A petroleum coke power plant planned near the Gulf Coast community of Point Comfort has lost its permit to build, according to environmental groups. Petroleum coke is a fossil fuel used like coal.
Today the Sierra Club, Public Citizen and The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development [SEED] Coalition released a statement saying that the Joslin power plant was required to begin construction by February 20th or its air permit would be voided and plant builders would have to reapply.
“[The Plant builders] have exhausted their time line for extending on their permitting, so their time is finally up with the TCEQ.” Karen Hadden, Executive Director of the SEED coalition, told StateImpact Texas. “It seems that the company is more likely looking at a natural gas plant at this time which would have much less pollutants.”
The news comes as policymakers, green energy advocates and industry representatives are debating how to add more electricity to the Texas grid in the face of historically low natural gas prices. The low cost of natural gas has made investment in coal plants, renewables and other energy sources look like a risky bet, but the Texas grid is in need of more electrical capacity to ensure against rolling blackouts in the future.
SEED’s Hadden sees the news as part of a larger trend.
“At one point in time we were fighting 19 coal burning power plants in Texas, and whats happening now is that there are not as many coal plants moving forward people are realizing that it is expensive it has a lot of pollution.”
The coal industry also blames federal regulation for the drop off in coal.
Texas’ last large coal plant built in Texas, the Sandy Creek Energy Station, suffered a mysterious accident last year and will not come online this year as expected. Two other coal plants, the Monticello 1 and 2 plants in Titus County, say they are only able to continue to producing energy because new EPA rules regulating coal plant pollution have been stayed by a federal Judge.
The Joslin Plant was a project of the Calhoun Port Authority. When reached by email Port Director Charles Hausmann replied that the port has no comment on the news.
When contacted by StateImpact Texas, the TCEQ confirmed that the company did, indeed, have until February 20 to start construction, but could not confirm whether construction had begun.
“If the owner or operator of the Joslin Coal plant near Point Comfort did not start construction, they will have to re-apply for an air permit,” wrote a TCEQ representative.