After losing a 26,000 acre feet per year water contract with the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the White Stallion Energy Center, a 1200 MW proposed coal plant for Matagorda County, Texas has had to scramble to find other sources of water. As a result, the developers announced a costly design change that they claim will reduce their water needs, but still require the equivalent of almost 1 billion gallons of water per year (about 3,000 acre feet). To meet this demand without a contract from LCRA, White Stallion has quickly turned to private landowners in Matagorda County in an attempt to gain access to groundwater. So far, most of the smart people of Matagorda County have not sold their private water, and the few sellers the coal plant’s developers have identified are not selling enough to meet White Stallion’s water needs.
Most critically, not only is the groundwater supply that the developer has identified not sufficient to meet White Stallion’s needs, but groundwater is also an unreliable water supply for a baseload utility planning to operate in a drought-prone state. The Coastal Plains Groundwater Conservation District (CPGCD), which manages groundwater for the area, adopted amendments to their rules on June 29th, 2012 to allow them to better manage and respond to aquifer conditions such as the ongoing historical drought. In order to protect the health of the aquifer for future generations, the District has implemented a curtailment scheme that will be implemented based on aquifer conditions (Subchapter B: Production Limits, Section 6.11.c, page 53). This is a proactive and sustainable approach to groundwater management and is meant to ensure the viability of the aquifer for future generations.
What does this mean for White Stallion and other permitees? If aquifer conditions reach triggers laid out in the rules, anyone who applied for a water permit or amended their permit for a different use after 2011 would be required to restrict their pumping by up to 80%. Since both of the landowners who have agreed to sell their water to White Stallion meet these criteria, only 600 acre feet of water per year is “guaranteed” during times where aquifer levels are low. Furthermore, all permits, under the CPGCD’s rules, are only valid for 3 years at a time- all permits are up for renewal every 3 years (Subchapter B: Application Requirements and Processing, Section 3.15.a, page 27).
Given the severity of the Texas drought in the past and its ongoing nature, it’s possible we will see curtailment in the future. Does this seem like a good investment to you?
-Lydia Avila, Associate Field Representative
Last week, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) announced that it had rejected a 40 year, multi-billion gallon a year water contract with the proposed White Stallion Energy Center.
When the LCRA was considering this water contract over the summer, folks from all over the Colorado River basin rose in opposition to this irresponsible use of water. If approved, this contract would have allowed White Stallion to take approximately 22 million gallons of water from our river and lakes every single day! With an extreme drought and no end in sight, community members of all backgrounds wanted to make sure that LCRA did not commit our limited and invaluable resource to a dirty coal plant for the next 40-55 years.
Sierra Club applauds LCRA’s decision to reject the proposed contract and we thank those of you who sent the LCRA board members thousands of emails, made phone calls, showed up at the July meeting to ask the board members not to sell our water to a coal plant. This is your victory!
Read more about this here.
Last Tuesday, October 18th Houstonians sent a message to Mayor Parker and city council: we want clean air! Sixteen clean air supporters showed up at the city council meeting to deliver hundreds of petitions to Mayor Parker and the council against the White Stallion coal-fired power plant, proposed just 20 miles outside of a region with some of the worst air pollution problems in the country, including Houston.
Roughly half of those present spoke to the council about their concern over the possibility of this coal plant being built so close to Houston where thousands of people already suffer from asthma and other respiratory diseases. Houston leads the state in asthma rates and many must look out for “bad air days” which often determines whether or not they will spend time outdoors. It is evident that the last thing Houston needs is another major ource of smog that will emit the equivalent pollution of 1.7 million cars.
It was a great day at city hall and below are accounts from some of the folks who came out and stood up for air quality. Stay tuned for updates on whether Mayor Parker takes action against this proposed coal plant.
“I thought our being at the council meeting and the talks we delivered made an
impact on the council members. My best moment was when one of the council members starting asking questions about White Stallion Power Plant after one of our speakers, showing that he had paid attention and now wanted more information! That’s how it starts to change. One by one.” – Don
“Highlight of the city council visit was seeing the concern on the Council regarding the White Stallion plant, especially Councilman Ed Gonzalez.” – Bette
“I signed up to be a last minute speaker. Having not planned on speaking, I had nothing prepared. (Scary!) While waiting for my turn to speak, I flipped through the notes packet the team prepared for the Council Members and found some key points that I realized I could use to help deliver “my story” to the Council. Worked out GREAT! So my lasting memory from this event will be a lesson – ‘even when it appears the odds of proving useful may be remote, don’t refrain, you may well end up being a big help’” – Joe
On August 9th, the Travis County Commissioners Court unanimously passed a resolution in opposition to the construction of White Stallion Energy Center, a proposed coal-fired power plant in Matagorda County.
A driving force for the resolution was the fact that White Stallion has been trying to obtain a water contract from the LCRA that would provide them with approximately 8 billion gallons of water every year for the next 40-55 years. The Travis County Commissioners court cited concerns about adverse health and environmental impacts that would be caused by the plant including several respiratory illnesses and water contamination. No doubt, the White Stallion coal plant is predicted to cause over 600 premature deaths, thousands of asthma attacks and 93,000 missed work days.
Sierra Club applauds the Court and, in particular, Commissioner Karen Huber for taking leadership on this. It is also great to see that the resolution makes the case for energy efficiency measures and alternative sources of energy, such as wind and solar, since they require virtually no water, not to mention the fact that they emit no pollution.
The White Stallion Coal Plant is a project that — if allowed to be built would cost 2.5 billion dollars. More than that, it would be a gamble- betting our water future in the lower Colorado River basin against one of the worst droughts this state has ever recorded.
Public Opposition is Growing in Places like Matagorda County
With the drought reaching the worst in history for the Colorado River Basin, lake levels have fallen and not been restored to normal levels. According to the LCRA website itself, “water flowing into the [Colorado River basin] was 1 percent of average in June, and some tributaries are drying up.”
The plant is scheduled for completion in Matagorda County in 2015. However, the plant would require a water permit among others to begin construction. The plant executives have come to the LCRA for a 40-year water purchase contract. The contract, if passed, would sell 25,400 acre-feet of water per year- that’s the equivalent of about 15 percent of the usage of the entire city of Austin in 2009!
The LCRA will be voting to grant or deny a water permit for the coal plant on August 10th. In preparation for their vote, the LCRA will be having a meeting on July 28th at the Bay City Civic Center in Matagorda County. Bay City, only one mile south of the proposed coal-powered energy center, is in the position to be struck by new air and water pollution as well as sickness from known coal-plant byproducts such as arsenic, mercury, and particulate matter.
The Colorado River
We urge anyone in the area to come out to the LCRA meeting that starts at 6:30pm! In conjunction with the meeting will be a display of posters with beautiful photographs of Texas and the wildlife we want to protect. The display, Protecting What We Love: Our Health. Our Air. Our Water. Can be seen from 5-8pm and refreshments will be served. Please come and enjoy this stunning artwork and bring any questions you may have about the coal plant!
Click on the following links to read the proposed draft water contract, fact sheet, and press release.
For more information: