Sierra Club says judge has thrown out Las Brisas air permit

Texas District Court Judge Stephen Yelenosky signed an order invalidating the state-issued air pollution permit for the proposed Las Brisas power plant in Corpus Christi, said the Sierra Club in a July 25 statement.

The Sierra Club noted that the Las Brisas proposal is the only new power plant proposed to be built within city limits in the United States, and that a coalition of concerned residents, business owners, and elected officials have fought the plant since it was announced. They claim this petroleum coke-fired power plant will be a major new source of toxic air pollution in a city already plagued with industrial pollution.

“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 the 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.”

The July 24 court order settles the legal challenge brought by Sierra Club, Environmental Integrity Project and the Clean Economy Coalition, to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality-issued air pollution permit, which Judge Yelenosky found faulty. The judge in May had indicated he would rule this way.

“The judge found several major legal errors – essentially gaping holes and inconsistencies – in Las Brisas’ required air permit,” said Erin Fonken, attorney with Environmental Integrity Project. “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.” 

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, the club said. Las Brisas also failed to demonstrate that soot and fine particulate pollution from the plant would not significantly diminish air quality, the judge wrote.

Las Brisas Energy Center LLC is proposing a 1,320 MW (gross) facility on the north side of the Port of Corpus Christi’s Inner Harbor that would use circulating fluidized-bed combustion technology. The company couldn’t be reached July 26 via e-mail for comment.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.