Texas has the highest sulfur dioxide emissions from power plants in the country. Sulfur dioxide, along with particulate matter from coal-burning plants, is the cause of the apocalyptic air crisis gripping China. The Clean Air Act directs the EPA to reduce the emissions under the Regional Haze Rule. The original EPA plan to decrease the emissions causing the haze over Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Park was struck down by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after being challenged by Attorney General Paxton.
By the terms of a consent decree struck in 2012, when environmental groups sued the EPA over the delay in implementing the provisions of the Clean Air Act, the EPA has proposed a new set of remediation goals aimed at reducing sulfur dioxide and particulate matter emissions from older power plants. Fourteen plants across the state, nine of which burn coal, will be required to retrofit to reduce emissions using best available retrofit technology, or BART.
Long term sustainability of the power grid, along with looming health concerns and climate change, and costs associated with remediation of the old energy infrastructure, leads to opportunity for energy entrepreneurs.
While haze visibility is one measure, much of the impact of air pollution is on human health. Some of the measures China is taking to address their very serious problem include building structured, flexible domes with air filters inside around schools, and making air filtration masks available to the public. New materials technology to reduce or replace older technology that is allowing unhealthy emissions may be a better option.
In Australia, a nanostructured metal-organic framework is being used to reduce CO2 emissions from power plant flues. Several successful Nitrous Oxide-reducing technologies have been used to reduce emissions when retrofitted into power plants. New systems of using mineral catalysts to reduce dangerous emissions have been successfully trialed. Current methods of reducing emissions rely on materials and technology that is rapidly becoming dated. According to attorney Jake Posey, managing shareholder of The Posey Law Firm the materials engineering departments at major Texas universities might consider public-private partnerships to develop their materials research into portable, cost-efficient technologies to retrofit and remediate dangerous power plants.
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