Input on Las Brisas proposal can be given at hearing

10 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall

By Denise Malan
February 15, 2009
Corpus Chrsiti-Caller-Times

At a preliminary hearing Tuesday, a judge will decide what groups and individuals can be parties to a dispute over Las Brisas Energy Center’s air permit application.

No evidence will be heard at the preliminary hearing.

Anyone can ask for standing in the case. The judge assigned to this case, Tommy Broyles, will base his decision on who is potentially more affected than the general public.

In power plant cases, that generally means people who live nearest the proposed site, but interest can be shown in other ways, said Kerry Sullivan, general counsel for the State Office of Administrative Hearings, which will conduct the case.

Contested case hearings are similar to trials in district court. The schedule for the case is likely to be set at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing. The proceedings, known as evidentiary hearings, are normally held in Austin, but parties can ask for them to be moved.

The evidentiary hearing will be to hear arguments about the company’s air permit application pending with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Las Brisas would generate 1,200 megawatts by burning petroleum coke, a residue from oil refining. At $3 billion, Las Brisas would be Nueces County’s largest single investment. It also would be the largest source of some types of pollution.

Local government and economic officials welcome the investment, the added power capacity and the customer for a fuel source produced by local refiners.

Opponents are concerned mostly about the plant’s projected emissions of mercury, lead and tiny particulate matter they say could affect residents’ health and the environment, and carbon dioxide, which has been linked to climate change.

The Clean Economy Coalition, a group of local residents and statewide environmental groups, will ask for standing as an organization. Several members also plan to seek standing as individuals.

Citizens for Environmental Justice, another local group, plans to join the Clean Economy Coalition but might file for standing independently, founder Susie Canales said Friday.

Susie Luna Saldaña, a staff representative with the local American Federation of Teachers union, said she will apply for standing as an individual. The union as a whole will not.

“We don’thave an official position on it at the time,” union President Juan Guerra said. “We’re still reviewing comments from both sides.”

After the evidentiary hearing, the judge will make a written recommendation to the three commissioners of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about whether the application meets standards. Those commissioners then will make a final decision on the company’s air permit at an open meeting.

TUESDAY HEARING

When: 10 a.m.

Where: Corpus Christi City Hall (1201 Leopard St.), sixth floor conference room

 

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