Luminant, the Dallas-based energy generator, has long been a ripe target for environmentalists, who complain that its aging, coal-fueled power plants -- in particular North/Northeast Texas' Big Brown, Martin Lake, and Monticello -- are fouling the air with extraordinary amounts of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases. Under the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has followed suit.
No surprise there. Environmentalists and Obama are on the same side in the so-called war on coal. But Tuesday evening, the outcry against Luminant's power plants emerged from an unexpected source: the Dallas medical community.
The Dallas County Medical Society, an advocacy group comprised of 6,500 local doctors, announced that it is petitioning the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to crack down on Luminant and the three power plants mentioned above.
The group does not typically weigh in on politically loaded issues but says it has a very good reason for doing so in this case: cutting down on cases of asthma, chronic lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death contributed to by coal emissions.
"With the impending bankruptcy of the plants' owner, Energy Future Holdings, the plants likely will change hands," Dr. Cynthia Sherry, DCMS president, said in a press release. "This is the time to require that the plants lower their emissions to protect the health of North Texans."
The organization bolsters its case with a report commissioned from Daniel Cohan, an environmental engineering professor at Rice University. In the paper, a version of which is embedded below, Cohan takes a close look at the emissions from Luminant's three dirtiest coal plants, then lays out the options for retrofitting or replacing them. He suggests that a combination of natural gas and renewable sources (natural gas, geothermal, coastal wind, and solar) could easily replace the generating capacity and jobs provided by those plants.
"Because of their age, these three plants emit large amounts of pollution for a relatively small amount of electricity produced," Cohan said. "Today's technologies offer economically more attractive alternatives that would be far less polluting."
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According to The Dallas Morning News, the TCEQ has 60 days to decide whether it will heed DCMS's advice to revisit emissions standards. If it does, the new rules would go into effect in 2018.
Don't expect that to happen without a fight. Luminant spokesman Brad Watson told the News on Tuesday that the state's air is already becoming cleaner and that "existing laws and regulations are working."