Luminant defends emissions from three of big lignite-fired plants

Luminant said Aug. 28 that despite legal action that day from a small group of physicians from the Dallas County Medical Society and environmental activists, its coal-fired emissions are within legal limits.

The groups filed at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for more emissions regulations at three Luminant coal plants in East Texas. “This filing, the latest in an ongoing campaign, was completely unnecessary,” said Luminant. “With Texas air becoming cleaner, the record is clear that existing laws and regulations are working.”

Luminant said it has a “strong and proud history” of meeting or exceeding the requirements of all state and federal emissions standards at the Big Brown, Martin Lake and Monticello coal plants and all of its power plants.

The reason the Dallas-Fort Worth area does not meet the federal ozone standard is largely because of NOX emissions from vehicles, not the coal plants, Luminant said. In fact, the TCEQ reports that more than 80% of NOx comes from mobile sources.

“But blaming the real cause doesn’t fit with these activists’ narrow agenda of trying to close coal plants and force Texans to pay higher costs for their electric power from less reliable sources,” said Luminant. “Even the report by Rice University Associate Professor Dr. Daniel Cohan estimates the cost of replacing the capacity of these plants with wind power at well over $50 billion and solar energy at $40 billion.”

The Cohan report isn’t a realistic plan for a rapidly growing state like Texas that must have reliable electric generation, Luminant said. With the Texas electric grid operating close to its targeted reserve margin, plants of this size are critical to ensure the stability of the grid year-round and especially during hot Texas summers, it added.

With a combined capacity of nearly 5,300 MW, these three coal plants generate enough electricity to power more than one million Texas homes in periods of peak demand and more than 2.6 million Texas homes in normal conditions. In the last five years, Luminant parent Energy Future Holdings has spent more than $10bn in investments across Texas for new projects and to improve its facilities. Of that $10bn, $850m has been spent for environmental technology and other improvements to provide cleaner generation from the coal-fueled power plants. “Further, we will continue to invest in our plants and mines to comply with all environmental laws and to safely and economically power Texas,” Luminant said.

The subject plants are:

  • Big Brown is fired mostly with locally-mined lignite, supplemented by Powder River Basin (PRB) coal. The operating capacity is 1,150 MW. Unit 1 began operation in 1971 and Unit 2 in 1972.
  • Martin Lake is also fired mainly by local lignite, supplemented by PRB coal. It has an operating capacity of 2,250 MW. Unit 1 began operation in 1977, Unit 2 in 1978 and Unit 3 in 1979.
  • Monticello is fired mostly with lignite, supplemented by PRB coal. The operating capacity is 1,880 MW. Unit 1 began operation in 1974, Unit 2 in 1975 and Unit 3 in 1978.

Luminant is a competitive power generation business, including lignite coal mining, wholesale marketing and trading, and development operations. Luminant has more than 15,400 MW of generation in Texas, including 2,300 MW fueled by nuclear power and 8,000 MW fueled by coal. The company is also one of the largest purchasers of wind-generated electricity in Texas and the nation.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.