Club Lone Star Chapter • Environmental Integrity Project • Public Citizen Texas
For Release: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Jennifer Powis, 713-984-4824 Eva Hernandez, 512-299-1550 or
Ryan Rittenhouse, 440-796-9695
Corpus Christi Clean Economy Coalition, Sierra Club, and Public Citizen Point to Dangerous Flaws in Air Pollution Application
TCEQ Commissioners – Don’t Fast-Track Las Brisas Power Plant
(Austin) The Perry-appointed Commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) have scheduled for this Friday, October 15, an unusual ‘status update’ on the controversial Las Brisas air pollution permit. The “status update” is scheduled for the Friday before a week-long State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) contested case proceeding is set to begin—a proceeding that was ordered by the TCEQ Commissioners.
The week-long hearing that begins on Monday October 18, is Las Brisas’ second major hearing on their air pollution permit application. The two Texas administrative law judges assigned to the case found that Las Brisas failed in its first, November 2009 hearing, to prove that the proposed pet coke power plant would meets all applicable public health and environmental standards. Corpus
Christi’s Clean Economy Coalition, the Sierra Club and Public
Citizen call on the Commissioners to allow SOAH adequate
time to fully review the Las Brisas application for a pollution
permit, as required for all major industrial facilities proposing
to emit air pollution in the state.
“The status update set by Perry’s Commissioners is
highly unusual,” said Jen Powis, Sierra Club’s Senior Regional Representative in Texas. “We
are concerned because the TCEQ has a well-documented record
of bending over backwards to help the industry it is supposed
to regulate, and the TCEQ has attempted to fast-track other
power plant permits in the past. Las Brisas has asked the
TCEQ to take unprecedented and extraordinary steps to issue
an air pollution permit before the end of the year, in order
to avoid greenhouse gas regulations that become effective early next year.
The remand contested case hearing on the Las Brisas permit begins at the State Office of Administrative Hearings, in Austin, on Monday, October 18, 2010, at 1:00 p.m. The Administrative Law Judges who will hear the case have agreed to an accelerated schedule that will require them to work during the Thanksgiving holiday to return a Proposal for Decision to the TCEQ Commissioners by December 10.
“Why the sudden rush to work through Thanksgiving
on a permit application?” said Eva Hernandez with the Sierra Club. “The
Commissioners gave Las Brisas a second bite at this apple
already, now its time to allow the process to proceed as
it always has and hopefully, Sierra Club and the other parties
will demonstrate once again that Las Brisas is a bad deal
for the people of Corpus and this state.”
Based on allowable emission levels in the Las Brisas draft permit and reported emissions from the Industrial Criteria Emissions Inventory data for Nueces County from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for 2007, the Las Brisas plant would be authorized to emit roughly the same amount of air pollution – approximately 21,166 tons per year – as all of the Nueces County refineries combined, approximately 21,100 tons.
The Nueces County Medical Society and the tri-county San Patricio, Aransas, Refugio Medical Society, representing physicians from the counties surrounding the proposed plant have publically opposed Las Brisas since it was first proposed.
“Data from the Texas Medicaid program shows that
children in Corpus Christi are already twice as likely to
require emergency care for asthma as children in the rest
of Texas,” said Dr. Wes Stafford, Corpus Christi-based allergist and immunologist. “Clearly
our community is already suffering the ill effects of industrial
pollution. Allowing Las Brisas to nearly double the pollution
in this area is unconscionable. When this information was
presented to the TCEQ, it was summarily dismissed. The impression
of the public is that the TCEQ is there to protect the citizens
of Texas from the health effects of industrial pollution.
Unfortunately, that is not true. It is clear from any of
us dealing with the current commissioners that they feel
it is their job to ensure that any industry that requests
a permit can get one.”
State and federal law protect human health by restricting the amounts of air pollution from industrial sources. In Texas, TCEQ is responsible for enforcing the the federal and state Clean Air Acts. However, recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that TCEQ’s air permitting program fails under a number respects. Significantly, TCEQ’s ‘New Source Review’ program has failed to meet minimum public health and environmental standards.
"The permitting process at TCEQ is completely broken,” said Ryan Rittenhouse with Public Citizen. “This
permit would not be appropriate even if Las Brisas were meeting
TCEQ's lax and inadequate standards. Corpus Christi is already
overburdened by air pollution, and the people living near
the proposed Las Brisas plant are already exposed to too
much toxic pollution from the refining and petrochemical
plants. TCEQ has glossed over, and barely even looked at,
the impacts of toxic emissions from this plant on people
and the environment. The Las Brisas air permit should be
sent back to the drawing-board."