TCEQ Found to Illegally Support Coal Plant Application

December 3, 2010
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Contact: Mica Odom, EDF, 512-691-3451, modom@edf.org

(Austin, TX – December 3, 2010) For the second time in as many tries, the State Office of Administrative Hearings Judges announced their recommendation to Commissioners to deny the Las Brisas Energy Center's (LBEC) air pollution permit application. Not only did LBEC fail to prove that pollution levels would remain within federal limits for particulate matter -- tiny dust particles linked to asthma, respiratory diseases, and heart disease – but the Judges also found that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) Executive Director violated the law by assisting LBEC in its attempts to show that its plant would comply with applicable Clean Air Act standards.

This action is part of a pattern of bias by TCEQ in favor of LBEC. The Commission hauled the Judges before them in October, pressuring the Judges to act quickly so that LBEC could evade new pending health-based regulations. TCEQ Chairman Bryan Shaw said that he and his staff would "commit" to "expedite [the permit process] on our end" to "beat the January" EPA-proposed federal carbon rule to cap carbon emissions from large polluters like refineries and coal-fired power plants.

The issue is whether TCEQ will again show bias in favor of the applicant. LBEC is now requesting that TCEQ shorten the deadline for filing legal briefs in response to the Judges' Proposal for Decision (PFD), a decision in a complex case with more than 250 findings of fact, from the normal 30 days to 8 days (or by 74%) to enable LBEC to avoid new EPA regulations that become effective in January 2011. "If TCEQ decides to shorten the air permitting process, it would be nothing but an illegal attempt to deny the people of Texas their constitutional rights to a fair hearing," said Jim Marston, Environmental Defense Fund's Director of the Texas Regional Office. "Our TCEQ Commissioners must stop cheerleading for polluters and make Corpus Christi citizens' health a priority following the recommendation of the Judges who heard the facts and, yet again, advised the Commissioners to deny LBEC's air pollution permit."