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Suit against EPA could affect LCRA plant

Fayette Power Project

The Lower Colorado River Authority's Fayette Power Project, also known as the Sam Seymour Power Plant, in La Grange, Texas. Courtesy photo

A Sierra Club lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency could affect the Lower Colorado River Authority’s Fayette Power Project in La Grange, listed as the fourth-biggest polluter in Texas by the Public Interest Network (plant is named as Sam Seymour in Fayette County). The Sierra Club made Texas a priority among seven states included in the lawsuit because the environmental organization considers it the worst offender. 

“Texas is far and away the biggest emitter of both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides,” reads the lawsuit. The Fayette plant was not specifically mentioned in the lawsuit but was noted by Sierra Club attorney Josh Smith in an Austin newspaper as one of the plants facing stricter air-quality standards if the Sierra Club prevails in court. 

The LCRA plans to file comments to the EPA on the proposed rules by an Aug. 2 deadline, according to spokesperson Clara Tuma. 

“Those comments will reflect our position on the proposed rules,” Tuma said in an emailed response to questions from DailyTrib.com. “The Fayette Power Project meets all applicable state and federal regulations.” 

The Sierra Club is joined by the Environmental Integrity Project and the National Parks Conservation Association in filing the suit, which claims the EPA has failed to take action on regional haze plans submitted to the agency in accordance with the Clean Air Act

By federal law, states are required to submit haze mitigation plans to the EPA every 10 years. The EPA, in turn, has six to 12 months to review and either approve or reject the plans and possibly enforce compliance. According to the lawsuit, the EPA has failed to act on regional haze mitigation plans from Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. 

In the case of the Lone Star State, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality submitted a plan more than 10 years ago, which the EPA has yet to review. The TCEQ submitted a revised regional haze plan for the second planning period on July 20, 2021. No action yet on that one either, which is why the Sierra Club decided to sue. 

“EPA is in violation of its nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act to take final action on the Texas Regional Haze Plan,” the suit reads. 

Requested relief includes ordering the EPA administration to take final action on the plans for each of the seven states.

LCRA’s Fayette Power Project, also known as the Sam Seymour Power Plant, has three coal-fired units that were completed one at a time in 1979, 1980, and 1988. President Richard Nixon signed the Clean Air Act on Dec. 31, 1970. The act has been revised twice: first in 1977 under President Jimmy Carter and again in 1990 under President George H.W. Bush. Each time, the law was strengthened to prevent further pollution. 

Ten years ago, the LCRA installed scrubbers at the Fayette plant to limit emissions of sulfur dioxide as required by the Clean Air Act. However, according to the Sierra Club, the plant also needs equipment to eliminate nitrogen oxide emissions, which would cost $100 million per unit that needed updating.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story stated that the Fayette Power Project was named in the EPA lawsuit. It was not. In comments to the media, Sierra Club attorney Josh Smith pointed to Fayette as one of several plants in Texas that would have to meet higher standards if the Sierra Club prevails in court. The headline was changed to reflect that difference. A sloppy sentence stated that the LCRA was preparing comments on the lawsuit by an Aug. 2 deadline. The LCRA is preparing comments to the EPA on the proposed rules. “We said we would provide comments to EPA regarding proposed rules. We would not comment on pending litigation, nor would such comments be submitted to the EPA,” an LCRA spokesperson said in an email. A typographical error reflected that the second unit at the Fayette Power Plant was completed in 1989. It was completed in 1980. DailyTrib.com regrets the errors. 

suzanne@thepicayune.com