Allison Sliva is board chair of the No Coal Coalition/Matagorda County.
When I heard the news that EDF’s Motion to Remand was recently granted by Travis County Court Judge Lora Livingston, I was pleased on several fronts.
First, the decision halts, even if temporarily, a process of approving building facility plans that has tried to circumvent air quality laws designed to protect public health. Building this coal plant would bring with it serious air quality impacts for people in and around Matagorda County, not to mention the greater Houston area. Projected emissions from the plant will include 10 million tons of carbon dioxide, nearly 5,000 tons of sulfur dioxide, more than 4,000 tons of nitrogen oxide, nearly 1,800 tons of particulate matter and nearly 100 pounds of mercury.
This pause in the process should make everyone involved – especially the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality – think twice about the air impacts to present and future generations.
Second, the decision exposes a White Stallion action that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. TCEQ granted White Stallion an air permit after reviewing air dispersion modeling and testimony based on a site plan that White Stallion changed six days after the permit was issued. As EDF’s Jim Marston said, White Stallion “should be upfront with regulators about their intentions.”
Third, the decision renews public confidence in our legal system. As Judge Livingston wrote in her decision letter, “Without remand, meaningful public participation in the permit approval process would be effectively eliminated.”
Myself and members of the No Coal Coalition of Matagorda County thank you EDF for your due diligence in helping to set the record straight. Our call to action now is to help gather the evidence needed to prove that the air pollution coming from White Stallion would violate the law as well as harm human health.
WHITE STALLION TIMELINE
Here is a timeline of the community efforts that Matagorda County residents and others have undertaken over the years to prevent a poorly planned, poorly placed and poorly designed coal-fired power plant from coming online. – Elena Craft
September 2008 – White Stallion files for an air quality permit from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It proposes a 1,320 megawatt coal and petroleum coke-fired power plant to be located along the Colorado River eight miles south of Bay City in Matagorda County, in an ecologically sensitive area known as the Columbia Bottomlands. The proposed location is also 20 miles southwest of the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria region.
November 13, 2009 – In a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Wetlands Section Chief Sharon Fancy Parrish recommended that an Environmental Impact Statement be conducted “for the proposed project to better access the substantial change to the human environment.”
November 13, 2009 – Texas Parks & Wildlife recommends that a permit be denied in a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Regional Director Rebecca Hensley wrote that “TPWD believes the impacts to the environment including wetland fill, stream relocation, air pollution impacts, water quality and water quantity impacts, transmission line corridor impacts, railroad line installation impacts, and the potential long term impacts to wildlife and fisheries will be significant” and recommended that the Corps evaluate such impacts in an Environmental Impact Statement.
November 13, 2009 – In a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Field Supervisor Stephen Parris asked White Stallion to “compensate for all impacts to upland and wetland habitat in the project area” and that although White Stallion “intends to mitigate by purchasing mitigation credits through an agreement with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Service is not aware of a final agreement to do so.” The letter also expresses concern about habitat impacts, stating that a Service biologist had observed “raptors and grassland birds (osprey, northern barrier, white-tailed kite, red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, eastern meadowlark) using the wetland and upland habitats of the project area.”
May 13, 2010 – In a resolution, the Bay City Port Authority of Matagorda County requests a full Environmental Impact Statement to be completed before Corps approval.
August 4-5, 2010 – Thirty-five medical professionals in Matagorda County express concern in a letter published in the Palacios Beacon, Bay City Tribune and Matagorda Advocate about the potential negative health impacts of White Stallion, including emissions that contain toxins known to cause emphysema, COPD, childhood asthma, chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and other respiratory conditions.
September 27, 2010 – Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald states in a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality that White Stallion was “not a good environmental deal or business deal for the citizens of Matagorda County and Texas.”
September 29, 2010 – Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issues an air quality permit for White Stallion.
October 25, 2010 – White Stallion revises its wetlands permit site plan. The revised site plan is materially different from the Air Permit Site Plan, moving 73 of the 84 emissions points modeled in the air permit proceeding. The location of emissions sources is material in determining the air quality impacts associated with the proposed plant.
March 4, 2011 – Environmental Defense Funds files a Motion to Remand to allow discovery on the new site plan and for presentation of additional evidence, including new modeling.
May 24, 2011 – 261st District Court Judge Lora Livingston hears evidence in support of EDF’s Motion to Remand.
May 26, 2011 – 261st District Court Judge Lora Livingston grants EDF’s Motion to Remand in a letter stating that “Without remand, meaningful public participation in the permit approval process would be effectively eliminated.”