Today the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) continued their decades-long campaign of ineptitude and inadequacy as they approved the air quality permit for the White Stallion Coal Plant proposed for Matagorda County on the Texas Gulf Coast. Their ruling was unanimous despite the fact that the administrative law judges, who spent weeks presiding over and then deliberating the aspects of this case, recommended that this permit should not be issued. On top of that the TCEQ’s own staff at the Office of Public Interest Council (or OPIC) reiterated their position that this permit should be denied.
It seems simple things like common sense and logic are completely absent from the regulatory fantasy world the TCEQ commissioners live in. It is their opinion that the thousands of tons of toxic pollution they have permitted this coal plant to emit are “acceptable,” even though they are likely to lead to the deaths of over 600 Matagorda County residents over the plant’s estimated lifetime, at a price tag of over $5.4 billion in health care costs (according to a report from MSB Energy Associates). Also “acceptable” to these TCEQ commissioners is an air monitor White Stallion used for their air modeling report (a vital part of the air permitting process), despite the fact that it is located outside of Corpus Christi, 100 miles downwind of the proposed site. They may as well have used a monitor in China, as the emissions from White Stallion would likely never head in that direction.
TCEQ commissioners have also completely ignored the fact that the EPA has set new standards for National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) and they are not requiring White Stallion to adhere to them, despite the fact that this plant would be on the doorstep of the existing Houston non-attainment region. In fact, once the new EPA ozone standards come into effect, Matagorda County is slated to be included in the Houston non-attainment region. By that time, however, thanks to the expedient and enthusiastic permitting approval by the TCEQ, White Stallion will be “grandfathered” and its effects on a non-attainment region will stand.
The most egregious assault on common sense and logic, however, is this plant is completely unnecessary and dangerous to all of Texas, and in fact the entire world. At a time when we need to be shifting our infrastructure and development to renewable and sustainable forms of energy generation, a CO2 and toxin-belching coal plant is the last thing we should be permitting in Texas. This plant represents not only an assault on the health of Matagorda County citizens, but a furthering of reliance upon these dirty, old methods of power generation. We have the technology now to be shifting to responsibly generated electricity. To fail in this is not just a failure by the TCEQ towards the people of Matagorda, but the failure of the state of Texas to lead this country in the direction we desperately need to go.
In the end, however, we can all take heart in the fact that the ultimate decision on whether this plant gets built or not is not only in the hands of the TCEQ. That power lies in the hands of the people – both those who are opposing the project and those attempting to build it. This plant still requires a waste water permit from TCEQ, a water contract from LCRA, and another permit from the Army Corps of Engineers before it can operate. It is also expected that this decision from the TCEQ will be challenged at the state courts. Ultimately, as long as the people of Matagorda continue to say “NO” to this plant, and as more and more people rally to help them in their cause, this plant will be defeated.
Go to NoCoalCoalition.org for more information and to get involved in the fight against White Stallion.
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.