On May 14, Texas District Court Judge Stephen Yelenosky issued a letter announcing his intended ruling in a lawsuit seeking to reverse an air pollution permit authorizing the proposed 1,320 megawatt Las Brisas Energy Center. The air permit would allow massive new emissions of toxic pollutants into the air in Corpus Christi, Texas, near schools and residential neighborhoods. Sierra Club, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the local Clean Economy Coalition, and a coalition of Texas cities joined forces in 2009 to challenge the plant’s air pollution permit, successfully arguing that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) cut corners and failed to meet several federal Clean Air Act requirements.
Environmental Integrity Project attorney Erin Fonken, representing the Sierra Club in the lawsuit, said, “The court has announced that it intends to rule against the TCEQ because, in issuing the permit, TCEQ committed a number of critical legal errors. Among the legal errors are TCEQ’s failure to require the new power plant to comply with the Clean Air Act’s protective air toxics standards and the failure to adequately account for the millions of tons to petroleum coke that will be dumped and piled on site before it is burned in the power plant’s main boilers.”
The Court’s announcement is the latest in a string of legal setbacks for the proposed power plant, which, if built, would emit approximately 12 million tons per year of greenhouse gases, as well as thousands of tons per year of dangerous pollutants that contribute to smog pollution and health impacts such as asthma attacks and heart disease. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently considering a separate permit application for the plant’s greenhouse gas emissions, and that permit will also need to be issued, before the plant may start construction. The future of the proposed Las Brisas power plant remains unclear. Originally proposed in 2008, the plant currently lacks the required approvals under the federal Clean Air Act to begin construction. The plant faces strong local opposition from city officials, local business leaders, and residents of Corpus Christi’s fence-line communities who live adjacent to industrial facilities that have a legacy of pollution.
“The Las Brisas proposal is still the wrong answer for Corpus Christi,” said Flavia de la Fuente, with Sierra Club. “The city is taking such strong steps toward being a more livable, sustainable place. Proposals to further tie Corpus Christi to dirty coal and petroleum coke industries, like Las Brisas and potential coal export projects, are a step in the wrong direction. This court decision is great news for the leaders and residents who are working so hard to build a brighter future for Corpus Christi.”
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