Judges in the White Stallion Coal Plant Hearing Find Application "Deficient"

On Monday, when many of us were celebrating the 4th of July holiday, two State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) administrative law judges (ALJs) released their ruling in a controversial case over whether to permit the proposed 1,200 MW “White Stallion” coal plant near Bay City, Texas.  

AJLs Kerrie Jo Qualthorough and Paul Keeper announced they could not recommend issuance of the permit, that they found the application to be deficient in several respects.  In sending their proposed findings to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the ALJs recommended TCEQ gather more information from White Stallion to address specific deficiencies within the next 180 days. 

Specifically, the ALJs found White Stallion:

  • relied upon unapproved ozone monitoring data, 
  • failed to conduct a health effects review for coal dust,
  • failed to determine the appropriate emission limits for the hazardous air pollutants  Hydrochloric Acid (HCl)  and Hydrogen Fluoride (HF).

Our folks were guarded in our response to this ruling and felt that while this was a step in the right direction, it did not go as far as we’d like.  The ruling has set the permitting of White Stallion back for as much as six months, but the ALJs did not explain whether a ruling by TCEQ for a remand of the permit would be necessary to consider the deficiencies in the application, they only suggested TCEQ consider it.  Following on the heels of TCEQ’s remand of the Las Brisas application, and given the increased oversight from the EPA, we can only hope TCEQ will do the right thing and reject this application, require White Stallion to reapply and give everyone a chance to re-examine the permit.

Nevertheless, The ALJs did make it clear that they realized that you can’t make sound judgment on air quality based on air monitors over 100 miles away, especially given the heavy level of industrial air pollution within 40 miles.  We have long argued that the use of local monitors should be required along with a full analysis of a plant’s impact on downwind areas.  It’s nuts to think this plant won’t affect air quality in the highly polluted Houston/Galveston area. and if allowed to be built, White Stallion would be a dirty source of toxic emissions that would impact not only Matagorda County but also Houston’s smog levels.  

The ALJs correctly identified several areas of deficiency including failure to consider the health effects of coal dust, inadequate ozone modeling, and failure to use Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) for two hazardous air pollutants, hydrochloric acid and hydrofluoric acid.   We hope the TCEQ will, at a minimum, require White Stallion to address all these issues.

Texas doesn’t need new coal plants.  Coal plants, including White Stallion, are just too dirty.  Nationwide we’re turning away from building coal plants.  In Texas, we’re meeting more and more of our energy needs through energy efficiency and renewables, such as wind and solar power. 

Best case scenario, TCEQ could take the lead in moving Texas toward a new energy future if they take this opportunity to advance its record on environmental quality and protect the lives and well-being of people throughout the state by rejecting this coal plant’s air quality permit application.  In the meantime, I guess we’ll be grateful that this wasn’t just another rubberstamped coal plant here in Texas.

###

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.