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TCEQ holds public meeting for White Stallion water permit

By adriana_acosta
Oct. 28, 2010 at 5:28 a.m.

Donna Harris holds her one-year-old grandson, George Ligums at the TCEQ public hearing at the Bay City Civic Center Thursday night.

Donna Harris fears for her grandchildren's future.

The fourth generation Matagorda County resident owns a ranch house five miles from where the proposed White Stallion Energy Center plant would be constructed.

"Having a coal plant nearby will harm my grandchildren, and this will not be good for the environment," she said.

Harris also raises cattle on her ranch.

"I just want my grandchildren to have a safe place ... and be able to go outside and fish," she said.

On Thursday, the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality held a public meeting for the White Stallion Energy Center at the Bay City Civic Center to hear feedback on the plant's application for a wastewater permit.

Members of the TCEQ took questions and comments from the audience concerning the permit, which is required before the coal plant can be built.

The 1,200-acre tract on the east side of the Colorado River, about 10 miles south of Bay City is set to break ground next summer.

Representatives from TCEQ and White Stallion Energy Center also took questions from residents with water concerns.

A water permit is another step for White Stallion to meet.

The 1,320 megawatt, base-load, solid fueled electric power generating station will need water to operate.

White Stallion has submitted an application for a water contract from the Lower Colorado River Authority; no action has been taken by the LCRA.

But environmental groups at the meeting such as No Coal Coalition, Sierra Club and Public Citizen were in opposition to the plant.

"This coal plant is a threat to our bays, river, farm industry, our health and our environment," said Allison Sliva, president of the No Coal Coalition.

"We want the TCEQ to listen to residents concerns and know that this plant is not a good idea," she said.

Sliva said this coal plant would bring jobs to the area, but she is concerned with the negative impact it will bring.

"The negative impact far outweighs the benefits of having this plant in the county," she said.

Representatives from the coal plant held a small job fair outside the TCEQ public meeting.

"We are having a good response from the community with many people dropping off resumes for jobs," said Rick Stanley, director of local development for White Stallion Energy Center.

There are many people in the community who do want this coal plant to be built, he said.

Stanley said they were accepting resumes for construction, operator jobs, pipe fitters and basic labor, he said.

The coal plant, if permits are granted, is expected to break ground next summer and bring 2,000 construction jobs to the area. About 200 permanent jobs will be created once the plant is completed by 2016.

The total investment for the energy center is more than $2.5 billion.

The TCEQ has 60 days to issue a response to comments concerning the wastewater permit and 30 days to respond to people who will request a contested case hearing, said Andrea Morrow, spokeswoman for the TCEQ.

"Overall, the issuing of the wastewater permit can take up to a year," Morrow said.

The energy center if approved will contribute an estimated $20 million in annual taxes to the area, with about $13 million in taxes filtering to the Bay City school district, $3 million going to the Matagorda County government, and $2 million for the Matagorda County Hospital District.

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