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City may revisit its Las Brisas endorsement

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

Some critics take concerns to council

By Sara Foley
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
Originally published February 17, 2009
Updated February 18, 2009 

CORPUS CHRISTI — The overcrowded conditions at a state hearing for a proposed power plant prompted some attendees to take their complaints to the City Council meeting in the same building. Hearing them, Councilman Michael McCutchon asked again to revisit the council’s endorsement of the plant.

Mayor Henry Garrett put him off, but McCutchon appears to have the votes to reopen the discussion.

People who left the hearing for Las Brisas Energy Center came to the council and criticized the decision to hold the hearing in a small room at City Hall at the same time as a council meeting. The proposed petroleum coke-fueled plant drew opposition on environmental grounds after the council endorsed it.

Amanda Torres, a Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi student, told the council she took off work to attend the hearing.

“I came with certain expectations: a big room, with time for everyone to speak,” she said. “I was sorely disappointed. All I heard was ruckus.”

City Secretary Armando Chapa said the city accommodated state officials who requested the sixth floor conference room for the hearing.

After the group of Las Brisas critics spoke, McCutchon asked the  council to reconsider its support of Las Brisas. In January, McCutchon asked Garrett to schedule a time to discuss Las Brisas again, saying he didn’t think the council got all the information before a September vote in favor of the plant. Garrett initially agreed but never put it on a meeting agenda.

After McCutchon’s second request Tuesday, Garrett said McCutchon would need to line up a five-member majority to put the issue on the agenda. The mayor has the authority to put items on the agenda. A council member who can’t get the mayor’s backing for an agenda item would need a council majority to override the mayor.

“It’s being discussed all over town,” Garrett said. “I don’t see the need for doing it again.”

Five council members told the Caller-Times Tuesday they’d agree to conduct the discussion, although some said they wanted an impartial presentation of information instead of just a debate.

If the council revoked its support of the energy plant, the effect would only be symbolic, much like the resolution the council passed in September in favor of it. The council voted 7-0, with councilmen John Marez and Larry Elizondo absent.

The council resolution was forwarded to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, along with similar resolutions from Nueces County and Port of Corpus Christi commissioners. The resolutions don’t determine whether the plant will be built, but can speed up the permitting process.

Council members Mike Hummell, Marez, Melody Cooper and Priscilla Leal said they would agree to McCutchon’s request. Councilmen Bill Kelly and Larry Elizondo said they wouldn’t. Councilwoman Nelda Martinez said she wants to talk about the issue again, but isn’t sure if it’s the appropriate time.

 

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Clean Economy Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a “fair use” of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond “fair use”, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Input on Las Brisas proposal can be given at hearing

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

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

 

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Clean Economy Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a “fair use” of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond “fair use”, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Marchers protest Las Brisas plant

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

By Mike Baird
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Corpus Chrsiti-Caller-Times

The Clean Economy Coalition held a protest march, from Cole Park’s Oleander Point to City Hall, on Saturday against the proposed Las Brisas power plant. Jim Klein (left) and Chuck Shamel talk near Ocean Drive before the march.

CORPUS CHRISTI — About 200 people gathered Saturday at Oleander Point with signs, banners and posters for a march to City Hall to protest Las Brisas Energy Center.

Company officials have said the proposed power plant on the Corpus Christi Ship Channel would be fueled by petroleum coke, a leftover from oil refining that’s available in abundance locally. They contend the plant would generate 1,200 megawatts of lower cost electricity, enough for 2 million homes, along with offering 80 to 100 permanent jobs and 1,300 jobs during the construction phase.

Environmentalists are concerned about pollution, and medical professionals have voiced concern about possible health risks. Some opponents want the plant to use cleaner technology known as gasification.

A public hearing on the plant is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday in the sixth floor conference room at City Hall, 1201 Leopard St. Anyone may attend the hearing and request to be a party, but only people named as parties can participate.

More information: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality at 800-687-4040.

 

Fair Use Notice
This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Clean Economy Coalition is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability, human rights, economic democracy and social justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a “fair use” of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond “fair use”, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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