The Las Brisas coal (pet coke) plant proposed for Corpus Christi has had its air permit recommended for denial by the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for the second time. The SOAH judges presiding over the case have stated in their “proposal for decision” that:
At this time, we are unable to recommend that the requested permits be issued, because we find that Las Brisas Energy Center, LLC… has not made the necessary compliance demonstration to ensure that emissions from the proposed facility would not contribute to air pollution through a violation of a NAAQS or the PSD increment, particularly in regard to particulate matter (PM).
Though not legally binding, a recommendation of denial by SOAH for a second time will, hopefully, have some impact on the TCEQ, who has the final authority for granting the permit. However, the TCEQ has a history of simply ignoring SOAH, the public, and even their own staff in order to grant inadequate and inappropriate permits to large, industrial sources of pollution such as Las Brisas.
Nevertheless, after two recommendations for denial and the complete failure of Las Brisas to submit an adequate permit proposal, it would be outrageous for TCEQ to grant this permit. Then again, “outrageous” should be TCEQ’s Chairman Bryan Shaw’s middle name… Bryan “Outrageous” Shaw – has a catchy ring to it (his current middle initial is “W” – no, I’m not kidding).
TCEQ is notorious for their failure to listen to the experts who have spent months examining the evidence (the SOAH judges spend weeks in court and months deliberating the case), but in this instance they are on record before the SOAH process had been completed, stating that they wanted to grant this permit and requesting the judges fast track the entire process. See this previous blog entry for more on that, and here again is the video of both Commissioner Buddy Garcia and Chairman Bryan Shaw stating that they wanted to have this permit granted already and asking the judges to “expedite the process.”
The original permit was sent back on a ruling of “remand” from the TCEQ commissioners due to the many issues with the permit application and recommendations brought forth in the original contested case hearing at SOAH. So even after a lengthy remand process where Las Brisas was given the opportunity to address their permit’s shortcomings (albeit, we feel TCEQ should have just denied the permit outright), they once again have been recommended for denial by the SOAH judges.
SOAH we commend you. And TCEQ, well . . . hope springs eternal.
View the recommendation here:
Check out this great article on the first denial recommendation by Forrest Wilder with the Texas Observer.