Dallas Doctors Ask Texas to Clean Up Luminant's Coal Plants, Citing Asthma, Heart Attacks, and "Premature Death"

Luminant's Big Brown power plant near Fairfield, Texas.
Luminant, the Dallas-based energy generator, has long been a ripe target for environmentalists, who complain that its aging, coal-fueled power plants -- in particular North/Northeast Texas' Big Brown, Martin Lake, and Monticello -- are fouling the air with extraordinary amounts of toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases. Under the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency has followed suit.

No surprise there. Environmentalists and Obama are on the same side in the so-called war on coal. But Tuesday evening, the outcry against Luminant's power plants emerged from an unexpected source: the Dallas medical community.

The Dallas County Medical Society, an advocacy group comprised of 6,500 local doctors, announced that it is petitioning the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to crack down on Luminant and the three power plants mentioned above.

See also: DOJ Sues Dallas-based Power Generator Luminant for Alleged Clean Air Act Violations

The group does not typically weigh in on politically loaded issues but says it has a very good reason for doing so in this case: cutting down on cases of asthma, chronic lung disease, heart attacks, and premature death contributed to by coal emissions.

"With the impending bankruptcy of the plants' owner, Energy Future Holdings, the plants likely will change hands," Dr. Cynthia Sherry, DCMS president, said in a press release. "This is the time to require that the plants lower their emissions to protect the health of North Texans."

The organization bolsters its case with a report commissioned from Daniel Cohan, an environmental engineering professor at Rice University. In the paper, a version of which is embedded below, Cohan takes a close look at the emissions from Luminant's three dirtiest coal plants, then lays out the options for retrofitting or replacing them. He suggests that a combination of natural gas and renewable sources (natural gas, geothermal, coastal wind, and solar) could easily replace the generating capacity and jobs provided by those plants.

See also: Report: Texas Power Plants (Well, Luminant's, Really) Biggest Emitters of Mercury in U.S.

"Because of their age, these three plants emit large amounts of pollution for a relatively small amount of electricity produced," Cohan said. "Today's technologies offer economically more attractive alternatives that would be far less polluting."

According to The Dallas Morning News, the TCEQ has 60 days to decide whether it will heed DCMS's advice to revisit emissions standards. If it does, the new rules would go into effect in 2018.

Don't expect that to happen without a fight. Luminant spokesman Brad Watson told the News on Tuesday that the state's air is already becoming cleaner and that "existing laws and regulations are working."

Dallas County Medical Society vs. Luminant

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Sotiredofitall topcommenter

"the new rules would go into effect in 2018"  who will own these plants by then?

 What has the Dallas County Medical Society proposed to replace them?

Russ Coffman
Russ Coffman

Good luck with that. Gov. Oops and Greg Abbott have their backs.


Do we really need clear air?  What do all them fancy Docters and schients no anyhow


These folks need to spend some time at the border looking over at the Blade Runner-esque skyline of the maquiladoras.  Or maybe downtown Mexico city.  Or in San Jose, Costa Rica.  THAT's pollution.

The maquiladoras emit truly 1950s-era Cleveland-levels of pollution that drifts over the border into El Paso.  Why no doctor's assoc letters to Mexico slapping the Mexicans about the head for dirtying up the place?

Dallas, Houston, etc. are (comparatively) pure as the driven snow, pollution-wise.  It is only the EPA's continual ratcheting down on all sort of emissions that puts Dallas & Houston in a bad light. 

I appreciate our current, lower levels of aitr pollution as I simultaneously appreciate teh need for a diversity of fuels from which to generate electricity to pad us from market shocks.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

' Because of their age, these three plants emit large amounts of pollution for a relatively small amount of electricity produced," Cohan said. "

Umm ... 1,150 MW  at Big Brown; 2,250 MW at Martin Lake; and, 1,880 at Monticello is hardly a small amount of power ... About 8% of the installed capacity in ERCOT ...

Granted it is from Luminant, but it appears to be fairly factual ...




Note that Luminant claims that it is using a control technology to reduce Hg emissions.


@Sotiredofitall Quoting the article: "He suggests that a combination of natural gas and renewable sources (natural gas, geothermal, coastal wind, and solar) could easily replace the generating capacity and jobs provided by those plants."

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter


Don't forget the El Carbon power plant in Mexico that is directly responsible for the haze in Big Bend National Park.

It is quite a disappointment to go there on some days and not be able to see the clear sky.

As far as haze goes, you don't need to go back to the 50's.  In the 80's in the upper Ohio Valley  in Ohio, a haze was constant.  The sky constantly had a dreary brownish/gray color to it instead of blue.  I found it quite depressing.  Also in the same time period, the SO2 emission in Pittsburgh would just about gag you.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@GatoCat @Sotiredofitall  

There really are not any significant geothermal resources in Texas that are economic to produce.  At best, there is the use of a well or buried grid heat  exchanger for home heating and cooling.  Even still, the costs of these installations do not have a positive rate or return.

Sotiredofitall topcommenter

@GatoCat  Good luck with all that - the natural gas bubble is already nearing the pop and everything else listed is theoretical 

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