Texas' Environmental Agency & The Feds: This Week May Be Crucial

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

All eyes are on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality this week as its three commissioners will decide whether to grant an air permit to a proposed $3 billion petroleum coke-fired power plant in Corpus Christi.

The Las Brisas Energy Center has been criticized by health and environmental advocates but heralded by local business and government for the jobs and tax revenue the power plant could generate. Late last year, however, a pair of administrative law judges spent two weeks examining the Las Brisas air permit and recommended that the TCEQ commissioners deny it or send it back for revisions.

In the wake of last month's decision by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to begin stripping away TCEQ's authority to issue operating permits, saying that the state's permits may be illegal and violate the Clean Air Act, Texas clean-air advocates are describing the commission's decision this week as a litmus test concerning the agency's competency.

TCEQ's "decision could be seen as an example of why these federal actions were necessary unless the commissioners follow the recommendations of their own judges and deny Las Brisas's air permit," said Jen Powis of the Sierra Club.

Sierra Club officials say the administrative law judges found that Las Brisas's permit application did not account for several pollution sources and did not analyze the best technology to use to ensure the lowest possible amount of pollution. If approved, Las Brisas would be the first petroleum coke-fired power plant to be built near a metropolitan city since it has been known that petroleum coke causes more pollution than your everyday coal-fired plant, say clean-air advocates.

"There is so much evidence that this permit does not follow the law," said Tom "Smitty" Smith of Public Citizen, "this permit should be denied. If the commissioners overrule their own hearing officers ... it proves how much they need to be reformed by the ... Texas Legislature. If they approve this permit we'd recommend abolishing the commissioners and replacing them with a rubber stamp."

Still, lawyers for the power plant have reportedly filed documents stating that TCEQ cannot legally deny the permit but must give the company a chance to fix whatever issues may exist. Las Brisas officials have said they are confident going into the hearing, which is scheduled for June 30.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.