Dr. Elliot Trester, MD with Physicians for Social
Responsibility, warns against poisoning ourselves
with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate
matter, mercury, and carbon dioxide from power plants
Contact: Cyrus Reed, 512-740-4086
Neil Carman, 512-288-5772
'Oak Grove’ Lignite Coal Units Approved
Texas Commission on Environmental
Quality Commissioners Approve Controversial TXU ‘Oak
Grove’ Lignite Coal Plants over Strong Opposition,
TCEQ Commissioners Kathleen White and “Buddy” Garcia voted this afternoon over the objections of fellow Commissioner Larry Soward to approve the air quality permit for two lignite coal-burning units proposed by TXU at the site known as Oak Grove near Franklin in Robertson County.
The two Commissioners’ votes overturned the Proposal for
Decision of two State Administrative Hearings (SOAH) Law
Judges who recommended denial of the TXU Oak Grove permit.
The Commissioners ignored pleas from State Senators Kirk
Watson (D-Austin), and John Corona (R-Dallas) State Representatives
Donna Howard (D-Austin), Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin), Lon
Burnam (D-Fort Worth), Kirk England (R-Grand Prarie), Dallas
Mayor Laura Miller, Austin Mayor Will Wynn and of course,
the party protesting the permit – Robertson County Our Land,
Our Lives. A spokesperson for Robertson County: Our Land,
Our Lives said they would appeal the decision at the Agency
and likely bring suit in State District Court.
Commissioner Soward, visibly disturbed by his colleagues’ position, questioned their decision to overrule the finding of the SOAH Judges. The SOAH Judge outlined that Texas lignite is one of the dirtiest forms of coal, it has a high moisture content, and it is not proven that it will work with the control technology proposed. The Judge rejected the proposed mercury and nitrogen oxide emissions levels.
“To approve a permit that would impact the Dallas–Ft. Worth non-attainment area and potentially cause the Austin area to become non- attainment for high levels of ozone pollution – not to mention the 16.6 million tons of additional global warming gases that the plants would emit each year-- is outlandish,” stated Neil Carman with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club. “At the very least, the case should have been remanded back to the Hearing Judges to consider additional information since there was debate about how to interpret the various air quality models used to assess impact to outlying areas.”
In announcing her decision – and taking up TXU, the applicant’s own proposed decision-making document as the TCEQ’s -- Chairman White said it was in fact “a great day for Texas” that a facility using home-grown lignite coal could meet such tough emission standards, and that she did not find the Administrative Law Judge’s finding that the applicant could not prove they could meet the emissions standards to be conclusive.
Similarly, Garcia said if the applicant could not meet the permit levels, then the agency “would shut the facility down” and that enforcement was the appropriate mechanism to assure public health.
“Basically what the two commissioners told the public is
that it doesn’t matter what the evidence – and the judges
-- say at a hearing,” explained Carman. “Instead,
if the TCEQ recommends a permit and says it is protective
of public health and the environment, then it is protective...
regardless of what Judges might say and the evidence indicates.
They weren’t even embarrassed to take the applicants’ proposed
decision-making document as their own.”