Update: February 2013
After years of grassroots challenges, White Stallion is abandoning plans to build the proposed coal-fired power plant in Matagorda County. When the project was first announced, local residents joined together to question the air pollution, water consumption, and accuracy of the developers’ promises. More and more Matagorda County residents joined together to oppose the plant, along with business owners, land owners, members of the medical community, and local elected officials. Sierra Club, Public Citizen, SEED Coalition, Environmental Integrity Project, and Environmental Defense Fund join the No Coal Coalition in celebrating the cancellation of the White Stallion Energy Center.
Developers had trouble securing sufficient water to operate the plant and the necessary funding to develop the proposed plant in earnest. In November 2011, amid strong grassroots opposition, the Lower Colorado River Authority voted to deny a contract to provide water to operate the plant. In May 2012, local fishermen and business owners publicly announced their opposition to the plant because it would be a major new source of mercury pollution in a community whose economy is tied closely to the bay. The plant also suffered a blow when a court ruled against its challenges to Clean Air Act safeguards.
Since the plant was proposed in 2008, the Texas electricity market has shifted substantially, with wind power and natural gas driving electricity prices so low that huge, capital-intensive new coal plants could not compete. Wind power provided over 20% of Texas’ electricity on peak days in 2012, and new wind farms will bring more clean, low-cost electricity to the Texas grid in 2013 and beyond.
Update: December 2012
Sierra Club and EDF have petitioned the Travis County District Court to issue an injunction enjoining White Stallion from beginning construction of the proposed coal plant under a faulty air permit. A hearing on Sierra Club and EDF’s petition will be held on January 10, 2013. EDF has also asked the court to remand the air permit to TCEQ so that additional proceedings may be held on White Stallion’s inconsistent site plans. A hearing on this motion will be held on December 19.
On another front, in its September 2012 monthly report, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas—the grid operator for the majority of the state—reported that the interconnection study for the proposed White Stallion Energy Center had been cancelled. Interconnection studies are conducted to gauge a given project’s impact on the electrical grid. White Stallion may conduct a new study, but it must once again go through all the steps required for any new project.
Update: June 2012
On June 13, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality voted to uphold its decision to grant the air permit for the proposed coal-fired White Stallion Energy Center. The move completely disregards the state court judge’s order advising the Commission to review the new permit’s impacts on air quality. Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund have plans to challenge the decision.
Update: May 2012
At the February 22 agenda meeting, the Commission declined Sierra Club and Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) request to nullify White Stallion’s air permit and remand the matter to the State Office of Administrative Hearings for further discovery and a contested case hearing. The Commission directed the parties to instead submit briefs and accompanying evidence, limiting the groups’ ability to participate in the permitting process.
In light of White Stallion’s changed site plan, EDF conducted new air dispersion modeling demonstrating that sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions from the proposed plant would exceed national ambient air quality standards. This SO2 pollution poses a threat to public health, and Sierra Club is urging the Commission to consider EDF’s modeling results and reopen permitting for White Stallion.
Update: February 2012
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will consider briefing on the proper procedure and scope for the White Stallion air permit remand at its agenda meeting on February 22. At the meeting, the Commission will not hear oral arguments but may ask questions of the parties and Administrative Law Judges involved.
On another front, on February 2, Sierra Club and its allies filed comments, urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to include Matagorda County – the location for the proposed White Stallion coal plant – in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria nonattainment area. The Houston area has long had difficulty meeting national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for harmful ozone. White Stallion will only exacerbate air pollution in Matagorda County; if built, the facility will be the second largest source of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions – a precursor for ozone. The nonattainment designation will allow EPA to protect public health by better regulating air pollution in the county.
Update: January 2012
Good news! On December 30, the Texas Supreme Court denied White Stallion’s request to overturn the decision that remanded the air permit for its proposed coal plant to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. In May, a Travis County judge granted Environmental Defense Fund’s motion for a permit remand after determining that the air permit’s site plan for the coal plant differed significantly from those outlined in the plant’s wastewater discharge and wetlands permit applications. The court ordered the Commission to conduct a more comprehensive review.
Update: November 2011
Great news! After indefinitely postponing a decision in August, the Lower Colorado River Authority has rejected White Stallion’s proposal to use billions of gallons of water for its proposed coal plant in Matagorda County. The move ends months of stalled negotiations that began when White Stallion substantially changed the terms of the proposed water contract. White Stallion has since announced using a new cooling system that will use significantly less water, but the company still needs to secure a water source for the plant.
Update: October 2011
A historic drought in Texas has forced White Stallion to drastically change plans for cooling its proposed coal-fired power plant in Matagorda County. The company announced plans to switch to dry cooling towers at the facility – a more expensive system that requires less water to operate.
White Stallion still needs to secure about 978 million gallons of water a year to operate the dry cooling system. On October 7, the Coastal Plains Groundwater Conservation District board held a public hearing to consider a private landowner’s application to sell groundwater to the plant. At the hearing, community members vocally opposed the proposed groundwater permit for White Stallion, arguing that there is not enough water to support the facility and the community's agricultural needs. The board tabled the application, and placed a moratorium on any new groundwater drilling applications until they have a better understanding of water availability in the area.
On October 6, White Stallion received a final permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a loading and unloading facility for the plant on the Colorado River.
Update: August 2011
On August 3, the Lower Colorado River Authority indefinitely postponed discussions and possible action on White Stallion’s proposed water contract after the company substantially changed the terms of the contract.
Update: June 2011
After facing strong opposition, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has agreed to table White Stallion’s request for a contract to use water from the Colorado River Basin for its proposed coal plant in Matagorda County. On June 15, elected officials, environmentalists, farmers, public health advocates, and others gathered at a public hearing to speak out against a proposal that would allow White Stallion to extract 24,500 acre feet (or about 8.3 billion gallons) of water a year for 40 years, from a basin that is undergoing one of the worst droughts in Texas history. LCRA has stated that it will reconsider the proposal in August.
Update: May 2011
On May 27, a Travis County judge granted Environmental Defense Fund’s motion and remanded White Stallion’s air permit to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The Judge agreed that the air permit’s site plan for the proposed coal plant differed significantly from those outlined in the plant’s wastewater discharge and wetlands permit applications and ordered the Commission to conduct a more comprehensive review.
Update: April 2011
On April 18, Houston Mayor Annise Parker asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to require an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the White Stallion Energy Center in its wetlands permit application. In the letter, Mayor Parker cited concerns about the proposed coal plant’s air quality impacts on an area that already suffers from high levels of air pollution. Mayor Parker also expressed concern that the project would destroy sensitive wetlands needed for hurricane storm surge protection.
Update: March 2011
On March 4, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) filed a motion with the Travis County District Court, urging the Court to remand the final air permit for the proposed White Stallion Energy Center to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In its motion, EDF argues that shortly after TCEQ approved the final air permit, White Stallion changed the site plan for the proposed facility, altering the air pollutant emissions points for the project. The air permit also showed a significantly different site plan than those outlined in the plant’s wastewater discharge and wetlands permit applications, originally submitted in 2009. EDF is urging the Court to remand the issue in order to properly assess the air quality impacts of the facility that White Stallion actually intends to build. A hearing on the motion is set for May 24, 2011.
Update: February 2011
On February 18, Sierra Club, as part of a coalition of environmental groups, sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), urging EPA to take action and prevent construction of two proposed power plants whose air permits fail to meet important Clean Air Act requirements. EPA has expressed serious concerns with deficiencies in both Las Brisas and White Stallion’s air permits, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has failed to respond. EPA should therefore take action to prevent construction of these facilities that, if built, would expose neighboring communities and Texas citizens to illegal levels of harmful air pollution.
Update: January 2011
On January 4, Sierra Club appealed the final air permit for the proposed White Stallion Energy Center to the Travis County District Court in Texas. In the petition, Sierra Club highlights how the air permit fails to set adequate emission limits for several air pollutants, such as particulate matter, and contains no limits for greenhouse gas pollution. The Club is urging the District Court to reverse the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s order finalizing the air permit, and remand the case for further proceedings. A copy of the petition is available in the related documents section below.
Update: September 2010
Back in July, the administrative law judges recommended against issuing the air permit for the proposed White Stallion Energy Center in Matagorda County, Texas. In their decision (available below), the judges found that White Stallion relied upon unapproved ozone monitoring data and failed to conduct a state health effects review for coal dust, among other things. Nevertheless, on September 29, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality approved the final air permit for the facility. To read more, click here! To view the docket for this case, click here and enter TCEQ Docket Number 2009-0283-AIR.
On October 28, a public meeting on the draft wastewater permit will be held at 7:00pm at the convention center in Bay City, Texas.
Update: August 2010
On August 6, Sierra Club submitted comments on a draft wastewater permit that would allow the White Stallion Energy Center to discharge millions of gallons of polluted wastewater into the Colorado River daily. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality issued the draft wastewater permit on June 30, 2010. In the comments (available below), Sierra Club argues that the draft permit fails to address the environmental impacts of the discharges on the Colorado River, Matagorda Bay, and nearby wetlands that are home to important wildlife. The Commission also failed to adequately consider the impacts on Matagorda County residents that recreate in the area or rely on groundwater as a drinking water source, before issuing the permit. Sierra Club has requested a public meeting and contested case hearing on the draft permit.
Update: May 2010
On May 4, the League of Women Voters moderated a packed town hall meeting on the environmental and economic impacts of the proposed White Stallion Energy Center in Matagorda County. The meeting included statements by six panelists, rebuttals and audience questions. Representatives from Sierra Club and other environmental groups spoke out against the plant, raising concerns about White Stallion’s impacts on air pollution, global warming and water resources. White Stallion’s owner and CEO, Randy Bird, declined the invitation to participate in the forum.
Update: February 2010
On February 10, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 6 (EPA) sent a letter to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), raising several concerns with the draft air permit for the proposed White Stallion Energy Center (available below). In the draft air permit, TCEQ did not adequately demonstrate that the coal plant’s ozone emissions would not violate air quality standards, and did not properly set limits for the project's fine particulate matter emissions. Also, TCEQ did not properly consider cleaner fuel options or more efficient pollution control technologies - such as integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology - for the project, as required by the Clean Air Act.
Update: June 2009
An evidentiary hearing regarding White Stallion's draft air permit is scheduled to begin on February 10, 2010.
Update: March 2009
On March 13, 2009, the TCEQ issued a draft air permit for the White Stallion Energy Center. White Stallion has requested a direct referral to a contested case hearing and as a result, no public comment period will be held on the draft permit. A public meeting regarding the draft permit will be held on March 30 at 7:00pm at the convention center in Bay City, TX. A preliminary hearing to determine the parties that will participate in the contested case hearing will be held at the same location on April 20 at 10:00am.
On September 5, 2008 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) received a permit application for a new coal plant in Bay City, in Matagorda County, Texas. The permit was deemed administratively complete and is currently under technical review.
See Case Documents and Other Related Information
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