State Supreme Court denies White Stallion’s appeal

January 11, 2012

Jenna Garland, Sierra Club, (404) 281-6398,
Jen Powis, Sierra Club, (832) 453-4404,
Erin Geoffroy, Environmental Defense Fund, (512) 691-3407
Allison Sliva, No Coal Coalition, (713) 922-5639,

Austin, TX – The Texas Supreme Court denied a request by White Stallion Energy Center to overrule a lower court’s decision to send back the air pollution permit to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The latest ruling, made on December 30, upheld a lower court’s ruling from earlier in 2011 in favor of the Environmental Defense Fund’s argument that significant changes in how the site will be constructed and run made during the application process creates too much uncertainty regarding expected levels of toxic air pollution from the proposed coal plant. In other words, White Stallion created a moving target, shifting plans for the plant while the permitting process was ongoing. The decision effectively upholds a state district court’s decision to send back the White Stallion coal plant’s air pollution permit.

“The court’s decision highlights, once again, how Governor Perry’s appointees at the head of the TCEQ work to fast track permits rather than abiding by the law,” said Jen Powis, with Sierra Club. “White Stallion doesn’t have a valid air permit because it has changed the plans for the type of plant it wants to build multiple times, even publicly announcing a switch to a less water intensive cooling process but failing to submit any revised engineering drawings to TCEQ. White Stallion needs to start over, with new plans and new permits.”

Allison Sliva, a Bay City resident leading the local opposition to the plant, says “White Stallion will drain our precious water resources, pollute our air, and do so at great expense to Bay City residents. Instead of spending more money to go back to square one, White Stallion should cancel the plant proposal or plan instead for clean energy generation in our area.”

White Stallion’s proposed facility will face additional hurdles now that EPA has proposed adding Matagorda County to the list of counties with non-attainment status under the Clean Air Act. The Houston-Galveston-Brazoria (HGB) area has struggled for years to meet the minimum public health safety standards for deadly pollutants like ozone, and would be further impacted by a new major source of harmful emissions. White Stallion would nearly quadruple Matagorda County’s smog emissions, and would further impact the County’s ability to meet public health standards.

With the recent Texas Supreme Court ruling, White Stallion’s air pollution permit is in jeopardy. Sierra Club, EDF and other groups will continue to challenge the air pollution permit as it makes its way back through the state permitting process and the courts. In addition, the White Stallion developers have been unable to secure the substantial, long-term water supplies needed to operate the plant, and the plant has yet to obtain a required wastewater permit. Several local groups are gearing up to fight a flawed permit granted by the Army Corps of Engineers, which would allow White Stallion to destroy a sensitive wetlands habitat.

Lastly, with EPA’s inclusion of Matagorda County in the Houston region’s “ozone non-attainment” area, the White Stallion power plant faces an increasingly uphill battle, with a growing likelihood that the plant will not be built.

“White Stallion continues to be a bad idea for Texas.” said Jim Marston, Vice President of Energy and Director of the Texas regional office at the Environmental Defense Fund. “Six days after receiving its air permit, White Stallion revised its site plan and moved 73 out of 84 sources of air pollution. Area residents were denied their right to review and comment on the plant that White Stallion actually proposes to build. By denying White Stallion’s petition, the Supreme Court got it right.”