In Victory for Public Health, Court Rules Plant’s Air Permit Invalid
Austin, TX–(ENEWSPF)–July 26, 2012. District Court Judge Stephen Yelenosky signed an order Monday, July 24, invalidating the state-issued air pollution permit for the proposed Las Brisas power plant in Corpus Christi, TX. The Las Brisas proposal is the only new power plant proposed to be built within city limits in the United States, and a coalition of concerned residents, business owners, and elected officials have fought the plant since it was announced, arguing that the petroleum coke-fired power plant will be a major new source of toxic air pollution in a city already plagued with industrial pollution. Today’s court order is a victory for Sierra Club and allied groups and individuals, who have challenged the faulty permits from the beginning.
“The judge made the right decision, that Las Brisas was permitted illegally and that the permit did not protect public health or the city of Corpus Christi,” said Flavia de la Fuente, with Sierra Club. “Doctors, nurses, fishermen, teachers, students, and many more have clearly stated that Las Brisas is dangerous to public health. Las Brisas was the wrong choice for Corpus Christi.”
Monday’s court order settles the legal challenge brought by Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project, and the Clean Economy Coalition, to the TCEQ-issued air pollution permit, which Judge Yeleonsky found faulty.
“The judge found several major legal errors – essentially gaping holes and inconsistencies – in Las Brisas’ required air permit. Las Brisas needed to demonstrate that, if the plant is built, the extra air pollution will not harm the people of Corpus Christi. Las Brisas failed to do that, and that is one of the key issues in the Texas state district court’s ruling,” said Erin Fonken, attorney with Environmental Integrity Project.
Judge Yelenosky found that the TCEQ failed to require Las Brisas to demonstrate that it would meet standards designed to lower emissions of toxic pollutants, like mercury from power plants. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, which is especially threatening to young babies and children. Las Brisas also failed to demonstrate that soot and fine particulate pollution from the plant would not significantly diminish air quality. Across Texas, developers of new coal plants have repeatedly failed to prioritize public health through reduced or minimum air pollution emissions, yet the TCEQ has issued air permits in most cases, even when the state-issued permit has not met public health safeguarding requirements from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“The City of Corpus Christi is building a clean energy economy, and a dirty, new plant like Las Brisas doesn’t fit in with those plans. It’s time for Las Brisas to face reality, and say uncle,” said Hal Suter, Chair of the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, and a Corpus Christi resident.
Hal added, “Corpus Christi residents have been plagued by industrial pollution for generations, yet the Las Brisas developers and the Texas Council on Environmental Quality were content to stick with the status quo. Today’s court ruling sends a message – public health must be a top priority for state officials.”
While Texas continues to lead the country in clean, affordable wind power, the future of the Las Brisas power plant remains unclear. Originally proposed in 2008, the plant currently lacks the required permits under the federal Clean Air Act to begin construction. With Monday’s Court order, the plant will again be postponed as its air pollution permit is invalidated; Las Brisas and the TCEQ must ensure that pollution levels are lowered to meet public health requirements.
The Order can be viewed via Google Docs here.