Sen. Ellis Calls On Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to Slow Down White Stallion Permitting Process
According to a news release, Sen. Ellis has asked the Executive Director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to reconsider his decision to authorize the construction of the White Stallion power plant near Bay City. If built, the proposed 1,400 megawatt coal and petroleum coke-fired power plant would have a significant impact upon the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria (HGB) ozone non-attainment area. Nitrogen oxides are an essential ingredient in the formation of ozone. And, according to TCEQ’s 2007 emissions inventory of industrial sources, the addition of emissions from the White Stallion plant to Matagorda County could represent a six fold increase in nitrogen oxide emissions.
“Houston is just one of three Texas urban centers in ozone non-attainment with current federal air quality standards, and that standard is expected to be lowered,” Ellis said. “As hard as we’ve been working to clean up our air, it boggles my mind that TCEQ would even consider giving the green light to a facility that could have such a negative impact on the overall health of this region and set back our progress by so many years.” The air pollution permit that would authorize construction of the new facility is now before the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), which held a contested case hearing over a two week period, starting on February 10, 2010.
A recommendation from the SOAH judges is expected sometime in early July, after which the 3 TCEQ Commissioners will make a final decision on SOAH’s recommendation regarding the permit. Several public health and environmental groups, elected officials, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have voiced concerns over construction of the White Stallion plant. In February of this year the EPA wrote to the TCEQ Deputy Director of the Office of Permitting and Registration detailing several major concerns with the TCEQ’s implementation of important Clean Air Act requirements.
It further stated that if the concerns are not adequately addressed, “EPA may consider using Clean Air Act authorities to object to the subsequent Title V operating permit for this facility, or other remedies under the statute.” Ellis cautioned, “The last thing the TCEQ wants is for the EPA to intervene in this process, but that’s exactly what they’re looking at if they don’t take quick action. I urge the TCEQ to remand the permit back to the Executive Director and allow its staff to do a more thorough technical review to ensure that this facility, if built, is the cleanest power plant possible. It’s in the agency’s best interest to do so. And it’s certainly in the best interests of the 5 1/2 million plus individuals in the HGB area who would be negatively affected by the plant’s construction.”
* A pdf of the letter is attached.