Texas’ environmental agency granted air pollution permits for a proposed coal- and petroleum coke-fired power plant in Matagorda County over the objections of local officials and residents Wednesday.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted 3-0 in support of the permits for the 1,320-megawatt White Stallion Energy Center, which would be built about 90 miles southwest of Houston.
The plant would be built less than 20 miles from the boundary of the eight-county Houston region that is in violation of federal limits for ozone. Rules on industrial pollution — in particular, new sources – are tighter inside such areas than outside, even though ozone, or smog, isn’t bound by county lines.
The decision came nearly three months after two state administrative law judges ruled that the permits should not be granted because of problems with the application, saying the developers used faulty data in their air quality analysis and failed to consider the impacts of coal dust.
The judges’ findings were not binding on the TCEQ, which has final authority on permits. The commissioners said the project’s developers had addressed the concerns.
TCEQ’s Public Interest Counsel also recommended denial of the permit, saying the agency did not require the developers to use the lowest-polluting technology for their coal plants.
That’s the TCEQ for you. Of the polluters, by the polluters, for the polluters. The interesting thing was just how deeply unpopular this project had become.
The man from Kentucky came to this coastal prairie town two years ago with a vision for a new energy future: His company would build the cleanest coal-fired power plant in Texas, generating new jobs and new money for a place in need of both.
The idea had undeniable power at first. But now, with the White Stallion Energy Center about to receive an air pollution permit from the state, many local officials and residents are having second thoughts — even in the face of 12 percent unemployment in Matagorda County.
The proposed power plant may be a chimera, critics say. It may drain precious water from the Colorado River, foul the air and harm wildlife in an area known for ranches and rice, beaches and birds.
In and around Bay City, the county’s hub, opponents are planting roadside signs showing a menacing monster billowing from smokestacks, with the rallying cry: “Stop White Stallion Coal Plant.”
“It’s a bad thing,” Michael Ledwig said as he posted one of the signs on the front gate of his property on FM 2668, about a mile from the site of the proposed plant. “It’s a lot of pollution for a small amount of jobs.”
I am in general skeptical of the concept of “clean coal”. And I believe that any time a new coal plant is being built, or even contemplated, instead of something genuinely green, it represents a missed opportunity. Coal is yesterday. We need to be thinking about tomorrow. The TCEQ’s decision will be appealed, but I can’t say I have any faith that will make a difference. Forrest Whitaker has more.