Statement: Ft. Bend county’s W.A. Parish coal plant catches fire

Media Contacts
Michael Lewis

Former Clean Air and Water Advocate, Environment Texas Research & Policy Center

AUSTIN, Texas – NRG’s W.A. Parish Generating Station caught fire early Monday morning. The plant uses both natural gas and coal to generate over 2,500 megawatts of electricity, or approximately 2% of Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ (ERCOT) power generation capacity.    

On May 3, 2022, as high temperatures have spread across Texas, ERCOT requested power plants to postpone planned maintenance which would take generators offline to meet demand. It is unclear whether W.A. Parish was affected by the request. 

The Parish Plant has a history of problems. During Winter Storm Uri, the plant, like many coal and gas units across the state, went offline contributing to blackouts. 

For decades, NRG Energy’s W.A. Parish coal-fired power plant in Fort Bend county has also threatened public health and the natural environment. EPA data identified the plant as the third most heavily polluting plant in the state, emitting almost 10.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, 30,000 metric tons of methane and 50,000 metric tons of nitrous oxide. A 2018 study by Dr. Daniel Cohan’s research group in Rice University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering estimated that Parish is responsible for 177 premature deaths annually.

In 2020, NRG announced the closing of the W.A. Parish Petra Nova carbon capture project, the world’s largest post-combustion carbon capture and sequestration facility. That project captured 90% of carbon dioxide emissions at one of WA Parish’s eight coal- and natural gas-powered units. The project suffered from some mechanical problems and outages since it went online in 2017, missing carbon capture targets by about 17%.

In response, Environment Texas Research and Policy Center’s Michael Lewis released the following statement in response:

“This fire provides yet another reason to shut down the W.A. Parish plant. For decades, this plant has threatened public health and the natural environment. It is important to remember that while no one was directly hurt in the fire, this pollution puts kids at risk where they play outside, including public parks, recreation areas and at multiple schools in the area, some less than 10 miles away. Additionally, every year pollution from this plant sends Houstonians to the hospital with respiratory problems and kills dozens.

“We have the capacity to take this plant offline and replace its power generation with cleaner sources including renewables. This plant is unreliable, dangerous to our health and environmentally unjust. We must fight to protect the health and environment of all Texans, especially those at the frontlines of the climate crisis.”