EPA Overturns Permit for TX Coal Plant That Allowed Dangerous Air Pollution

Texas Must Now Eliminate Loophole for Soot Pollution from H.W. Pirkey Power Plant In Harrison County, Texas. Decision Could Have Implications Statewide.

Austin, February 4, 2016 – Clean air advocates won an important victory today when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overturned the air pollution control permit of a coal-fired power plant that had a loophole that allowed dangerous amounts of particulate pollution.

In 2014, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) revised a permit issued for the H.W. Pirkey Power Plant, located about two hours east of Dallas in Harrison County, Texas, to include improper exemptions from particulate limits during startup, shutdown and maintenance.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, in a written order received by the Environmental Integrity Project and Sierra Club today, objected to the plant’s federal clean air act permit and ordered TCEQ to revise and re-issue the permit.

EPA objected to the permit, which authorizes the Pirkey plant to emit nearly 1,500 pounds of dangerous particulate matter pollution per hour during planned maintenance, startup and shutdown activities, because it illegally exempted the plant from health and nuisance-based emission limits established by Texas and approved by EPA.

The TCEQ has issued similar exemptions for nearly every coal-fired power plant in the State. So even though EPA’s decision impacts only one plant, it sets a precedent for the many other coal-fired power plants in the state that currently have flawed permits.

“This is a victory for clean air,” said Gabriel Clark-Leach, the Environmental Integrity Project attorney who drafted the petition to EPA challenging the permit. “EPA’s objection is important, because it puts power plant operators on notice that the TCEQ’s illegal maintenance exemptions are ineffective and sends a clear message to Texas that it must actually enforce the rules it writes.”

“For too long big polluters have been able to pollute without consequence in Texas because our state regulators continually kowtow to their will,” said Chrissy Mann, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Today’s action from the EPA is an important first step to make sure that the operators of dirty and outdated power plants are held accountable for the pollution their facilities spew into our air. It also sends a strong message that the state cannot allow private interests to make the rules at the sake of the health and safety of Texans.”

The Environmental Integrity Project is a 14-year-old, national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to holding polluters and governments accountable to protect public health.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.4 million members and supporters. In addition to helping people from all backgrounds explore nature and our outdoor heritage, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.

For a copy of the order, click here.

For a copy of the petition, click here.

Media contacts:

Gabriel Clark-Leach, Environmental Integrity Project (512) 637-9478

Jessica Herrera, Sierra Club (520) 260-1725