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U.S. Fifth Circuit: Construction of Sandy Creek Coal Plant Violates Clean Air Act

Photo courtesy of LS Power.
Aeriel of the construction of the Sandy Creek coal plant being built in Riesel, TX.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the on-going construction of the Sandy Creek coal plant near Waco violates the Clean Air Act. The ruling reverses a previous court decision that the coal plant permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality includes proper air pollution controls.

The Sandy Creek 800 MW coal plant is being built in Riesel, Texas by Sandy Creek Energy Associates. Construction began in 2008.  Since then, the plant has been hit with a series of lawsuits, primarily from the Sierra Club and Public Citizen.

In the latest challenge, the two environmental groups requested that construction stop until a MACT, or Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards, were assigned to the coal plant. The TCEQ issues these permits.  A MACT permit sets a "floor" or baseline of emission controls that a coal plant must meet.   In Sandy Creek's case, no MACT was issued.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court ruled in its opinion that "Sandy Creek's current and ongoing construction of a 'major source' without a final MACT determination violates the plain language of the statue."

The Lower Colorado River Authority  signed a purchase agreement two years ago with Sandy Creek Energy Associates to buy about 22 percent of the power that would be generated from the Sandy Creek power plant.

Read the Fifth Circuit Court's ruling here.