Tag Archives: Colorado River

Impacts on sensitive area not considered in White Stallion coal plant permit.

Report shows Army Corps of Engineers Failed to Conduct Environmental Impact Statement

(Austin) – Today, the Sierra Club released a report prepared by Dr. Lauren Ross demonstrating that the US Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider key environmental impacts when it granted a wetlands permit to the proposed White Stallion Energy Center.  The report, Wetland, Bottomland and Colorado River Impacts from the Proposed White Stallion Energy Center, L.L.C. Coal-Fired Power Plant, identified mutliple environmental impacts that the White Stallion’s application ignored, and the Corps did not investigate.

The US Army Corps of Engineers permitting process is designed to protect wetlands, rivers and streams.  However, the White Stallion coal plant is proposed for a particularly sensitive area which was not appropriately accounted for.  “White Stallion’s application was drafted narrowly to address only direct construction impacts to a limited number of on-site wetlands and a stream segment.  It fails, for example, to examine the impact of this proposed project on the largest hardwood forested Bottomlands in Texas and possibly along the U.S. Gulf Coast.”  said Dr. Lauren Ross, author and environmental engineer with Glenrose Engineering. “The Corps and others must recognize that White Stallion has made no plans to deal with flooding or hurriance related impacts for the proposed project right on our Texas coast.”

In part, the report notes:

(1) The permit does not address the fact that flows to the hardwood forested Bottomlands would be disrupted.

(2) The permit does not provide mitigation for construction proposed along the bank of the Colorado River.

(3) The proposed power plant would discharge storm runoff and waste water affluent.  The storm run off would cross the ash disposal and coal storage sites, which would change the quality of the storm run off and the permit did not address the leaching of metals and potential damages to the Colorado River fish, crab, and shrimp nurseries.

Although White Stallion received a 404 wetlands permit, it still does not have (1) a final air permit, (2) a water contract, or (3) a wastewater permit.

White Stallion is currently seeking groundwater to run their plant through a local landowner. The Coastal Plains Groundwater District who is considering this permit has expressed concerns about what the ongoing drought and LCRA actions can have on their available water supply. “No action has been taken on the groundwater permit White Stallion is counting on.  Even if it was to be granted it would still be a very small fraction of what they need to operate; and would only be good for three years,” said Lydia Avila, organizing representative with the Sierra Club.

“White Stallion is no closer today to going to ground than it was when it began this process,” says Jen Powis, regional representative with the Beyond Coal campaign.  “White Stallion announced it was switching to an air cooled process that would use less water, but has failed to amend its TCEQ wastewater plans.  Likewise, a court remanded White Stallion’s air permit back to TCEQ because White Stallion kept changing its engineering drawings and location.  White Stallion’s sloppiness is an omen of things to come if this plant is permitted and constructed.” 

Texas has 19 coal-fired power plants, and also has the most proposed coal plants (7), of any state in the nation. Texas also leads the nation in pollution, ranking number one for the nation in mercury emissions, carbon dioxide emissions, and nitrigen dioxide emissions, among others.  Power plants are all major sources for these, and other toxic chemicals.

“How can the Corps issue this permit when East and West Matagorda Bay are the only pristine bays left throughout the glorious Texas coast,”  said Muriel Tipps, a land owner, realtor, and Seafood Representative for Matagorda County.   “It is shocking to locals that the powers of Texas and others continue to let White Stallion slide in this process; the Corps ignores the major impacts caused by the proposed dredging of the Colorado River, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality ignored the documented ozone impacts on the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria non-attainment district, and White Stallion continues to propose a project that would fundamentally ruin our fishing and agricultural heritage in this area.  White Stallion’s shoddy permitting process must be stopped.” 

CONTACT

Jen Powis, Sierra Club, Senior Regional Representative, 832.453.4404 or Lydia Avila, Sierra Club, Representative, 512.477.1729

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Explore, Enjoy, Protect

Treading Water

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:

-Lena Lane

Don’t Lead this Horse to Water

The Sierra Club today released a report, Proposed White Stallion Coal-Fired Power Plant Water Demands and the Highland Lakes Water Supply”.  Along with Matagorda County rancher-land stewards, Sierra Club asked the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to deny a water contract for the proposed White Stallion coal plant.

The report by Dr. Lauren Ross of Glenrose Engineering provides information in advance of an expected agenda item on the proposed water contract at the Wednesday, June 15 LCRA Board of Directors Meeting set in Austin.  The report finds that there is not enough water available for the White Stallion request:

Combined Firm Yield Water from Lakes Buchanan & Travis   535,812 acre feet per year
Firm Water Commitments -514,028 acre feet per year
Uncommitted Water  21,784 acre feet per year
   

White Stallion Request 25,000 > Uncommitted 21,784 acre feet per year

DROUGHT The potential LCRA contract would commit this supply to be available for the proposed White Stallion during the most severe historical drought of record and it would compromise so called ‘interruptible’ agricultural and environmental flows needs.

Dr. Lauren Ross, Glenrose Engineering

“LCRA is contemplating meeting White Stallion’s coal plant water demand by a combination of run of river water,  that is — water from rain and run-off during wet periods and reservoirs that don’t exist,” said Dr. Lauren Ross whose firm Glenrose Engineering produced the report.  “In the extreme drought that we are experiencing there is no excess run of river water and reservoirs are evaporating at greater than normal rates.  LCRA must concentrate on meeting currently committed water uses and the requested White Stallion contract should be denied.”

The report further finds that:

      • 11% of the water supplied for White Stallion from Lakes Buchanan and Travis would be lost to evaporation and leakage before it arrives at the pumping plant. If accepting this contract, LCRA would waste 3,000 acre-feet per year in evaporation and leakage.
      • Water supplied under the proposed contract would lower storage levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis and would result in less water being provided for agricultural irrigation, instream flows, and Matagorda bay and estuary inflows.
      • A study of the effects of climate change on water availability in Texas released in March 2011, estimates significant changes in precipitation, evaporation, and runoff in Central Texas due to climate change. It predicts significant deficits in reservoir storage during drought conditions with climate change, compared to similar predictions without climate change. This information on the effects of climate change on rain, evaporation, and runoff should be considered before making any additional commitments for firm water supply.

Laurance Armour, General Manager of Pierce Ranch in Wharton County and member of LCRA’s Water Management Plan Advisory Committee.

 Laurance Armour, General Manager of Pierce Ranch in Wharton County and member of LCRA’s Water Management Plan Advisory Committee commented on the upcoming decision by LCRA about the water contract:

With this exceptional drought, there isn’t enough water right now for current stakeholders –  cities, farmers, the environment and all the businesses that currently depend upon Lakes Travis and Buchanan for their existence.  Additional sales of Colorado River water to unneeded industrial users such as the proposed White Stallion coal plant, would take river water away from people who currently depend upon that water for their livelihoods and drinking water.  If there’s no significant rain between now and January 2012, there will barely be enough water for the people in and around Austin and no water for the farmers in the lower basin.  We can’t waste water on unnecessary and polluting coal plants.

Susan Dancer, Texas Blessings Ranch owner pointed to the potential externalized costs to existing ‘interruptible’ water users of granting the proposed contract to White Stallion:

Do we really want the coal industry’s water rights to trump those of agriculture and the environment we depend upon?  During this drought, we are especially in need of water to irrigate our human and livestock food crops as well as our hay pastures.  We need enough freshwater inflow into Matagorda Bay and estuaries to provide the brackish water necessary for many of our fish and shellfish species to reproduce.   The LCRA Board must consider the externalized financial costs of such a facility as White Stallion.  Taking our water for an un-needed, coal-burning project is one of the ways that White Stallion would cripple the existing economy.  LCRA must refuse this unnecessary and dangerous move.

The proposed White Stallion coal plant faces other obstacles to being built in Matagorda County where the medical community, landowners, and numerous community leaders are strongly opposed to the project.  Though permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), a state district judge recently remanded the permit back to TCEQ due to faulty information in the permit application.

Eva Hernandez, Regional Manager Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign

“Burning coal for electricity is obsolete – it causes too much pollution and uses too much water,” said Eva Hernandez with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.  “Instead, we need to preserve our precious water resources for truly vital human needs, especially during this extreme drought that authorities don’t expect to change soon.  White Stallion is a bad idea all around and the LCRA should lead the way instead to creating Texas’ clean energy economy with more energy efficiency and renewable energy – wind and distributed solar power.”

The Sierra Club encourages concerned people to contact LCRA Board Members to ask them to deny a water contract and air permit for White Stallion coal plant.

Background Information:  See The Impact of Global Warming on Texas cited in the report, and another key water report – Energy-Water Nexus in Texas#  #  #

Sierra Celebration! New Moon and a Starry Sky

Thanks, John!

About 30 members of the Sierra Club from all over the State met at Canyon of the Eagles, the LCRA campground at Lake Buchanan in Central Texas last weekend.  The annual Chapter camp out, organized this year by John Rath, included families, singles and couples from the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, San Antonio, Houston, Wimberly,  Austin, Plano as well as other cities.  The event included hikes, fishing, star gazing, kayaking and swimming. The participants camped on the shores of the lake in spectacularly beautiful weather. 

Children were a large part of this camping experience.  The eight young participants put aside their electronics to particpate actively in all aspects of the camp out. The youngsters climbed trees and roasted marshmellows to make Somores, cooked and ate cactus (nopalitos) while engaging in all of the activities with the other campers. Most of the children, and many of the adults, had never seen the Milky Way lighting up the moonless night sky stretching the entire arc of the sky from one horizon to another.

Russell Seal and I kayaked the six hour round trip to the waterfalls on the Colorado River.  Along the way, we saw many migratory waterfowl.  It was nice to see the lake back up after the 18 month drought.  However, there were still remains of the growth created by the drought in the lake contributing to the large number of wildlife.

Barbara Fowler (74) and Rachel Shao (9) were novice kayakers who improved and developed their paddling skills on the lake this weekend.  Jerry Morrisey drove up from San Antonio to lead a hike on Sunday through some of the LCRA’s maze of well-marked nature trails. While one group hiked, another group took a short kayak trip across the cove.  Carrie Emerson-Price and I watched the sunset on the far side of the lake watching birds fly in to nest for the night.

The weekend was slow-paced and rewarding.  Everyone seemed to have a fun  outdoor experience.

Here’s the slideshow Jerome Collins and I made!

Karen Dalglish Seal,
San Antonio, Texas

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