FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 6, 2012
Jenna Garland, Sierra Club, (404) 607-1262 x 222
Tom “Smitty” Smith, Public Citizen, (512) 477-1155
Karen Hadden, SEED Coalition, (512) 637-9481
Erin Geoffroy, Environmental Defense Fund, (512) 691-3407
Ilan Levin, Environmental Integrity Project, (512) 637-9477
NRG Cancels Proposed Limestone 3 Coal Project
Critical Milestone Reached in Seven Year Fight to Protect Public Health and Put Texas on a Path to Clean Energy
AUSTIN, TX – NRG Texas Energy has announced that the company will not proceed with plans to build the Limestone 3 coal unit in Jewett, Texas, 120 miles south of Dallas[i]. NRG filed initial applications to build the plant in June of 2006, when a handful of other Texas utilities were filing similar proposals to build more than a dozen new coal boilers in Texas. As of December 2012, the majority of these proposals have been cancelled, due to the changing economics of coal plants, the growth of wind energy in the state, and because of legal challenges and grassroots opposition from Sierra Club and allied groups across Texas. Had NRG chosen to build the Limestone 3 project, the plant would have been a major new source of pollution upwind of Dallas, and the investment of billions in coal would have crowded out new clean energy projects from moving forward.
“We applaud NRG for making the wise, responsible decision to cancel the Limestone 3 project,” said Dr. Al Armendariz, Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in Texas. “The Limestone 3 cancellation is an important victory for the individuals and organizations fighting this and other coal proposals in Texas. Sierra Club encourages NRG to build on the decision by phasing out existing coal units at the Limestone and W.A. Parish plants. Sierra Club stands ready to work with NRG to make this happen as quickly and responsibly as possible.”
“The 11 coal units that have been stopped would have added tens of thousands of tons per year of air pollution that causes smog in Dallas and Houston, and the sulfur and particulate pollution would have aggravated asthma and other respiratory problems in the rural communities closest to the plants,” stressed Ilan Levin, associate director of the Environmental Integrity Project. “Stopping the new coal plants has been an incredible clean air victory for Texas, a victory of public health over special interest profits.”
With support from Governor Rick Perry, several power companies proposed to build expensive, dirty new coal plants across the state, choosing to prioritize outdated and polluting power for Texas’s energy future. Communities, organizations, and individuals across the state pulled together to fight against these proposals and fight for clean energy. With the cancellation of the Limestone 3 project, an important milestone has been reached. Over the last seven years, proposals to build new coal-burning units at 10 different plants in Texas, comprising approximately 8,600 megawatts (MW) of electricity, has been cancelled[ii]. CPS Energy of San Antonio and American Electric Power have announced that the utilities will phase out three coal boilers at the Deely and Welsh coal plants, representing an additional 1500 MW of dirty energy, pushing the total amount of cancelled and retired coal power in Texas to over 10,000 MW.
“Texas leads the nation in wind energy production, with more installed wind power projects than the next several states combined,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen. “The incredible growth in wind energy never would have been possible without the success stopping new coal projects. The market space created for clean electricity was a direct result of the David versus Goliath fight that took place over the last 7 years.”
“The cancellations of Limestone 3 and ten other proposed plants in Texas are the results of years of work by local citizens who bravely opposed the coal plants, including coalitions of mayors, families, doctors and environmental groups, all of them focused on stopping the Texas coal rush,” said Karen Hadden of the SEED Coalition.
According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the Texas electrical grid operator, there are presently 10,035 MW of installed wind power in Texas, which they expect to grow to over 13,000 MW by the end of 2015[iii]. Just as importantly, of the approximately 90 new energy development projects under current consideration within ERCOT, over 55% of the capacity is provided by clean energy like wind, solar, and renewable storage[iv].
“The future of electricity in Texas is clean and renewable. Stopping the new coal rush was an incredible achievement and we now see power companies putting their existing coal boilers on paths to retirement,” remarked Jim Marston, vice president of Energy and director of the Texas Office of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “We still have plenty of work to do, but I am proud of what we have already accomplished and am optimistic we will end the coal era in Texas.”
Only a handful of proposals to build new coal-fired power plants remain active across Texas and the U.S., but each faces significant hurdles, ranging from lack of financing, to legal challenges, to needs for large water contracts in a time of drought. In Texas, those proposals include the White Stallion plant in Matagorda County, the Las Brisas plant in Corpus Christi, the Coleto Creek Unit 2 proposal in Goliad County, the Tenaska plant in Nolan County, and the Summit Texas plant in Ector County.
NRG Texas filed a letter announcing plans to cancel the Limestone 3 project with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the regional Environmental Protection Agency office on November 20, 2012. On November 21, the Commission cancelled the air permits for the plant.
[i] NRG Voidance Letter for Permits Nos. 79188/PSD-TX-1072 and HAP14, NRG Texas Power LLC Limestone Unit 3, November 20, 2012. http://texas.sierraclub.org/press/newsreleases/20121120TxLimestonePermitVoidanceLtr.pdf
[ii] TXU Martin Lake 4, TXU Monticello 4, TXU Big Brown 3, TXU Tradinghouse 3, TXU Tradinghouse 4, TXU Lake Creek 3, TXU Valley 4, TXU Morgan Creek 7, NRG Limestone 3, Twin Oaks 3, NuCoastal Calhoun County.
[iii] ERCOT, System Planning Monthly Status Report, October 2012. Figure 1.7. http://www.ercot.com/content/news/presentations/2012/18._October_System_Planning_Monthly_Status_Report.doc
[iv] Ibid, Table 1.6.