringent air quality standards in the nation,” says air quality expert Bill Powers. “It’s going to cost them around $10 million to install state-of-the-art equipment that will cut pollution to about one quarter of what would be allowed under the old permit.” “We got virtually everything we wanted,” he says. The protesters’ attorney, Kelly Haragan, director of The Environmental Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, was also happy with the settlement, at least on the environmental issues. “The Aspen case highlights the importance of public participation,” she says. “Without Mr. Hartsfield’s and the other protestants’ willingness to stand up for what they knew was right, in the face of serious opposition, the plant would have been allowed to emit excessive pollution, and the Lufkin community would be breathing much dirtier air in the years to come.” Sierra Club’s Neil Carmen, who used to be an inspector for TCEQ’s air quality section, says that new biomass plants will be required to use the best available pollution-control technology. “The Lufkin plant will have that technology and other biomass plants will have to follow suit,” he says. “This settle ment has set the bar much higher.” But while the plant’s emissions should be cleaner, the people of north Lufkin will still have to live with a large, noisy, brightly lit industrial complex right next door to their homes and elementary schools. “None of us were really satisfied,” Pierre says. They wondered if a notoriously slack TCEQ would effectively enforce the new standardsand what happens if it doesn’t? The protesters have the option of going back to the administrative judge if emissions are too high, but that could mean more court battles, lawyers and travel to Austin. “Aspen Power could get away with a lot by stalling their way through a new round of court battles,” he says. THE BATTLE OVER the Lufkin biomass plant may be only the beginning of a larger environmental war in other parts of the state. The biomass industry is growing in Texas, especially in the forested east. Some mainstream environmental organizations, such as the Pineywoods Group of Sierra Club, have reservations. “Carbon dioxide output will be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds per year,” Powers says. That would add to the already-heavy load of CO2 that Texas is pumping into the atmosphere. Plus there is 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG