Mayor Parker Concerned about Proposed Coal Plant Impacts on Houston Air Quality, Coastal Wetlands, and Lower Colorado River
(Houston, Texas) Mayor Annise D. Parker sent a letter last week to the Colonel in charge of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Galveston District office requesting the Corps require an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) from the company behind the proposed White Stallion Coal Plant planned on Matagorda Bay southeast of Houston.
Mayor Parker cited concerns about air pollution:
I am concerned that the proposed White Stallion Energy Center (White Stallion) located just 20 miles outside the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria non-attainment region will put my city at risk for additional bad air days and will put at risk the investment made by industries within this area to clean up our air. Houston’s industries have put time and money into reducing our air pollution. Allowing such a large new source of nitrogen oxide (which is a key component of ozone), mercury, dioxin, sulfur dioxide, and lead from White Stallion to be emitted so closely to this should be examined through the EIS process.
Prior to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) permitting the White Stallion plant in September, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned the TCEQ that the White Stallion permit did not adequately address how it ‘would not cause or contribute to violations of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ozone.’ Mayor Parker bases her concerns on the EPA guidance to TCEQ.
“Houston is a severe ozone nonattainment area with one of the worst smog problems in the nation,” said Dr. Neil Carman, chemist and Sierra Club Clean Air Program Director. “The truth is that without another source of pollution, Houston is already off to a roaring start to the 2011 ozone season with seven bad air days already through April 24. Mayor Parker’s concerns are well-founded.”
Houston Mayor Parker also expressed concern that:
- White Stallion project, if built, would dredge and fill wetlands needed for protecting coastal communities from hurricane storm surges; and,
- Planned multiple, daily coal barge trips would require dredging and widening the sensitive lower Colorado and would likely ‘erode the unprotected shoreline, and eventually destroy recreational and subsistence fishing.
“We appreciate that Mayor Parker has taken this vital action to protect Houston air quality and the coastal wetlands environment from significant, proposed degradation by White Stallion coal plant,” said Lydia Avila with Sierra Club. “The Army Corps will take the next step and the EIS will confirm our belief that the proposed White Stallion coal plant is not in the best interests of individuals, businesses, or the environment. White Stallion should never be built.”
The EIS process is a provision of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which requires federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers to integrate environmental values into decision-making processes by considering the environmental impacts of proposed actions and reasonable alternatives.
Beside this EIS, White Stallion project would also have to obtain a water contract from the LCRA before it could operate.
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