January 27, 2011 at 11:27 am #2399
TCEQ thumbs nose at EPA on air permit
Corpus power plant project OK’d to move forward.
By Matthew Tresaugue
Published: Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Texas officials granted an air permit for a proposed Corpus Christi power plant Wednesday despite calls from federal regulators to delay approval of the controversial request.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted 2-0 in favor of the permit for Las Brisas Energy Center, which would power 650,000 homes by burning petroleum coke, a coal-like oil refinery byproduct. The permit, which clears the way for the plant’s construction, describes the facility’s emissions and how it will limit them.
The approval created yet another divide between the TCEQ and the Environmental Protection Agency, which had asked the state commission to withhold the permit until they resolved several issues with the application.
The EPA, for example, questioned the $3.2 billion plant’s ability to meet new federal standards for nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide and its potential effect on Corpus Christi’s smog.
Las Brisas also is the first facility in Texas to receive an air pollution permit since new federal regulations on emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases took effect Jan. 2. Texas is the only state that has refused to implement the nationwide rules, prompting the EPA to seize control of the state’s permitting authority for greenhouse gases.
The EPA has told TCEQ that the Las Brisas plant’s Houston-based developer, Chase Power Development, should not start construction of the facility until they work with the federal regulator to determine if it is subject to the rules.
During the 45-minute hearing Wednesday, the TCEQ commissioners did not address the EPA’s “strong concerns” about the project. They focused instead on the recent findings of two state administrative law judges, who had recommended that the commission deny the Las Brisas permit in part because of flawed and improper air modeling. The judges held two trial-like hearings on the disputed permit over the past year.
TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw and Commissioner Buddy Garcia said the Las Brisas application had met the state’s rules and would be protective of public health and the environment. The third commissioner, Carlos Rubinstein, abstained from voting because he was briefed on the permit application in his previous role as deputy executive director.
Port Corpus Christi, which is leasing land for the 1,320-megawatt plant, said construction could begin this fall with the facility being fully operational by 2014. “We are cautiously optimistic about the realization of the project,” John La Rue, the port’s executive director, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, opponents said they doubt the plant will ever be built.
Jim Marston, director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Texas office, criticized TCEQ’s decision, saying the commissioners approved “a permit that is defective on its face.”
Ilan Levin, a Sierra Club attorney, said environmental groups are prepared to file suit in state district court to block the construction. That the permit application failed to address federal rules for some pollutants will be “show-stoppers,” he said.
January 27, 2011 at 11:27 am #5310
Here is update on Corpus Petcoke Power Project – it was nice symbolic gesture for TECQ which has taken up fight against EPA doing backdoor implementation of a Carbon Cap & Trade on orders from President after it failed in Congress.
But for project & investors ….. it isn’t anything substantial enough to move forward at any level. The project has the normal array of environmental groups blocking anything fossil based : Sierra Club/Environmental Defense Fund/ect that have been given marching orders to EPA for years and is reason no new refineries have been built in US since 1975 and coal/petcoke power plants permiting is nightmare. Somehow its ok for China to build one/week with no emission equipment or limits but not US for these NIMBY groups.
One can only hope new Republican House will oppose Adminstrations over-reach with EPA here. The real fight should be to sever link these Environmental Thugs have over-turning any postive rulings EPA does make & unending filing lawsuits which amount to frivolous lawsuits.
Until major power & refining companies stop playing roles of Judas Goats hoping for recognition that will never come from these groups, then they are on road to closure from unnecessary and increasing environmental burdens.
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