Coal Free San Antonio

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San Antonio coal plants at Calaveras Lake. Credit: San Antonio Express-News.

Coal-fired power plants are a leading contributor of the carbon pollution causing dangerous disruption of the earth’s climate system. Their emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and soot are leading contributors to our high asthma rates impacting our children and shorten the lives of our elders. They also blanket our area with toxics like lead and mercury, known to impair the brain development of our babies, even while they are forming in the womb.

San Antonio is a heavily fossil fuel dependent community, with all the pollution problems that suggests.

Currently, San Antonio’s CPS Energy has four coal units.

In 2016, Deely released 2.7 million metric tons of dangerous greenhouse gases.

The same year, Spruce’s units released 5.5 million metric tons.

CPS Energy has agreed to finally retire Dirty Deely’s two units sometime this year. But they have no official plans on what it will do with the other coal units: Spruce 1 and SPruce 2. As we work together as a community to tackle this issue of climate change, taking care of coal: the biggest, dirtiest, and most unnecessary source of dangerous carbon pollution seems like the first step.

Climate change has real impacts here at home in San Antonio and especially for our most vulnerable communities. For San Antonio, this means likely hotter average temperatures with increasing numbers of hotter days and warmer nights. It may also mean more drought interrupted by intense storms. This of course comes to no surprise to the communities already dealing with these realities. Record breaking rains from Hurricane Harvey have already given way to nearly statewide drought for Texans.

Shutting down Deely and Spruce is not only critical for slowing down dangerous global warming, it will immediately improve our public health.

Coal pollution causes 13,000 premature deaths every year and more than $100 billion in annual health costs across the country. Longer, drier and hotter summers create dangerous conditions more often bringing not only risks from extreme heat but also contributing to rising levels of ground level ozone—also known as smog—to big cities like San Antonio.

Breathing smoggy air puts people’s health at risk. Exposure to these air pollutants causes respiratory symptoms and aggravate existing lung and heart disease.

Importantly, phasing out coal and replacing it with renewable energy means cheaper energy in the future.

Our country is rapidly transitioning away from coal due to the aging fleet of coal plants and the rise of inexpensive renewable energy. Today, CPS Energy finds itself in a place where it must plan for the long term and decide if it should invest in last century’s technology by investing in its coal plants or by responsibly planning to phase coal out of San Antonio’s energy mix for good.

Moving quickly towards renewable energy is the most cost effective way to plan for the future and rapid cost declines made renewable energy the United States’ cheapest available source of new electricity, without subsidies, in 2017.

Other large utilities have recently attracted offers for wind energy and storage at costs lower than burning coal. It turns out that demanding CPS Energy to step boldly and decisively toward affordable carbon-free clean energy solutions isn’t such a hard ask after all!