Houston firm drops plans for Corpus power plant

A Houston-based developer has suspended efforts to build a new power plant fueled by the carbon-rich leftover from nearby oil refining in Corpus Christi.

Chase Power said Wednesday that it is going out of business and will shelve plans for the Las Brisas Energy Center while it seeks alternative investors.

The $3 billion project, as planned, would burn petroleum coke from nearby oil refineries to produce electricity for 850,000 homes.

But it has faced numerous hurdles. A Travis County judge returned its state-issued air pollution permit to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality last year because it fell short of federal Clean Air Act requirements.

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Also, the project ran afoul of the federal government’s efforts to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases linked to global warming from new power plants. The draft rules require new coal-fired plants to achieve emissions levels that are easier for plants fueled by natural gas, which releases about half the carbon dioxide.

Las Brisas, as designed, would burn petroleum coke, also known as pet coke, a refinery byproduct that produces about as much carbon dioxide as coal.

Chase Power CEO Dave Freysinger said low prices for natural gas played a role in the decision. He also blamed the “direct regulatory obstacles purposefully erected” by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmentalists cheered the decision. “It is not like every company has problems getting permits from EPA,” said Al Armendariz, a former EPA officials who leads the Sierra Club’s anti-coal campaign in Texas. “It was the wrong project at the wrong time.”