One of two lawsuits filed against Luminant Generation by the Sierra Club went to trial in federal court Tuesday.
The Martin Lake power plant is tucked away just outside of Tatum and the Big Brown plant is in Freestone County. Both owned by the Luminant Company and both plants burns coal to make steam and turn it into electricity.
But the Sierra Club's original lawsuit says the company's own reports to regulators indicate thousands of violations of emissions standards over the last five years.
"To date, neither the federal nor the state enforcement agencies have stepped up to fix the problem," the Sierra Club's Al Armendariz said. "Thankfully congress gave individual citizens the right to step in.">
Armendariz said a provision of the federal Clean Air Act allows these lawsuits.
The group's court filing claims Luminant is subjecting people to "excessive and unlawful amounts of harmful air pollution."
One measure of that is called "opacity," which is basically how well you can see through what's coming out of the smoke stacks. The Sierra Club's filing says it's been too difficult, too often, to see through it the smoke, which they claim means bad chemicals are getting out into the air.
In a counter-claim leading up to the trial, Luminant fired back saying the Sierra Club's filing is full of "irrelevant statements that are incomplete, argumentative and conclusory."
It went on to claim the lawsuit is just part of a $26 million campaign against coal by natural gas companies.
Luminant wanted the suit thrown out, but now a judge will have to determine whether the company is in compliance on emissions standards.
"We just want Luminant to follow the law," Armendariz said. "There are operators in Texas and across the United States that comply with their permits and don't put out anywhere near as much particulate matter as we see from Luminant's plant."
Luminant's only comment Tuesday was to say that the company's filings speak for themselves.
The trial relating to the Martin Lake plant will be at the federal courthouse in Texarkana. It's supposed to start in May.