Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Major Gulf Coast Coal Power Plant Suspended

Photo by StateImpact Texas

Piles of petroleum coke sit uncovered on the ship canal in Corpus Christi.

Updated with statements from Chase Power and the Environmental Integrity Project. 

After losing its air permit last summer, the Las Brisas coal power plant proposed for Corpus Christi has been suspended. The news was first reported in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

“Chase Power … has opted to suspend efforts to further permit the facility and is seeking alternative investors as part of a plan of dissolution for the parent company,” Chase Power, LLC CEO Dave Freysinger says in an emailed statement. He says that “while market conditions played a role, the direct regulatory obstacles purposefully erected by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resulted in the decision to suspend development of the plant.” Freysinger tells StateImpact Texas that the power plant was a “major part” of its portfolio.

Las Brisas was one of just a few coal plants still being planned for Texas. Now there is only one major coal plant still being considered, the White Stallion coal project in Matagorda County, and it, too, faces an uncertain future amid opposition and a market more favorable to natural gas power.

As we reported in July 2012, the $3 billion Las Brisas plant “would have used petroleum coke — carbon solids left over from refining — for power generation in a way much like coal, with much the same emissions:”

“It was first proposed in 2008, and is the only proposed coal plant within a city’s limits in the entire country, according to the Sierra Club. It would sit on the northern side of the Corpus Christi ship channel, across from a residential area known as “Refinery Row,” which already sits in the midst of six major refineries.

The plant was given an air permit in January 2011 by the TCEQ. A challenge to that permit was brought by a coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Corpus Christi Clean Economy Coalition, and several Texas cities.

But a judge found several things wrong with how the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) processed the permit, and said it failed to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act, among other issues.”

After the permit was reversed in July, it went back to the TCEQ for revision. But since then the company financing the project has gone out of business.

“Chase Power currently holds a worthless piece of paper from the state environmental agency, and the company still needs major federal and state air and water permits in order to lawfully begin construction,” Ilan Levin, associate director for the Environmental Integrity Project, said in a statement. “It is time for Chase Power to concede that the proposed Las Brisas power plant is finished.”

There is one new coal plant scheduled to come online this year, the Sandy Creek power plant east of Waco. It faced its own issues and delays after an accident in the fall of 2011. If it starts running as expected, it could well be the last major coal power plant in Texas for the foreseeable future.


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