Public Citizen Texas and the Sierra Club just closed out their first week on the Texas State-Wide Coal Plant Tour. After a quick break, the tour’s fight against grandfathering will continue next Monday, September 28 in College Station.
So far, the media tour has brought awareness to communities in Waco, Dallas, and Abilene in regards to nearby coal plants that are flying under the legal radar. These districts have been negatively impacted by the failure of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality(TCEQ) to enforce the law and control pollution.
The Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) recently rejected key aspects of the TCEQ’s air permitting plan, and called for proper enforcement of the Clean Air Act in Texas. The goal of Public Citizen Texas and the Sierra Club has been to stop the development of any new coal plants in Texas, as well as those that are currently being constructed. The proposed moratorium would last at least until the TCEQ cracks the whip and strictly enforces Clean Air regulations.
According to a clause under the American Clean Energy and Security Act, plants that are already under construction, near construction or were permitted before January 1, 2009, may escape new regulations. Around 43 new coal plants will be built on American soil within the next five years, with about a dozen of those in Texas alone. These provisions—which have come to be called ‘grandfathering’ clauses—and others like it, could allow all of these plants to escape recently set performance standards.
To put things into perspective, let’s take a minute to reflect on the original grandfather clauses. Birthed during the segregationist Jim Crow period that followed the Civil War, grandfather clauses restricted voting rights in several southern states. It stated that men, or descendents of men, who had voted before 1866 did not have to meet the educational, property, or tax requirements for voting then in existence; however, slaves could not legally vote before or during the Civil War. Therefore, most individuals were deemed ineligible. The Jim Crow laws were inevitably struck down, but the idea of the grandfather clause remained.
What’s the phrase? Oh, yes. It’s merely history repeating itself.
Congress’ initial decision to exempt existing coal plants from the stipulations listed under the Clean Air Act was to avoid causing any economic disruption. They assumed the older plants would be replaced with newer, cleaner ones; but instead, the grandfathering clause has encouraged utilities to just extend the lives of the old, high-polluting plants.
There is no reason why plants being permitted and built today should not be held to the new emission standards. The first step to combat this problem should begin at the state level. If you live in College Station, Corpus Christi, Bay City, or Houston, our clean energy trailer is coming to a venue near you. The remaining dates and times of the Texas State-Wide Coal Plant Tour are listed in a blog below.
By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.