Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

After Hearing, White Stallion Coal Plant Keeps its Air Permit

Photo by Mose Buchele for StateImpact Texas.

Brian Shaw is Chair of ther TCEQ.

Representatives for environmental groups walked away disappointed from a meeting of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality this morning, after TCEQ made it clear that it would not pull its air permit for the White Stallion Energy Center.

This time, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) brought White Stallion representatives before the TCEQ over the existence of a second site plan for the proposed coal plant.

The EDF asked TCEQ to reconsider the air permit issued in October 2011 because White Stallion submitted a new site plan to the Army Corps of Engineers as part of an application for a wetlands permit just days after receiving an air permit from TCEQ.

Modeling provided by the EDF based on the new site plan showed “massive exceedances” of particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.

“This new site plan moves 73 out of 84 emissions points when compared to the site plan that was approved by [TCEQ’s] final order,” EDF attorney Tom Webber said at the hearing.

“What’s also at stake is the integrity of the air permitting process. As we sit here today, the public has still and never had an opportunity to comment on the plant that White Stallion actually intends to build,” said Webber. “EDF has never had a chance to conduct discovery or cross-examine White Stallion’s executives or their expert witnesses.”

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also weighed in on the matter. In a May 2011 letter addressed to air permitting chief at TCEQ, Steve Hagle, the Agency raised similar questions concerning which site plan was the site plan.

But at the hearing today White Stallion attorney, Eric Groten, claimed that the existence of a new site plan should have no effect on the previously issued air permit.

It was a point TCEQ Chair Brian Shaw found convincing. The reason: White Stallion has not submitted the new site plan to the TCEQ. So, Shaw said, any change to the permit would be “arbitrary.”

The hearing this morning came at the request of a Travis county district judge.

White Stallion’s proposed power plant could cost at least $2.5 billion to build in Matagorda County, just south of Bay City. The plant would generate an estimated 1,320 megawatts of electricity** by burning petroleum coke and coal – enough energy to power 650,000 homes according to the Austin American Statesman.

But, the permit application process hasn’t been simple for White Stallion. The company has encountered a barrage of dissenters. Among these, the No Coal Coalition of Matagorda County has voiced considerable concern over the possible health effects of future plant emissions.

And the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) refused to grant White Stallion a water permit in 2011 amidst prevailing drought conditions.* The LCRA returned the permit application to White Stallion, and the agency says that currently, “there is no pending application from White Stallion before LCRA.”

While EDF’s recent findings regarding the new site plan were submitted to TCEQ’s official administrative record, the commission voted unanimously to let the air permit stand.

You can visit our topic page on the Lower Colorado River Authority to read more about the White Stallion Energy Center.

*This post previously stated that the LCRA had granted a water permit to White Stallion. The post was corrected to reflect that White Stallion did not receive a water permit from the LCRA. You can find more on this here.

**This post incorrectly said that the plant would produce 12,000 megawatts of energy. The company behind the plant estimates it will produce 1,320 megawatts.

Sheyda Aboii is an intern with StateImpact Texas.


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