Environmentalists Prevail Over Coal-Burning Plants in Texas, Georgia

AUSTIN, Texas, December 14, 2011 (ENS) – LS Power and its subsidiary, Sandy Creek Energy Associates, have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by environmentalists that will result in reduced emissions from a new coal-fired power plant in Texas and no Longleaf coal power plant in Georgia.

Sierra Club, Public Citizen, and Sandy Creek Energy Associates Monday filed a consent decree with the U.S. District Court in Austin settling legal challenges to the Sandy Creek Energy Station near Riesel, Texas.

Based in Houston, Texas, Sandy Creek Energy Associates operates as subsidiary of LS Power Development, LLC, which is headquartered in New Jersey.

Although the U.S. Court of Appeals had previously ruled in favor of Sierra Club’s and Public Citizen’s lawsuit against this proposed plant for Clean Air Act violations, construction of the plant was well under way. Today, construction of the Sandy Creek Energy Station is nearly complete.

The consent decree requires Sandy Creek to reduce its emissions of toxic mercury and particle pollution from this plant and make clean energy investments in the local community.

The 900 megawatt pulverized coal Sandy Creek power plant near Riesel, Texas (Photo courtesy LS Power)

“The federal courts found that we were right on the law,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen, “but the plant is now almost complete, so emission reductions and solar on school rooftops are a good compromise that will both reduce pollution and help bolster reserve capacity for next summer. This would not have occurred if the citizens in the area had not gotten together to oppose the plant as it was originally proposed.”

The clean energy investments required by this settlement include a proposed solar panel installation at a nearby school.

Sierra Club campaigner Jen Powis said, “With this settlement, Sierra Club and Public Citizen were able to secure more than $400,000 for solar generation around the Riesel community, creating clean energy jobs and boosting the state’s solar capacity. This settlement also achieves a significant reduction in pollution, which benefits Texans and our neighbors.”

Within 60 days of the entry of this Consent Decree, Sandy Creek must pay $400,000 to Hallsburg Independent School District to support the installation of rooftop solar panels at the elementary school in Hallsburg, Texas.

District superintendent Kent Reynolds said, “Hallsburg ISD is very fortunate to be the beneficiary of a settlement allowing Hallsburg School to install solar panels on our facility for electricity production that will directly benefit the district. The savings on electricity realized by this project will allow the school to spend that money on the over-all instructional program for the students.”

“This is a great settlement for our community and our schools,” said Robert Cervenka, co-chair of the local organization Texans Protecting Our Water Environment and Resources.

“As a result of our efforts, this new settlement will reduce emissions of mercury by 50 percent and particle emissions by another 25 percent,” said Cervenka. “This in addition to significant reductions we had already achieved as a result of citizens standing up for their rights, with the added bonus of a solar system being built on one of our local schools. This just shows the power of people in a community working together to maintain the quality of life we moved here for.”

A side agreement that has not been made public requires LS Power to withdraw all requests for power plant permits in Georgia and Arkansas, and that any issued permits be rescinded or revoked.

This side agreement ends a 10-year battle over whether or not LS Power should be allowed to build the Longleaf Energy Station, a coal-fired power plant scheduled for construction in Blakley, southwest Georgia.

Sierra Club, Friends of the Chattahoochee and GreenLaw have been campaigning against the Longleaf coal plant since it was first proposed in 2001. The environmental groups say the defeat of Longleaf has prevented millions of tons of air pollution from entering the atmosphere.

Sierra Club is counting this agreement as a victory, saying it marks the 160th proposed coal plant canceled since Sierra Club launched its Beyond Coal campaign in 2005.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2011. All rights reserved.