Glenn and Carolyn Brinkman:
"This ten mile limit of how far wind blows just blows
For Immediate Release: December 15, 2006
Donna Hoffman, Sierra Club, 512-477-1729 or 512-299-5776 cell
Attorney Ilan Levin, Environmental Integrity Project, 512-619-7287
Rita Beving, Sierra Club, 214-373-3808
Glenn & Carolyn Brinkman, Anderson County ranch family,
Sierra Club Allies Oppose Coal Plants at State Hearing
Groups Promote Cleaner and Less Costly Ways to Fuel our Economy
(Austin, TX) – A broad range of opponents showed up in Austin on Thursday to battle six proposed TXU coal-fired power plants in a preliminary contested case hearing conducted by the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). Those opposing the granting of permits to build and operate the power plants included the Sierra Club and other national environmental groups, new Texas rural citizen groups, the Clean Air Coalition of Cities, the Waco Chamber of Commerce, and numerous individuals from around the state.
"This unprecedented outpouring of opposition to these plants reflects the fact that the proposed coal-burners represent a major assault on our state's air quality and the health of Texans in rural and urban areas," said Ilan Levin, an attorney with the Environmental Integrity Project who is representing the Sierra Club in contesting the plant permits.
"The tragedy of TXU's assault is that there are already cleaner and less costly ways of meeting our state's energy needs. We need instead to ramp up our efforts to achieve energy efficiency and expand the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar."
Key Issues Addressed at Final Preliminary Hearing
Participants in the growing, broad-based and bi-partisan movement against coal packed a crowded SOAH hearing room in Austin to argue with TXU attorneys, a newly-formed TXU-funded group called "Texans for Affordable Power," and with the Counsel for the Texas Commission on Environmental
Governor's Executive Order Called Unconstitutional, Violation of Due Process
“Groups opposing the coal plants objected to the expedited permitting process, or "fast-tracking" under Governor Rick Perry's Executive Order 49 which he signed in late October 2005. Environmental Defense and Sierra Club filed motions asking for the normal, more thorough, review for the TXU permits.
"All we're asking for is the normal deliberative process," said Ilan Levin Attorney for the Sierra Club.
Expediting the hearing process for over a dozen major industrial facilities raises important public health and due process issues. Deliberations in the hearing process which would normally last at least a year and a half are set on a six-month schedule under the Governor's fast-tracking Order. Citizen participation has become limited as hundreds of citizens who are trying to make their opposition to the coal plants heard must struggle to gain representation, which can be expensive, or face a fast learning curve to represent themselves in complicated legal proceedings.
Sierra Club objected to the consolidation of these six TXU permit applications into a single contested case hearing.
“"This potential reduction of important issues involving six separate sites spread around the state sets the dangerous precedent of bulk permitting of major industrial facilities," said Donna Hoffman, Communications Coordinator for the Sierra Club.
Attorneys objecting to the Governor's Executive Order also pointed out that TXU will not be using a Texas fuel source as stipulated in the Order but rather will transport coal from Wyoming on diesel trains. The Order also calls for diversification of energy sources.
"The TXU applications do not propose to use Texas energy sources. Instead they want to use inefficient and polluting means of transporting the fuel great distances. Nor do they diversify energy sources since the bulk of the fuel burned for our electricity at present already comes from dirty coal,"
"We do not need more coal plants. There are cleaner and less costly technologies available to meet our energy needs. It is time to say no to TXU and make the transition to greatly increased efficiency and clean renewable energy."
In the one of the central issues of the hearing, the SOAH Judges allowed party status to the Clean Air Coalition of Cities, which represents city and county governments from across the State and most recently, independent school districts. Begun by Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, the Coalition has raised litigation funds from its members and has grown in recent months to include city and county governments in many areas where the coal plants are planned.
A major new development this week was the addition of Hallsburg ISD, whose School Board voted this week to join the coalition. Hallsburg ISD is the first school district in the state to clearly oppose the proposed coal plants, demonstrating their concern about the pollution from the coal plants making their children ill. Since their decision, a neighboring school board in Axtel plans to follow in a vote planned for this week.
A dramatic exchange at the hearing ensued when
Paul Sadler, Attorney for "Texans for Affordable Power" requested
standing for his group in support of TXU's permit
applications. The TCEQ Office of Public Interest Counsel
raised questions based on the
purpose of the group. When Sadler questioned his witness,
Mayor Roy Hill of Fairfield, two gentlemen with
party status in the case - Charles Morgan, President of
Fairfield-based Citizens for Environmental Cleanup and
Glenn Brinkman a Fairfield-area rancher cross - examined
the Mayor about his membership in a group supporting an
economic activity that would endanger the health and livelihood
of the citizenry. In their questioning, the Mayor revealed
that the public relations work of "Texans for Affordable
Power" is paid
for by TXU, and the Administrative Law Judge
followed by aligning the group with TXU.
Transport of Air Pollutants
In the consideration of both the notice objection and the admission of parties to the case, the question of how far away emissions from the power plants will impact air quality was raised several times. TXU suggested that the wind impacts were only of importance at ten miles from the proposed smokestacks. Attorneys and Individuals opposed to the coal permits tested this assertion repeatedly.
Sierra Club representatives and the attorney for Environmental Defense referred to the Bravo Study which established in 1996 that chemicals in the pollution composing the haze hanging in Big Bend National Park could only be attributed to the emissions transported from as far away as North East Texas coal-fired power plants.
In a related issue, Environmental Defense objected that no notice was given to federal land managers in key federally-protected wilderness areas near some of the proposed TXU coal plants but was over-ruled.
"This ten mile limit of how far wind blows just blows
my mind," said Anderson County rancher Glenn Brinkman.