A report last night by KBTX-TV Bryan-College Station centered on the chemical release data self-reported by power generators and other facilities in the Brazos Valley area of Texas. The information is provided by all power generators in the interest of transparency and appears in a publicly accessible Environmental Protection Agency database with compliance records in a separate database.
Luminant’s Oak Grove and Sandow power plants were mentioned in the news story that essentially reflected their exemplary compliance records.
It’s also an example of how the EPA databases often lack context in some of the compliance issues listed and what’s shown isn’t always the full story. I give credit to KTBX News Operations Manager Josh Gorbutt for reaching out to us for our side to explain and respond to questions about what he was seeing in the databases. Gorbutt and reporter Kessler McLaughlin also were careful to report the facilities in their story are not violating any laws.
In the editorial process, our full responses are usually cut down by reporters and editors in the interest of saving time or space in the news story. But here at POV, we have lots of space and I always have the time to share our outstanding compliance record in following all of the environmental rules and laws of our state and nation.
So, here are our full responses to the questions KBTX-TV put to us:
KBTX: What circumstances led to Oak Grove and Sandow 5 being out of compliance with the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act in 2013-2014? Have any additional violations occurred since these infractions?
Our response: “These two issues had no impact on the environment. They were administrative only and closed with no violations. At Oak Grove, a box wasn’t checked on a storm water report. When that was found, we quickly corrected it and the ECHO database shows resolved. At Sandow 5, we responded to alleged violations noted during a regular compliance inspection by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. After we submitted explanatory paperwork, the TCEQ determined there was no violation.”
KBTX: Many of the chemicals listed above are toxic in small quantities when introduced to drinking water or inhaled by humans. What steps are taken at Oak Grove and the Sandow stations to protect residents and Luminant employees?
Our response: “We don’t discharge water that’s been in contact with coal ash. Further, the ash is safely deposited on site in landfills that meet TCEQ design requirements to protect public health.”
KBTX: According to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, the Oak Grove Station is among the largest polluters in the state of Texas and does not currently (as documented in 2013) engage in significant off-site waste treatment or management. The Sandow 5 Plant also follows closely behind Oak Grove and is the second largest polluter in the Brazos Valley. Why has Luminant not taken advantage of alternate waste treatment or disposal methods encouraged by the EPA? What long term plans does Luminant have in the area to mitigate the effects of pollution on the local environment?
Our response: “This question has to do with coal ash that the EPA has determined is non-hazardous. Luminant safely collects and deposits this material on site in TCEQ approved landfills. We also recycle coal ash for use in products such as concrete and drywall. In 2014, Oak Grove recycled more coal ash resulting in less going into landfills.”
Additionally we told KBTX, “We want to emphasize to you as well that Luminant has a strong compliance history and we are very proud of our environmental record. On the rare occasion when we do have a minor issue, we follow all regulatory agency requirements to self-report and disclose as well as immediately implement corrective actions.
Combined, these two plants have the capacity to power the equivalent of 1,370,000 homes. I think it’s important, and only fair, too, to point out the great benefits of coal generation to our state in providing dependable, affordable and environmentally responsible power.”