Sierra Club Sues EPA to Enforce Clean-Up Plan For Martin Lake Coal Plant

Texas and federal regulators have failed to uphold Clean Air Act obligations

DALLAS, TX — Yesterday, Sierra Club sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for failing to implement a federal plan to eliminate harmful levels of sulfur dioxide pollution from Luminant’s Martin Lake coal plant, as required by the Clean Air Act. EPA has dodged obligations to bring Martin Lake and other Texas power plants into compliance with the Clean Air Act’s sulfur dioxide safeguards for more than a decade. 

“Martin Lake is the worst sulfur dioxide and mercury polluter in the entire country,” said Misti O’Quinn, Sierra Club’s Organizing Representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign in Texas. “Failure to implement a plan to keep our air clean puts lives at risk from Rusk County to Dallas County. EPA needs to do its job and protect the health and environment of Texas residents.” 

Sulfur dioxide is a dangerous chemical that can harm lung function, worsen asthma attacks, and put sensitive groups – like people with heart disease – at extreme risk. In response to a lawsuit for failing to implement the Clean Air Act’s sulfur dioxide protections, EPA determined in 2016 that levels of sulfur dioxide surrounding the Martin Lake coal plant fail to meet national health-based standards, making the air unhealthy to breathe. Since then, Texas’s own monitoring data has confirmed these routine violations. 

Martin Lake is the only significant source of dangerous sulfur dioxide in the Longview area. Under the Clean Air Act, if a polluter fails to meet the air safety standards independently, and the state fails to require pollution reductions necessary to meet the standard, the EPA is obligated to enforce the law by implementing a federal clean-up plan. But EPA has not done so. And Martin Lake still does not have common-sense pollution controls, like modern scrubbers used across the industry, to reduce pollution to safer levels in compliance with national air quality standards. 

“Under the Clean Air Act, Texas had an obligation to ensure that the Martin Lake area came into compliance with EPA’s sulfur dioxide limits no later than 2021,” said Emma Pabst, a representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “The state refused to do anything and has instead opted to join with Luminant – the same wealthy corporation that is selling Fairfield Lake State Park to developers – and fight the EPA’s determination that Martin Lake needs to clean up. The Clean Air Act is clear: EPA must now finish the job and step in with a federal plan.” 

Sierra Club’s lawsuit will force EPA to implement a federal plan that requires Martin Lake to reduce emissions and come into compliance with national, health-based sulfur dioxide safeguards. EPA generally has 60 days to file an answer to the complaint.

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