Public Citizen Urges Residents to Attend Upcoming Hearing on White Stallion Power Plant

April 13, 2009    

Public Citizen Urges Residents to Attend Upcoming Hearing on White Stallion Power Plant

Residents Who May Be Affected by Plant’s Pollutants Should Tell the Judge

AUSTIN – Next Monday marks the last chance to register as legal opponents to the White Stallion power plant proposed near Bay City, and Public Citizen is urging people to attend. Opponents have organized a group called the No Coal Coalition around concerns for air quality, water use, the health effects of increased pollution and the plant’s potential contribution to global warming.

The White Stallion Energy Center is slated for construction just 10 miles south of Bay City. The State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) will conduct a preliminary hearing on the White Stallion Energy Center at 10 a.m. Monday, April 20, at the Bay City Convention Center. 

Anyone with concerns or who anticipates being affected by air contaminant emissions from the facility may attend Monday’s hearing and request to be a party to the case. A SOAH judge will decide who will be eligible to participate in the case; the actual contested case hearing, which will be in about six months, will be a legal proceeding similar to a civil trial in state district court.

“We are extremely concerned about the White Stallion plant,” said Robert M. Malina, Ph.D, a Bay City resident representing the No Coal Coalition and a professor emeritus with the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education at the University of Texas at Austin. “If built, White Stallion would emit thousands of tons of pollution, which could have serious health consequences for a large number of people and the environment. Emissions from coal plants can complicate asthma, cardiac pulmonary disease, and many other circulatory and respiratory conditions. Mercury and lead, both emitted in large quantities from coal and petroleum coke plants, accumulate in our bodies and the environment and are associated with serious developmental problems in children. Simply stated, the White Stallion plant should not be built.”

White Stallion will burn coal and petroleum coke “pet-coke,” a dirty refinery byproduct with properties similar to coal. But a much cleaner process exists; about 30 miles away, in Fort Bend County, Hunton Energy has received a permit to build an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) plant. The Hunton plant will turn pet-coke into synthetic gas, which will be sold to natural gas plants to supplement their fuel supplies. The Hunton IGCC plant will capture impressive amounts of pollutants – more than 90 percent of the mercury, sulfur and even a large amount of carbon dioxide, among others – in one of the most technologically advanced processes in the United States. Many of these captured pollutants can be sold to other industries. Another plant similar to Hunton is being developed in Houston by NRG Energy. The White Stallion Energy Center would use a much older technology and would not have such advanced pollution controls.

Although located in Bay City, coastal breezes could carry some emissions as far as Houston or even Austin. The hearing judge will determine who is an affected party based predominantly on the distance they live from the plant. In the past, this distance has ranged as far as 30-50 miles to as close as just five miles.

Citizens also have expressed concern that the Colorado River will have to be dredged or even widened to accommodate the barges that would deliver fuel to the White Stallion Energy Center. If built, the plant will require four barge loads of fuel daily. Local residents are worried about increased river traffic, noise, and the environmental effects of these barges on water quality and the river ecosystem. If fuel is instead shipped via train, more than 120 cars a day will dump coal onto the premises, creating noise and dust.

Because it can be very difficult for individuals to participate in the process to contest the permitting of these plants, opponents are encouraged to join the No Coal Coalition. The contested case hearing is an official legal proceeding, and individuals participating as parties will be charged with handling all case documents and will likely need a lawyer. Participating in the hearing as a coalition member will protect individuals from that hardship and provide anonymity to those who don’t wish to disclose personal information in the trial process. For more information, contact Public Citizen’s Ryan Rittenhouse at 512-477-1155 and visit www.NoCoalCoalition.org.  

“Citizen participation in the contested case hearing process has been very successful in the past, blocking nine of 19 coal plants in Texas,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office. “Even if a plant does get permitted, citizen involvement always results in reduced levels of emissions.”

The Bay City Convention Center is located at 201 7th Street. For more information about this permit application, or the permitting or hearing process, please call the TCEQ Office of Public Assistance, toll free, at 1-800-687-4040 or visit the office’s Web site.

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