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Health & Science

Environmentalists Rally Against Coal-Fired Plant At City Hall

Environmentalists continue to fight against coal-fired power plants in Texas. The Sierra Club released data today showing that if a new coal plant is built in Matagorda County, then ozone levels in Houston could get worse. They say it's time for the mayor and the city to speak out. KUHF Health Science and Technology reporter Carrie Feibel has more.



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Sierra Club members rallied at Houston City Hall. They brought along a giant inflatable hand clutching an asthma inhaler. Lydia Avila works on the group’s Beyond Coal Campaign:

 “Houston is in a bad place right now. With 21 ‘bad air’ days already, the last thing we need is another source of pollution that’s going to put our communities in even greater risk of health problems.”

The White Stallion Energy Center would be built near Bay City, about 80 miles southwest of Houston. The owners still need various water and environmental permits.

The Sierra Club hired an MIT analyst to look at how Houston’s ozone levels would change. Her answer was that ozone could increase slightly around the city on some days – depending on weather and wind conditions.

Wetlands in the Mad Island Marsh Preserve, a bird refuge that would be located a few miles from the proposed coal plant

Dr. Stuart Abramson is an allergy and asthma specialist with the American Lung Association.

 “There’s clear evidence that ozone can trigger worsening of asthma and other health effects, but it can also cause the development of new asthma in children.”

The EPA is preparing to announce a new stricter ozone standard in the new few weeks.

But the Houston Galveston and Brazoria region can’t even meet the current standard. 

And that’s what has people worried about a new coal plant.

Ed Gonzalez is a Houston councilman:

 “To me this is a step backwards. More than 20 regions across the state have failed to achieve good ambient air quality standards, so we need to be improving this, not taking a step back.”

On the White Stallion website, the plant developers say they’ll install more than the minimum required equipment to capture and scrub toxic gases.

And they’ll provide more than 2,000 temporary construction jobs and 200 permanent jobs.

Kat Herrera also works on the Beyond Coal Campaign. She says it’s time for Mayor Annise Parker to take a harder stance.

“I personally kind of get the sense that she doesn’t want to step on anyone’s toes and she doesn’t really want to tell another county what to do. I think she might be a little reluctant to actually just come out and say what needs to be said, and that is that Houston already has really bad air and it’s time we start making a change and making it better for everyone.”

Parker wasn’t available to comment but her spokeswoman points out that the mayor did write a letter of concern to the Army Corps of Engineers.

In the letter, she asks the agency to conduct an in-depth environmental review of the plant. 

From the KUHF Health Science and Technology Desk, I’m Carrie Feibel.