Public Citizen responds: Check your facts, Judge

For those of you following our work organizing citizens in the Bay City area against the proposed White Stallion coal plant, there is a new chapter to add to the saga. You may remember that we were down there recently speaking with rice farmers concerned about the plant’s potential (huge!) water use. Turns out not everyone in the county was happy with this turn of events, especially Judge Nate McDonald, who thinks the project will be “great” for the county and the state of Texas.

Clearly, we’re going to have to part ways on that one. Judge McDonald fired the first shot with an op-ed in the Bay City Tribune, but the paper gave us a forum to respond. You’ll find our answer below, and can find the rice farmer’s response here.

No such thing as ‘clean coal’

by Tom “Smitty” Smith

Recently, County Judge Nate McDonald expressed his concerns that rice famers met with Public Citizen, a national consumer and environmental group, to discuss the negative impacts of the proposed White Stallion coal plant, particularly the amount of water the plant will use. Unfortunately, he got his facts wrong about both the plant and our organization.

The judge says he welcomes development and that his requirement for White Stallion is “that it be the cleanest coal plant there is and do no harm to our environment and air quality,” but the facts show that this plant is not the “cleanest coal plant there is” and will do substantial harm.

There is no such thing as “clean coal.” Even if there were, White Stallion would certainly not qualify.

This coal plant would be, by far, the largest source of pollution in Matagorda County. It will not be the cleanest coal plant in the country, or even in Texas. There are at least four other traditional coal plant proposals in Texas that would have cleaner emissions than White Stallion. The sulfur and nitrogen oxide emission rates of the NRG Limestone, Spruce, Coleto Creek, and Tenaska coal plants would all be lower than White Stallion.

The Environmental Protection Agency is on the verge of strengthening air quality attainment standards, and this coal plant could result in Matagorda County being reclassified and included in the Houston/Galveston non-attainment region, which would result in a loss of federal funding and stricter regulations for new businesses.

The Lower Colorado River Authority estimates that White Stallion would require a staggering 36,000 acre feet of water every year — enough to cover 56 square miles one foot deep in water.

The way water deals work, White Stallion would get priority over other users if there isn’t enough water for everyone.

That’s why the rice farmers, and any other industry that uses water, are threatened by this coal plant.

Judge McDonald made some comments about Public Citizen and myself that are not true. Public Citizen isn’t a “protester for hire” as Judge McDonald writes. We advocate for clean energy and oppose dirty energy such as White Stallion. For example, I have worked hard on promoting wind and other types of clean energy, and have recently received a major national award for my work to create the Texas wind energy boom.

To ensure our integrity, Public Citizen doesn’t take money from corporations or government. Instead, we raise money from ordinary citizens and major foundations who share our concerns and vision of a clean economy.

When asked, we offer advice and help organize local groups who have concerns about new facilities.

The rice farmers are just one of many groups who understand what a bad idea this is for their community.

We trust that the judge is a man of his word when he says that he will only support a power plant that will “do no harm.”

Hopefully, with a little more research he’ll see just how miserably White Stallion fails to meet that requirement and oppose this plant.


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.