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Sierra Club sues over coal permits

Remember how four coal plants were granted permits to pollute more in December? You probably don’t, because it basically happened under cover of darkness. The Sierra Club found out about it and has filed a lawsuit to call a halt to it.

Martin Lake coal plant

The environmental group is appealing permit amendments approved Dec. 16 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that allow increased emissions from the plants, in East and Central Texas, during periods of planned startup, shutdown and maintenance.

The issuance of the permits is “invalid, arbitrary and unreasonable,” according to the lawsuit filed in state District Court in Travis County.

The lawsuit comes as coal plants across the state apply for permit amendments for emissions produced during startup, shutdown and maintenance, which were not previously regulated, said Ilan Levin, an environmental attorney representing the Sierra Club.

Environment commission spokesman Terry Clawson said the agency has not received the lawsuit and will not comment on it, but he said the four permits questioned in the lawsuit were issued legally.

Coal plant operators were required to apply for the amendments to authorize increased emissions by Jan. 5, 2011 . The four plants involved in the suit, all owned by the state’s largest generator, Dallas-based Luminant Generation Co., applied for higher emission ceilings and were approved in December.

“We were surprised to find out that, really, just by trolling the agency’s website, that right before the holidays, the TCEQ had issued these permits to Luminant without any public notice or any sort of opportunity at all to file some formal comments,” Levin said.

I wish I could tell you more about this, but the Sierra Club webpage has no information on the suit, and I have been unable to get a copy of it for myself. So this is all I know for now. Texas Vox also wrote about this, but they don’t have anything more than the Statesman did.

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