New Report Shows Parish Coal Plant Kills People Across Texas and State Lines

Simple solutions to reduce death toll remain untapped

Houston, TX – A new report by the Sierra Club has revealed that soot pollution from the Parish coal plant kills 109 people each year, making it the eighth most deadly coal plant in the nation. In 2019, Parish emitted 29,000 tons of sulfur dioxide pollution – the third most of all U.S. coal plants. 

When Parish burns coal to produce electricity, it releases massive amounts of pollution that affect communities near and far. These contaminants include sulfur dioxide, which forms soot, a deadly mix of metals, chemicals, and acidic substances that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs and enter the bloodstream to cause asthma attacks, stroke, heart disease, COPD, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, low birth weight, preterm birth, and infant mortality. 

“The people of Southeast Texas carry the immense burden of air pollution created by Parish and numerous additional sources,” said Bryan Parras, a Healthy Communities campaign representative for the Sierra Club. “All of these risks – especially when added together – are more than we should ever ask one community to bear. Yet the state of Texas, and the EPA, continue to let wealthy industrial corporations harm our residents for no other reason than profit. We need stronger rules from federal regulators and state leaders who are fed up with the myth that this industry is in any way good for our people.”

Of the people that Parish is killing every year, 70% of them live in Texas, most of them in Harris County. In fact, Harris County has the fourth-highest rate of total coal-related deaths of all counties in the United States. Many of Parish’s victims also live in surrounding counties, like Fort Bend County where Parish is located. Parish also is the major culprit for coal-related deaths in Tarrant, Dallas, and Bexar counties, all of which made the report’s list of U.S. counties with the most total coal-related premature deaths. The harm continues as the wind exports Parish’s pollution to cause deaths in other states just as it brings in pollution from other coal plants – notably Martin Lake in East Texas – to kill yet more people in Harris County. 

While the report, titled “Out of Control: The Deadly Impact of Coal Pollution,” focuses on just coal’s impact, the real human toll of soot pollution – which also comes from concrete batch plants, shingle manufacturers, and vehicle traffic – is undoubtedly much higher. Soot pollution harms communities of color at inordinate rates due to the longstanding racist practice of redlining, which results in many industrial facilities operating in these neighborhoods. Cleaning up soot pollution from coal plants in Texas is a simple first step to reducing these impacts. 

The Parish plant is owned and operated by Houston-based NRG Energy, which also runs the Limestone coal plant east of Waco. The report found that NRG is one of the most deadly independent power producers in the country, affecting much of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas, despite only providing power to the Texas grid. The Sierra Club analysis shows that people of color are exposed to more soot pollution from NRG than any other utility parent company in the country. NRG’s coal plants exposed Latinos to 98% more and Black Americans to 40% more soot pollution than white Americans. With no firm retirement plans, these plants will continue to harm communities across the South.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has numerous opportunities to reduce soot pollution. EPA recently released an updated draft standard on soot pollution limits, which would bring several counties into “non-attainment” status and force pollution reductions. Overall, however, the draft standard was weaker than needed, and numerous people and organizations are urging the agency to strengthen it. EPA is additionally expected to soon release updated rules for pollution that travels across state lines.

Utilities like NRG can also save their ratepayers money, clean the air, and save lives. Building clean energy is more cost effective than continuing to run existing coal plants, and the Inflation Reduction Act has clean energy incentives as well as incentives to aid utilities in debt relief for their existing coal assets.

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit