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Sierra Club sues TCEQ for failure to provide an opportunity for public comment on several permits

The Sierra Club claims the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality illegally gave four coal-fired power plants passes to pollute the air.

The Sierra Club says the state in December illegally approved permit amendments for Luminant Generation Co.-owned plants in Freestone, Rusk, Titus and Milam counties (Big Brown, Martin Lake, Monticello and Sandow).

It claims the amendments allow increased air pollution, “including thousands of additional pounds per hour of particulate manner, a pollutant linked by numerous scientific studies to heart attacks and premature death, without any public notice, the opportunity for public comment, or the opportunity for contested case hearings.”

Sierra Club attorney Ilan Levin told the Austin American-Statesman the lawsuit comes as coal-fired plants are applying for permit amendments for emissions produced during startup, shutdown and maintenance, which were not previously regulated by the state.

Levin said that not all plants seeking permitting changes are required to go through a public process, but these permits are for large enough increases that public notice is required.

“We were surprised to find out that, really, just by trolling the agency’s website, that right before the holidays, the TCEQ had issued these permits to Luminant without any public notice or any sort of opportunity at all to file some formal comments,”  Levin said.

In its complaint in Travis County Court, the Sierra Club says it asked the TCEQ air permits director on Feb. 22, 2011 to require public notice for Luminant and other electric utilities’ permit amendment applications, but received no response.

The environmental group says regulators failed to conduct a best available control technology analysis for the amendments, and failed to conduct a proper air quality impacts analysis for all four permit amendments.