Community speaks against proposed fracked gas plant at TCEQ public meeting

Opposition increases pressure on El Paso City Council to act

Nov 17 — This evening at a public meeting of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), El Paso residents and other impacted residents spoke in opposition to El Paso Electric’s (EPE’s) plan to construct a new 228-megawatt fracked gas power plant at the Newman Generating Station. The meeting, held at local residents’ request, collected public comment regarding EPE’s application for an air pollution permit for the proposed unit, referred to as “Newman 6”.  TCEQ is expected to consider the application in early 2021.

Recent investigation of TCEQ and public comments regarding its enforcement practices show an understaffed agency that does not investigate or take action against illegal pollution TCEQ’s refusal to protect public health and the environment increases the importance of local government action. Concerned residents and supporting groups are currently pressuring the El Paso City Council to block the Newman 6 proposal. Although the Council has expressed public disapproval of Newman 6, it has not taken the action necessary to prevent the proposal’s construction.

Comments submitted by El Paso residents and groups from around the region at the hearing included the following:

“I oppose this fracked gas plant ‘expansion because my community would live right next to it and breathe its pollution. Because communities like Chaparral have less financial and political power, we’re forced to wrestle with fossil fuel projects like these. Newman 6 is the epitome of environmental injustice.” — Dr David Garcia of Chaparral Parents in Action, a fenceline resident who is about a mile from the proposal

“Air pollution has been linked to increased risk of asthma in children, we need to stand up and say no to this power plant. We need to protect our community from these pollutants.” — Dr. Lara, Chaparral Family Medicine Physician

“As TCEQ gets ready to permit this dirty fracked gas power plant, it’s clear that the El Paso City Council needs to stand up for El Paso residents’ health because state regulators have proven they won’t.” — Miguel Escoto, El Paso resident and Earthworks field advocate.

“Let us be clear: there is no such thing as clean ‘natural’ gas. The continued use of fracked shale gas as a fuel source to produce electricity for our region that originates at the expense of communities within the Permian Basin proves El Paso Electric’s viewpoint that they do not value the communities it serves. The allowance of this permit will lock El Paso and the surrounding regions into a continued state of increased pollution especially in a time where air quality has a direct impact on public health. El Paso has made national news already for a large increase in Covid related fatalities within the past few weeks alone. Studies show that increased particulate matter (PM) levels are linked to higher incidences of Covid 19. Newman 6 would increase PM 2.5 levels, which are dangerous, and even fatal, when exposed to for long periods of time. We will be exposed to this for the next 20+ years. We don’t need more Covid related deaths, therefore we do not need more PM levels, we need less.”  — Angel Ulloa, Sunrise El Paso

“Natural gas power plants are bad for the climate, use too much water, and are too costly for ratepayers, particularly those with fixed incomes. Utilities around the country are going 100% renewable because renewables are the better investment.  El Paso Electric should scrap this misguided project.” — Antoinette Reyes, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter & Las Cruces resident

“The current factual knowledge states that renewable energy generation such as solar (photovoltaic [PV]) direct generation exists with costs lower than fossil fuels; it is unacceptable that EPE (El Paso Electric) would continue to push for an addition to the Newman facility that will continue to pollute and degrade the air quality in the desert Southwest as well as push the costs of the continued use of fossil fuels onto ratepayers for the benefit of profits. EPE has clearly chosen profit over the long term sustainability and health of our region. ” –Joshua Simmons, El Paso resident, RREAC committee member and Eco El Paso board member

“We El Pasoans recently watched with dismay as El Paso Electric built its East Montana gas plant. Investing in fossil fuel is regressive when we need to move forward with renewables..Why don’t they just expand the solar farm already in place at Newman?”  Laurence Gibson, El Paso Group chair, Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter

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