A Texas appeals court ruling last week allows construction of a coal-fired power plant to continue. The court rejected an appeal from environmental groups which argued that the state failed to consider the best technology available to reduce pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The groups challenged an administrative decision that did not consider whether integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) technology should be used.
The court determined that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality properly followed the steps to approve permits for the Sandy Creek Power Plant. Justice Hancock wrote that:
It is clear that an IGCC process, by which electricity is produced by the burning of gasses extracted from coal to drive turbines that turn electric power generators, is significantly different from the pulverized coal power plant, which produces electricity by burning coal to generate steam that drives a conventional steam-powered turbine, as proposed by Sandy Creek. As [the environment group] has offered no evidence that IGCC is a process that could be applied to the pulverized coal power plant proposed by Sandy Creek, [the environmental group] has failed to meet its burden.
The environmental groups also challenged the administrative decision that the ozone precursor emissions expected from the power plant would not violate the Environmental Protection Agency’s standards. Absent a plainly erroneous interpretation of the administrative rules, the court deferred to the agency interpretation and ruled against the environmental groups.
Based on the ruling, the 800 megawatt pulverized coal power plant can now proceed with construction and operation.