Texas court dismisses suit over dead Las Brisas power plant project

A Texas appeals court on Aug. 21 dismissed a lawsuit over the air permits for the 1,320-MW Las Brisas Energy Center LLC power project, which would have been fired by petroleum coke, because the project is basically dead and the court case is moot.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on Aug. 6 moved to dismiss this case at the Court of Appeals for the Third District.

“This case is an administrative appeal challenging a TCEQ order issuing air emission permits to Las Brisas Energy Center, LLC (Las Brisas) for a new power plant,” said the motion to dismiss. “The district court found error in the TCEQ’s order and set it aside. The TCEQ and Las Brisas appealed from the district court’s judgment. After all parties to this judicial appeal had filed initial briefs with this Court, it began to appear that Las Brisas’s power plant project might not go forward. Then, on July 26, 2013, Las Brisas moved to dismiss its appeal, saying its parent company had resolved to liquidate its assets, including Las Brisas, and was engaged in the orderly windup of its affairs. Las Brisas indicated there was a low and diminishing likelihood that the Las Brisas power plant project—for which the permit was issued—could be sustained.

TCEQ added: “The final nail was put in the coffin on July 29—when Las Brisas submitted a letter to the TCEQ asking the agency to void the air permits for the power plant project. The TCEQ promptly voided the permits. Since Las Brisas no longer has the challenged permits and the power plant will not be built, no live case or controversy remains. The TCEQ asks that the appeal be dismissed as moot and the lower court judgment be vacated and set aside.”

The original case against the air permits was brought by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition.

Notable is that many media reports and environmental group statements say this was to be a coal-fired power plant, but the fuel was always petroleum coke, an oil refinery by-product that is readily available at the project’s Corpus Christi site. Petcoke is sometimes burned in coal-fired plants, handles like coal and can have an emissions profile similar to coal, so there is often confusion between the two fuels.

The plant would have consisted of four petcoke-fired circulating fluidized-bed (CFB) steam electric generating units or boilers, each with a maximum heat input of 3,080 MMBtu/hour, and related support facilities. It was to be located at a site on the Corpus Christi ship channel industrial development corridor within the Corpus Christi Industrial District in Corpus Christi, Nueces County, Texas. 

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.