Executive Summary:Addressing Pollution from Legacy Coal Power Plants in Texas
As Energy Future Holdings faces an uncertain financial future, three of its legacycoal-fired power plants from the former TXU feature prominently in the energy and airquality challenges confronting Texas. These 1970’s vintage facilities – Big Brown, MartinLake, and Monticello – are among the leading emitters of air pollutants and greenhousegases in Texas. Their emissions of nitrogen oxides (NO
) – more than 30,200 tons in 2011– have been shown to contribute to excess levels of ground-level ozone in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Tyler-Longview-Marshall regions. Substantial reductions in NO
emissions will be needed in order for these regions to attain air quality standards forozone, a pollutant that can cause respiratory illness and premature mortality. Theiremissions of sulfur dioxide (SO
) have been modeled to exceed SO
standards up to 10miles downwind of each plant, and contribute to unhealthful particulate matter over farlonger distances. Ozone and particulate matter increasingly have been linked to illnessand mortality, prompting the Environmental Protection Agency to tighten air pollutionstandards for these pollutants. Meanwhile, these three power plants ranked nationallyamong the top five emitters of mercury, a potent neurotoxin linked to IQ impairmentand other developmental problems in children.Given the outsized contribution of these power plants to air pollutants andgreenhouse gases relative to electricity output in Texas, substantial emission reductionscould be achieved by installing retrofit pollution control devices or replacing the plantswith natural gas or renewable electricity generation (Figure E1). Retrofit controls suchas selective non-catalytic reduction or selective catalytic reduction, dry sorbents, andactivated carbon injection could substantially reduce emissions of NO
, andmercury respectively. However, these controls would entail hundreds of millions ofdollars of investments in aging facilities whose emission rates would continue to farexceed those of new power generators, at a time when low power prices have alreadyseverely impaired their financial viability.