Fighting dirty power production

I received a news announcement from the Western Clean Energy Campaign regarding increased pollution controls proposed by the EPA on the worst polluter in New Mexico (which also affects residents in Arizona): the Four Corners coal plant:

The agency (EPA) has proposed new pollution control safeguards for the Four Corners plant, which emits more than 44,000 tons per year of nitrogen oxides, a key component in the formation of ozone pollution. Ozone is a harmful chemical that attacks lung tissue, and breathing it increases the risks of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory ailments.

According to findings from the polling, which surveyed 600 Arizona voters, air pollution is a top concern in the state and a strong reason to move away from coal and invest instead in cleaner energy resources.

“The Four Corners plant is one of the nation’s dirtiest coal-burning plants,” said Coken. “People understand that coal is dirty and unhealthy and that transitioning away from plants like Four Corners and to clean, renewable energy is the best way in the long run to reduce the high health costs incurred by pollution from their smokestacks.”

According to the American Lung Association, San Juan County, where the Four Corners plant is located, gets an F for ozone pollution.

Earlier this month, the Lung Association published a major study that identified coal-burning power plants as the single largest source of harmful air pollution in the United States, emitting in excess of 386,000 tons of hazardous pollutants into the atmosphere each year. According to the study, soot pollution alone from those plants kills an estimated 13,000 people a year. The report can be found at:

Here is the EPA's pollution report on the Four Corners coal plant.  The NY Times article on pollution controls at the Four Corners plant mentions that the coal plant emits the highest level of nitrogen oxide of all coal plants in the country.

Of course, if I were to be a follower of Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE), I wouldn't be excited about the above news.  From a press release I received from them regarding the EPA announcement on tightening pollution restrictions at coal plants:

“As expected, the Environmental Protection Agency yesterday released draft rules seeking to set the first-ever national standards for mercury and other air toxins from coal-fired power plants. By its own estimates, this draft rule will be the most expensive EPA rule put out in the agency's history.

Everybody wants a clean environment, and many in the energy industry are doing their part. But any initiative must also ensure reliable and affordable energy. If the EPA implements these MACT utility regulations as drafted, closures of U.S. coal-fired power plants will accelerate sharply during the coming decade and will result in the loss of an estimated one-fifth of our coal-fired capacity. Based on historic performance and industry experience, it will be impossible to permit, engineer, procure, and construct hundreds of new controls. Even if plants could afford to comply with the regulations, many will simply be unable to make the needed adjustments due to age or other complicating factors.

It looks as if PACE is more of a fan of the "Affordable" part and less of a fan of "Clean Energy".   Based on their press release, I'm lead to believe that it is just too costly to add pollution controls to these old coal plants....SO I'M JUST SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH THEIR POLLUTION?

Oh wait, they do address this fact at the end of their press release:

We need reasonable regulation that protects health and the environment but also provides reasonable rates and dates for compliance.

Ok, got it.  I do need to be worried about my family's health and environment....but only if it doesn't raise my rates and I can hold off until whenever the utility feels the time is right.  I mean, PACE may be right....I've already lived almost 30 years, so why worry about silly things like "my health" now?  I don't even have any kids yet and I'm sure by the time they come along the air will be much cleaner because it will be beyond "dates for compliance" (if only I had a sarcasm font).  It's 2012.  Pollution controls have been around for awhile. Why has the utility waited so long to implement them?

The reason that clean energy deniers state that renewables are just too expensive when compared to coal power is that usually coal power plants DO NOT ACCOUNT FOR THEIR POLLUTION!  And so I find it ironic that clean energy deniers say pollution controls are just too expensive.  They wouldn't be so expensive if they were accounted for in the first place!

Look people, you have to choose which side you're fighting for: the side that promotes clean energy and tight pollution controls for the sake of our health and environment or the side that worships at the alter of cheap (adj. - of little account; of small value; mean; shoddy) energy at all costs.


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<i>If the EPA implements these MACT utility regulations as drafted, closures of U.S. coal-fired power plants will accelerate sharply during the coming decade and will result in the loss of an estimated one-fifth of our coal-fired capacity.</i> Sounds great! When do we start?
ckmapawatt's picture
Yea, I think it was that statement exactly that resulted in me sending this statement to PACE's director: "In fact, it would seem to me (and I hope to be proven wrong) that a more apt name for your organization should be Partnership for Affordable Coal Energy, as all you seem to do is tout affordable coal power?" How can you even have Clean Energy in your name when you defend closing dirty, coal fired power plants?

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