Texas Judges Recommend Against Proposed TXU Coal Plant Permit Because of Questionable Pollution Controls

Aug. 23, 2006

Texas Judges Recommend Against Proposed TXU Coal Plant Permit Because of Questionable Pollution Controls

Big Win for Environment and Public Health; Now TCEQ Must Rule

AUSTIN – The Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) today recommended against granting a permit for Texas Energy (TXU) to build a large, lignite-fired coal plant near the city of Franklin, signaling a victory for environmental and citizen groups in the state.

SOAH’s administrative law judges ruled that TXU’s proposed pollution controls for the plant were not a proven technology to limit nitrogen oxide and mercury emissions from lignite coal, and that these dangerous emissions could affect downwind cities. The judges’ decision serves as a recommendation for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), which must give final approval to TXU’s permit.

“This is a major victory for people who live downwind of proposed major power plants like this estimated 1,720-megawatt monster,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen’s Texas office and one of the plant’s opponents. “Citizens who live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, Waco and Austin can breathe deeply as a result of this decision. We are hopeful that the TCEQ commissioners will follow this recommendation and not bow to TXU’s tremendous political weight.”

“We have said all along that the emissions from this plant could and should be lower,” said Paul Rolke, president of Robertson County: Our Land, Our Lives. “We are anxious to see if the TCEQ commissioners will demand that TXU resubmit their application with a plan to lower emissions. Citizens should not be forced to choose between economic development and a clean environment. This shows that citizens’ groups facing proposed power plants should fight them – they can make a big difference.”

“Throughout this whole ordeal, TXU has constantly claimed that it could not use Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle technology to lower emissions because it is not a ‘proven’ technology, despite the fact that it is successfully employed at plants throughout the country to reduce pollution,” stated Karen Hadden, executive director of the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition. “Instead, TXU wanted to use technology at Oak Grove that has never been used for this type of lignite-fired power plant. Nobody knew how or if it would work to protect our air as well as TXU claimed. Fortunately, the law requires more than a mere promise from TXU – it requires proof, which the judges determined was lacking.”

“The administrative law judges have issued an extraordinary ruling recommending to deny the air permit,” said Neil Carman, clean air program director for the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter. “We hope this positive trend denying permits for dirty coal plants.”

    To read the decision, click here.