The Reality About North Texas Ozone And Power Plants


You may see some news coverage soon on “new” studies touted by environmental activist groups about ozone in North Texas and three of Luminant’s power plants. The studies will undoubtedly and mistakenly conclude that if only costly emission controls were mandated for these plants, the region would finally be in attainment for ozone.

But, alas, there’s nothing new here.

These studies with their predetermined results are sponsored by a small group of physicians with the Dallas County Medical Society and activists with Downwinders at Risk and are part of a continuing campaign that fits their political agenda. (Update, 10-19-15: North Texans for Natural Gas, in particular, have raised questions about the relationship between the report’s author, his research and the Downwinders group. You can read the full report, “Undisclosed Ties to Anti-Fracking Group Cast Haze over UNT Smog Research,” here.)

But, their claims don’t square with reality.

The fact is the air quality in North Texas is greatly improved and getting better, even as the population, economy and vehicle miles have grown. As the TCEQ recently noted, the North Texas eight-hour ozone levels have improved 21 percent during the last 15 years while the population grew more than 29 percent.

The vast majority, about 80 percent, of nitrogen oxide emissions in the 10-county North Texas area responsible for the formation of ozone comes from mobile sources—cars, trucks, construction equipment, airplanes and locomotives, not power plants.

dfw-air-quality-tceq-2014

 

We certainly share in everyone’s concern and desire for cleaner air. That’s why Luminant has a strong and proud history of meeting or exceeding the requirements of all state and federal emissions standards at all of our plants including Big Brown, Martin Lake and Monticello. From 2008 to 2014, Luminant spent about $1 billion for environmental control equipment across our entire fleet. In 2015 alone we expect to spend approximately $100 million.

What we’re hearing now is just the latest verse of the same tired song these few physicians and activist groups have been singing since 2013. Two years ago, they demanded the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality order these three plants install cost prohibitive equipment even though the air quality in North Texas is becoming cleaner, an indication existing laws and rules are working.

The TCEQ denied the activists’ request then and again this year. After gathering and evaluating more modeling data (page 201) since 2013 for the state implementation plan revision for North Texas ozone, the TCEQ this spring determined:

  • The controls requested “are not necessary” to demonstrate attainment for ozone in the ten county area by the 2018 deadline.
  • Imposing additional controls is “not justified.”
  • The “substantial” cost of more emissions equipment at the three plants would total almost $1.9 billion

Rebuffed by the data, these groups went out and did studies to get the conclusions they want.

Instead of making a real difference by marshaling support for the many transportation programs in North Texas to improve air quality, these activists reveal their true agenda: to close coal plants and force Texans to pay higher costs for their electric power. Their “solutions” include a new tax on generation, costly and unnecessary emissions controls and replacing the generation of these three plants with wind and solar at a cost of $56 billion and $40 billion, respectively.

Never mind that more than a third of the power used in Texas in 2014 was generated by affordable, reliable coal.

These critics seem to never want to debate outside their narrow interests and talk about the benefits. Martin Lake, Big Brown and Monticello are plants vital to powering Texas. Their value to the ERCOT grid has been ably demonstrated as records for peak demand kept being set in August. With a combined capacity of nearly 5300 megawatts, these plants generate enough electricity to power more than one million Texas homes in periods of peak demand and more than 2.6 million homes in normal conditions. And that power is generated in an environmentally responsible way.

Our state benefits from a diverse mix of fuels: coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewables. As the North Texas economy grows and more people move here they can be assured this balanced energy portfolio not only will keep power reliable and costs competitive but does its part to improve air quality, too.

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