Environmental Protection

Texas Groups Plan Suit against LCRA for Clean Air Violations

Three anti-pollution groups notified the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) 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 July 15 by the Environmental Integrity Project, Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) and Environment Texas.

Located midway between Austin and Houston, the coal-fired Fayette Power Project (FPP) has been operating under a “Flexible Air Permit,” granted to it by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). On June 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency informed the state agency that the flexible air permit rules illegally weaken Clean Air Act protections and would have to be overhauled.

Luke Metzger, director, Environment Texas, said: “The Fayette power plant provides electricity that powers our homes and businesses here in Austin, where we have a national reputation of being environmentally aware. The dirty little secret is that this power plant is operating under an air pollution permit that EPA says is illegal. Amazingly, LCRA’s Fayette power plant is not even meeting the weak emission levels in their Flexible Air Permit.”

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 New Source Review standards by ramping up capacity and increasing levels of dangerous particle pollution without making required pollution control upgrades. Particulate matter (PM) air pollution is not always visible to the eye, and is linked to asthma and to heart and lung disease.

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 TCEQ.

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.

The Environmental Integrity Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization established in March of 2002 by former EPA enforcement attorneys to advocate for effective enforcement of environmental laws. Environment Texas is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization. TCE is a non-partisan, non-profit citizens' organization that focuses on local and state issues.

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