Environmental groups request impact study for White Stallion

By adriana_acosta

May 5, 2011 at 12:05 a.m.

BAY CITY - The White Stallion Energy Center may no longer be going full steam ahead, if environmental groups, including Houston's mayor, have their way.

Environmental groups are bypassing the potential coal plant and requesting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an environmental impact statement.

If built in four to five years, the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria region would be subjected to increased air pollutants, said Houston Mayor Annise Parker, one of the people behind the impact statement request.

Parker sent a letter to the colonel of the Galveston District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requesting an environmental impact statement last month.

Last year, the Bay City Authority of Matagorda County also requested a similar study.

The coal plant's plans for construction could be pushed back 18 months to two years if the impact statement request is approved by the Corps of Engineers, said Fred Anthamatten, the Corps of Engineers' Galveston district regulatory branch chief.

Having an elected leader like Parker request a study adds clout for groups like the Sierra Club and No Coal Coalition, said Allison Sliva, the coalition's president

"Having this will help study and analyze the impacts to the environment, human health and economy," Sliva said.

The study will look at pollution impacts to the water and how it will impact fishing, residents' heath and water flow, she added.

The study would only present the facts, and would not provide the authority to deny construction, Anthamatten said.

"It is important to note that an environmental impact study is not a decision document and that a project that contains an environmentally significant impact could be denied," he said.

Anthamatten said they have received numerous requests to do an environmental impact statement and have taken all comments into consideration.

"The decision to do an EIS, or not, has not been finalized by this agency," he said.

Aside from the study, Sliva has gathered signatures to send to Texas senators and has spoken at Texas Commission on Environmental Quality public hearings to prevent the coal plant from being built.

If the study is conducted, the community will have the assurance from an independent, neutral source on the direct impact of a coal plant in the area, she said.

"Our environment includes the air we breathe to the water we drink," she said.

Bay City Mayor Mark Bricker, who has been asked to request an EIS said his office will not lead the charge for or against the coal industry.

"As I have said before, my goal is and will always be to make a favorable environment for new business because new business serves as the building blocks for our economy and our families."

On the other hand, Rik Stanley, director of local development for the White Stallion Energy Center, said a study is not needed because federal funds are not being used to construct the center.

The only federal jurisdiction in the permitting process is any impact to the wetlands and the barge unloading facility, both of which are governed by the Corps of Engineers, Stanley said.

"A study is not needed because White Stallion Energy Center has drastically reduced the project's impact to areas under the Corps of Engineers jurisdiction," Stanley said.

Stanley also said White Stallion has met with farmers and has listened to concerns about water usage from the Colorado River.

Alternatives like funding construction of an $8 million, nine-mile closed pipe from the Lower Colorado River Authority's Bay City pumping station, and installing a concrete and synthetic liner for the length of the canal have been discussed.

White Stallion also has evaluated potential groundwater resources for use during drought conditions, building bridges to protect creeks and avoiding the removal of trees, he said.

The coal plant is in negotiations with the Lower Colorado River Authority for water rights, and is working on approval of its permit from the Corps of Engineers and wastewater permits from the TCEQ.



Powered By AffectDigitalMedia