March 4, 2004
Mr. Glenn Shankle
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
Post Office Box 13087
Austin, Texas 78711-3087
Tel 512 239-4000
Dear Mr. Shankle:
Residences of the Riesel community and Waco area in McLennan County are facing an air quality permit being sought from your agency by a company called L.S. Power Development, LLC for the Sandy Creek Energy Associates, L.P. facilities in order to site and construct a new 800 megawatt, coal-fired electric utility plant in our small Riesel area. The proposed electric utility plant raises a number of perplexing questions and concerns that we are requesting your assistance as TCEQ executive director in addressing since Riesel-Waco communities have never been
confronted by such a large emitting plant before.
Since our careful reading of the TCEQ public draft air quality permit for the Sandy Creek Energy Associates plant, we recognize that the new electric utility plant may be permitted by the agency to produce large amounts of air pollution - listed to date at more than 14,600 total tons per year into our local Riesel-Waco air supply, especially Sulfur Dioxide (4,302 tons), Fine Particulate Matter 2.5 (1,183 tons of total PM/PM10) Nitrogen Oxides (3,226 tons), Carbon Monoxide (5,377 tons), Volatile Organic Compounds (129 tons), Heavy Metals like Mercury (1,180 pounds) & Lead (820) pounds, Ammonia (99 tons) Sulfuric Acid (247 tons) Hydrofluoric Acid (87 tons) Hydrochloric Acid (annual tons failed to be listed in the draft permit), and other Acidic Chemicals. As we understand from learning about the toxicity of these 14,000 tons of annual emissions, all the plant's pollutants are toxic from one degree to another and there will be nothing safe emitted from the plant's smokestacks, unless is disperses adequately before reaching ground level. We wonder precisely how TCEQ proposes to control the wind speed and wind direction to insure that the plant's emissions will always disperse efficiently 100% of the time so we will not suffer adverse health effects or even property damage? We know that the Riesel-Waco area has brief periods often everyday of low wind speeds and inversions when the stack emissions may not behave as the TCEQ or the company expects them to and greater than worst-case maximum ground level impacts occur. What if an inversion lasts for several hours and the plant's emissions pile up sitting over the Riesel community to levels above health-based standards?
During electric utility generation and coal-burning operations that we expect to take place 24/7/365 according to the draft permit since the plant can legally run all the time if it chooses to do so, the Sandy Creek Energy plant's air pollution will be leaving the plant's smokestacks and drifting over and falling out onto the homes and private property of the Riesel-Waco communities. We fear that the TCEQ can do little to prevent harmful airborne fallout from the plant down at ground level where we live and breathe, that is, unless the permit is significantly cleaned up and the agency is far more motivated to protect public health of people living in the Riesel-Waco communities. Our communities contain a large number of children who are the most sensitive population to air pollution and they will be among those suffering the worst health effects from the new plant, in some cases, children could even suffer long lasting development impairments for decades and decades.
According to your agency, the draft Sandy Creek Energy permit is, in theory, supposed to be written with strong enforceable conditions to ensure the protection of public health, private property and the environment. Nonetheless, we are concerned by the agency's theoretically claim of safety given the exceptionally large volumes of harmful emissions from the proposed Sandy Creek Energy plant and the close proximity of local residents and ranchers to the new plant site. If the Sandy Creek Energy plant fails to either meet or fully comply with the agency's theoretically safety assurances, the local residents and their children will end up suffering the adverse health consequences and private property impacts to whatever degree the permit conditions fail to comprehensively address the plant's ultimate pollution effects.
We would like to be more hopeful and positive about the Sandy Creek Energy plant but the current draft permit leaves us little reason to remain optimistic that our health is going to be safely protected.
Information has been made available showing the Sandy Creek Energy polluting the Dallas-Fort Worth area with more smog pollution when the wind blows in the northerly direction from the Riesel plant, based on computer modeling. Our serious concern is that if citizens in the Dallas-Fort Worth area can suffer from these kinds of harmful smog effects made worse by the new electric utility plant and that your agency is willing to support these major pollution problems. We know our local Riesel-Waco area will experience even worse effects. It's puzzling to us that the TCEQ
seems willing to grant a permit resulting in air-quality degradation in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and if TCEQ
can not protect the several million people living up there, we are less optimistic our own health will be fully safeguarded by the agency.
We are also collecting disconcerting information about harmful health effects and private property damage from residents of southeast San Antonio living in the area of the City Public Service's electric utility plants in the Calaveras Lake vicinity. What we have learned about the health and property damage complaints of the southeast San Antonio residents to date is deeply discouraging to say the least. We now know to reasonably expect that many in our community will likely suffer adverse health effects and property damage from dirty electric utility plants burning coal that are sited relatively close to populated commentates like the Sandy Creek Energy plant is proposed to be. We may consequently join the San Antonio residents in suffering from a dirty electric utility plant once the Sandy Creek Energy is built unless the agency seeks to require greater reductions and issues a more stringent permit for a much lower emitting, cleaner power plant. As TCEQ executive director, certainly you will agree with us that the Sandy Creek Energy plant is being sited directly adjacent to our community and homes - we feel that's too close for such a dirty coal fired electric utility power plant.
We want to share the following community concerns with you and the TCEQ staff about the localized heavy pollution fallout from the proposed Sandy Creek Energy plant:
*adverse human health consequences suffered by Riesel-Waco residents and children
*adverse animal health consequences caused to our farm animals and pets
*private property damage from acid rain and acid dust fallout we know will occur from acidic chemicals emitted by the Riesel plant
*ground level fugitive coal dust blowing off plant's coal stockpiles onto our property if not properly watered and adequately controlled.
*bioaccumulation of mercury and highly toxic chemicals emitted by the plant, since EPA recognizes unusually harmful substances which are persistent, toxic and bioaccumlulative.
We are requesting that the agency require, as part of the power plant's permit, pollution monitoring beyond the fence line out in the Riesel community to provide a real-world level of evidence to support that the Sandy Creek Energy electric utility is not polluting at unsafe levels or otherwise harming the community. So far we have not seen any community air monitoring proposed in the draft Sandy Creek Energy permit, and feel strongly that the agency is erring in not requiring this kind of added safeguard, particularly since such monitoring technology is readily available to day. What we want it a local ambient air monitoring system to be set up and an air monitoring protocol to be designed to help resolve our specific concerns of unsafe pollution from the Sandy Creek power plant.
We ask that the following Sandy Creek Energy plant pollutants be tested for: Sulfur Dioxide, Particulate Matter 2.5, Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, Hydrochloric Acid and & other Acidic chemicals like Sulfuric Acid. We believe that ozone monitoring should be conducted since the high levels of nitrogen oxide emissions from the power plants during peak operations particularly in the hot summer time period of July, August, September may contribute to higher ozone levels in our area and potentially push us into exceeding the federal eight-hour ozone standard. In terms of the ambient air monitoring, we request either the agency conduct the monitoring or the company pay 100% of the Riesel monitoring station.
*baseline ambient air testing needs to be conducted at least six month before the plant starts operation.
*after plant startup, real-time testing of the plants pollutants listed above.
*meteorological data such as wind speed, wind direction and related variables.
*provide the public with real-time online access to the pollutant monitoring data to allow Riesel community to help us in tracking the plant's compliance and to find out how the plant is operating if we experience air pollution problems associated with its electric utility operations.
In addition, we request a mercury sampling and testing program to test locally caught fish in local stock ponds and other area water bodies as necessary to determine the Riesel-Waco community impact of mercury from Sandy Creek Energy Plant:
*baseline mercury testing to determine background levels before the plant starts operations.
*upon plant startup, design and implement a mercury fish testing plan for the Riesel-Waco area.
If the TCEQ does not possess the funding necessary to carry out the requested community air monitoring and fish testing, then the agency needs to require the Sandy Creek Energy company to pay for all the necessary community testing as part of the permit or through other arrangements or agreements.
Recently the Houston Chronicle published a five-part series from Jan. 16-20 on toxic air pollution problems present in the Houston area, and clearly the information about the TCEQ as revealed in such great detail by the Chronicle does not provide a positive image for a state agency that is supposed to, in theory, be protecting public health and the environment. The chronicle series appears to suggest that the agency works harder at protecting industry than it does in protecting the public health. We certainly hope that is not the case. Our community encourages the agency to do a better job in protecting public health and fulfill its mission under the law.
We finally are asking to have a public meeting in Austin in the coming weeks with the agency staff to discuss our requests for environmental monitoring and testing around the proposed Sandy Creek Energy Plant.
Ricky Bates, Chairman T-Power
PO Box 505, Riesel, Texas 76682
Robert L Cervenka, Co-Chairman T-Power
1965 Mount Moriah Rd., Riesel, Texas 76682
254-875-2286 Cell 716-3966
Texas Governor Rick Perry
US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson
US House Representative Chet Edwards
State Senator Kip Averitt
State Representative Jim Dunham
State Representative Charles "Doc "Anderson
McLennan County Commissioners
Waco City Council
Riesel City Council
Dallas Morning News
Forth Worth Star-Telegram
Waco Tribune Herald
Richard Greene, EPA Region 6 regional administrator
Eric Hendrickson, TCEQ permit engineer.