City may revisit its Las Brisas endorsement

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.


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