A Seat at the Table
Published: November 29, 2006 05:53 pm
Local activist group, resident officially join protest of
proposed coal plant
By Jayson Larson
FAIRFIELD — A state administrative judge on Tuesday allowed a
locally-based activist group and an Athens rancher to become part of
formal discussions regarding TXU Corp.’s proposal to build an additional
coal-fired power plant at its Big Brown site.
Judge Kerry Sullivan of the State Office of Administrative Hearings made a
ruling allowing the East Texas Environmental Concerns Organization and
Glenn Brinkman, who lives in Athens but owns ranch land in Anderson County
about 16 miles from Big Brown, to participate in formal proceedings. ETECO
President Margaret Rands spoke on behalf of that organization, which was
permitted to participate because one of its members lives in Streetman,
Lake Athens resident Mark Carlson, a local engineer, also attempted to be
given standing as an individual in the case but was denied.
TXU has proposed building 11 new coal-fired power plants across the state.
In addition to the plans at Big Brown, the company also wants to build new
plants in Henderson and Mount Pleasant. Some Henderson County residents
oppose the projects, saying the plants cause pollution that blows into
TXU has applied for air quality permits from the Texas Commission on
Environmental Quality. Administrative judges are presiding over the
hearings, with the intent of listening to objections from the public over
the proposed expansions and then making a recommendation to TCEQ about
whether to grant the permits.
Hearings were held in the cities of Mount Pleasant and Henderson Monday.
Tuesday’s hearing was attended by about 125 people on both sides of the
issue, including TXU supporters and officials from various groups,
including the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense and the Sustainable
Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Corporation. From time to time,
Fairfield High School classes were ushered into the auditorium’s balcony
to watch the proceedings.
Many opponents said they don’t want to halt TXU’s expansion at Big Brown.
Instead, they said they want the company to consider
environmentally-friendly power-generating alternatives. The coal-burning
method, those opponents say, is pumping tons of pollutants — including
nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury — into the region’s
“I have no objection to Big Brown being here, or TXU. It’s a wonderful
asset,” said Fairfield resident David Jackson, one of three individuals
granted standing by Sullivan. “It’s not my goal to see them leave. But if
they’re going to be here, I just want them to be good neighbors.”
TXU officials say the company will double its coal-fueled power supplies
with the 11 new plants while reducing key emissions 20 percent. TXU media
relations representative Tom Kleckner, in a letter to the Athens Review
last week, said the company has filed a permit to install additional
emissions control technology at its Martin Lake facility in Henderson.
Similar announcements for its plants in Fairfield and Mount Pleasant are
expected before the end of the year, Kleckner said.
He also said TXU is investing nearly $2 billion to commercialize
state-of-the-art “clean technologies,” including forming a $200 million
energy venture fund to invest in technologies such as coal gasification —
a process endorsed by some ETECO members — carbon removal retrofits and
new nuclear generation.
During her testimony, Rands said she is concerned that pollution levels on
Lake Athens are only checked every couple of years.
“If we had more monitoring of our lakes, we may find we have a bigger
mercury problem than we know of,” she said.
She also said ETECO members are very concerned about climate changes in
the region. A steady increase in summertime temperatures and mild winters
are likely the result of global warming, she said.
Tuesday’s hearing was held less than 24 hours after the City of Athens
joined the Texas Clean Air Cities Coalition. That coalition will ask for
standing in the case at a Dec. 14 hearing in Austin.
State Rep. Betty Brown, who represents Henderson and Kaufman counties, has
also joined in the conversation regarding the proposed plants.
Brown was among a bipartisan group of 25 state legislators who signed a
letter on Nov. 20 asking TCEQ to delay the process of approving permits
“until a more detailed analysis of their impacts can be ascertained.”
Brown’s Henderson County director, Amy Gould, attended the meeting.
Jayson Larson/ Athens Review /