Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July Newsletter Online

Did you know Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action sends out an electronic newsletter to all its members and supporters? We do! And right now, Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action's July electronic newsletter is online. Check it out.

If you'd like to subscribe to our e-mail list to receive news and alerts, just click here!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Cleaning up the Coal Burners

Denver's unrelenting smog pollution has been the big news of late. So far in July 17 ozone alerts have been issued and the Denver metro area just violated federal clean air standards for ozone, the ingredient of smog. The health implications are staggering.

In the meantime, people are being told to go inside to avoid the harmful pollution, the state of Colorado aspires to prepare a plan, and we wonder how we could ever let ourselves get in this situation in the first place? Really though, this is beside the point. The real question is what are we going to do now to keep this from happening again. We have an answer: it needs to start with cutting smog forming pollution from coal burning power plants.

And speaking of coal burning power plants, we've just submitted scathing comments on Xcel's Energy's proposal to "cut" haze-forming pollution from coal burning power plants in Colorado. The plan is supposed to require Xcel to retrofit its coal burning power plants to keep our skies clear. The thing is that the plan doesn't actually cut haze-forming pollution and requires only meager retrofits.

As we reported earlier, Xcel's retrofit plan would allow a 300 ton increase in nitrogen oxide pollution at the Pawnee power plant, located in Morgan County. Nitrogen oxides don't just form haze, they form smog, acid rain, and pose a myriad of negative health effects.

That's not all, though. The Pawnee power plant was required to upgrade to the best air pollution controls possible in the late 1990's, but never did. The EPA threatened to sue Xcel in 2002, but nothing has happened since then. Will Xcel be let off the hook if it commits to half-assed retrofits at Pawnee.

The problems don't end there. Under Xcel's retrofit plan, the Denver metro area will see more sulfur dioxide pollution. Sulfur dioxide is even worse than nitrogen oxides, yet under Xcel's plan, sulfur dioxide could increase by over 273 tons annually from its Arapahoe, Cherokee, and Valmont power plants.

Not only that, but if Xcel followed EPA recommendations, sulfur dioxide could be reduced by over 25%. Xcel's retrofit plan blows off EPA recommendations.

We're urging the state and Xcel to take it a step further. We've proposed that sulfur dioxide be reduced from the Arapahoe, Cherokee, and Valmont power plants by 41%, which would ensure that these coal burning power plants are all using the best pollution controls.

Whether it's smog or haze, coal burning power plants here in Colorado need cleaned up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

RMCAA Joins Suit to Strengthen Carbon Monoxide Standards

Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action, along with several other public health and environmental justice groups, today filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to strengthen nationwide clean iar standards for carbon monoxide. Read the press release >>

Children are especially at risk because of carbon monoxide pollution. Even at low levels, carbon monoxide is linked to low birth weights. In Colorado, the low birth weight rate is consistently higher than the rest of the country. Today's lawsuit should help strengthen carbon monoxide standards and help Colorado tackle the problem of low birth weights.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Views from Western Colorado

It's been a few days since we've posted on our Rocky Mountain Clean Air Action blog, but rest assured there's been plenty of action lately on our Denver Ozone blog.

On top of that, we've been on the road. One place we visited was wonderful western Colorado, checking out how booming oil and gas development is affecting our skies and our communities. Here's some pictures from our tour of the gas fields south of Rangely, Colorado:

This is a tank of methanol, which is poisonous and also a toxic air pollutant. Methanol is used as an additive at many gas wells in western Colorado to prevent freezing.

This is a condensate tank. Condensate is gaseous in the ground, but when these gases are brought to the surface they condense into liquids. These tanks are a major source of smog forming pollution in Colorado.

Condensate tanks fill up and are unloaded by trucks periodically. Sometimes condensate tanks overflow, like this one.

Here's another condensate tank. Condensate is flammable.

Condensate is also hazardous. This placard was attached to the condensate tank shown above.

This is Encana's Dragon Tail gas plant. They process natural gas and compress it for pipeline transport. The Dragon Tail gas plant has also been cited by the state for violating clean air laws.

The Dragon Tail gas plant has massive natural gas dehydrators and other pieces of equipment that spew toxic air pollution. The plant releases 1.7 tons of benzene annually.

Gas wells regularly vent dangerous gases. With over 34,000 producing oil and gas wells in Colorado, that venting adds up to a lot of air pollution.