If we look at the distribution of the U.S population, we notice there are huge concentrations along the coasts. I was once told that more than half the population lives within 5 miles of the coasts. With so many people living on the coasts, our population is extremely susceptible to destruction from hurricanes. Recent examples of hurricane damage from Katrina, Rita, and Ike loom large in our collective memories.
Recently I came across a study by Jen Irish, an Assistant Professor of Coastal Engineering at Texas A&M, that looked at how Corpus Christi Bay would fare in the event of a hurricane under the conditions describe in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s future climate scenarios. The study found that if the Scenarios are realized hurricane flood levels could increase 3 to 27% over the next 20 years. This will cause damage to homes from flooding to increase by 60% to 100% in the event of a hurricane.
Corpus Christi is already on very low ground that has been slowly sinking for many years. Corpus’ barrier islands, Mustang and Padre, are also eroding. This study particularly interests us at Public Citizen Texas because Corpus Christi is the proposed site of The Las Brisas Pet Coke Plant, which is a project we have been fighting at Public Citizen since it was proposed.
Pet-coke is an incredibly dirty fuel source that emits large quantities of pollutants into the air. For this very reason, pet-coke plants are generally not built in highly populated areas like Corpus Christi. There is also no reason why a pet-coke plant should be built in Texas when better energy sources are available.
To top off the list of objections, Las Brisas will be located directly in the path of the storm surges predicted in Dr. Irish’s model. The proposed location is on a dredge island in Nueces Bay which is barely above sea level, though the developers have proposed raising it another 13 ft (a measure that will only have a minimal effect in the event of a major hurricane).
The Hurricane Research Team at Colorado has already predicted a that this hurricane season (which started Monday) there is 28 to 30% chance that we will see another major hurricane make landfall. In the past, Corpus Christi has been a vulnerable to hurricanes, and considering the IPCC’s finding that warming will increase hurricanes, the facility could be at great risk.
I fear for the residents of Corpus Christi, but I also can’t help but note the irony of a pet-coke facility being one of the first victims of global warming.
–The Disappointed Environmentalist