Las Brisas: Strike two!

Jim MarstonThe  proposed $3 billion petroleum coke-fired Las Brisas power plant in Corpus Christi suffered another setback Friday when the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) said two significant environmental questions were not adequately answered by the plant’s permit application.

The agency’s own Executive Director (ED) recommended to remand the application for additional data. This follows hard on the heels of a brief by the TCEQ’s internal Office of Public Interest Counsel (OPIC), which last month recommended denial of the permit for a list of reasons that closely mirrored those outlined in our own Environmental Defense Fund brief in permit hearings last fall.

In replying to our brief, TCEQ’s executive director recommended that the application be sent back for a better analysis of the potential air pollution resulting from the dockside handling of enormous quantities of pet coke and limestone for the plant. He also agreed that the applicant’s emissions modeling for the plant was flawed and should be revisited.

EDF’s attorney, Tom Weber, said the agency’s filing was encouraging, but he said there are other serious problems with the Las Brisas application that aren’t being addressed. “We’re pleased that the TCEQ’s executive director recognizes the clear deficiencies in Las Brisas’ application regarding modeling of pollutant emissions,” Weber said. “However, Las Brisas’ application should also be denied because it fails to analyze whatsoever hazardous air pollutants and particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns, both of which can cause significant health problems especially in children and senior citizens.”

Still, the executive director’s reply brief represents a second setback for the Las Brisas application from within TCEQ itself and should make it very difficult for the three-member commission to approve the application unless a number of serious problems with the carbon-intensive plant are first addressed.

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