Corpus Christi Residents Can Breathe a Short, but Clean, Sigh of Relief

This week the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality received a recommendation from two administrative judges denying the air permit for the proposed Las Brisas Energy Center in Corpus Christi.  The decision is a ray of hope in the battle to prevent the petcoke plant from showering the citizens of Corpus Christi with harmful pollutants including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and lead.

Set to be built in the Inner Harbor of Corpus Christi, the petroleum coke-fired power plant would cost nearly $3 billion.

Petcoke piles along the ship channel in Corpus Christi

The recommendation was issued following two weeks of testimony and nearly two months of private deliberation between the judges.  Reasons for their decision against the permit were that the company:

  • failed to perform analysis on maximum achievable control technology to be used for its boilers
  • failed to properly account for second emissions
  • failed to properly account for emissions from material handling
  • improperly adjusted the moisture content of the petroleum coke handled at the Port of Corpus Christi in violation of state and federal guidance, resulting in unreliable emissions modeling

In addition, the judges wrote, Las Brisas

has failed to meet its burden of proof on a number of required issues.  Among other things, numerous aspects of LBEC’s air modeling were simply inadequate and provide insufficient assurance that the permits, if issued, would comply with all applicable air quality standards and be protective of human health and the environment.

Yet in the world we live in, the judges’ the decision on the issue holds no real ground.  The TCEQ has ultimate authority on the matter.  The three commissioners who make up the TCEQ can comply with the recommendation, request corrections to the permit, or even completely dismiss it and grant Las Brisas their permit.

“For years the policy of the TCEQ has been to rubber stamp these permits and disregard the Clean Air Act,” said Ryan Rittenhouse, coal organizer with Public Citizen Texas. “With the judge’s decision to deny the air permit, TCEQ has the opportunity to change course and truly protect the people and environment of Texas.”

It seems that concerns over the system of approving or denying permits will only rise if the TCEQ dismisses the recommendation.  The director of the Texas Environmental Defense Fund office, James Marston, said that “this will be a true test for the commissioners at the TCEQ.  If they overturn this decision…we ought to do away with the whole hearing process and replace it with a rubber stamp.  We’ll be watching it very closely to see if politics trump the facts and the law in this case.”

As will we.  Be sure to check Texas Vox regularly for updates on this, and other, energy-related issues.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.