Lower Colorado River Authority Faces Lawsuit Over Clean Air Act Violations at Coal-Fired Power Plant

Three anti-pollution groups have notified the Lower Colorado River Authority of their intent to sue the electric power supplier for more than 10,000 violations of the federal Clean Air Act at LCRA’s coal-fired power plant near LaGrange in Fayette County. The notice of intent was served yesterday by the Environmental Integrity Project, Texas Campaign for the Environment and Environment Texas.

Located midway between Austin and Houston, the coal-fired Fayette Power Project has been operating under a Flexible Air Permit, granted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. On June 30, 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed the State of Texas that the Air Permit rules illegally weaken Clean Air Act protections and would have to be overhauled.

The groups’ notice of intent to sue -- which is required as a first step under the Clean Air Act -- states that the coal-fired power plant violated the federal clean air protection called New Source Review by ramping up capacity and increasing levels of particle pollution without making required pollution control upgrades.

The notice also details thousands of ongoing violations of air pollution limits found in the power plant’s air pollution permits. In addition, the groups claim that LCRA deprived the State of Texas more than $500,000 in annual air pollution fees that are used to pay for the cost of clean air programs, by under-reporting particulate matter emissions in annual reports filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

LCRA's general manager said Thursday that the groups' claims are based on faulty methodology and flawed conclusions.

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s Fayette Power Project facility consists of three coal-fired boilers, designated as Units 1, 2, and 3, and associated facilities and material handling. Units 1 and 2, jointly owned by LCRA and Austin Energy, each have an electric generation capacity of approximately 600-megawatts. Unit 3 is owned solely by LCRA and has an electric generation capacity of approximately 450 megawatts.

 

"We have taken numerous, dramatic steps to reduce emissions from the plant and our efforts have been praised by officials with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and environmental and community leaders," said Tom Mason, general manager. "We have been held up as a positive example of how to responsibly run a coal plant.

"Air quality is a personal issue to us," Mason said. "Many of us have dedicated our careers to work at an organization that values environmental stewardship. Our employees live near the plant and raise their families there. When focused on clean air instead of inexact assumptions, reasonable people will see that LCRA has a very good story to tell."